Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Visiting the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail: Vynecrest Winery

While visiting family in New York, we took a slight detour on our travels to visit Vynecrest Winery, located in Breinigsville Pennsylvania, just outside of Allentown in the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. Why Vynecrest? Well, the winery is one of the few East Coast producers of Lemberger\Blaufränkisch; we had to check that out. The winery is located just off Route 78 and is being encroached by the suburbs - yet you still get that Pennsylvania farm feeling when pulling up to the 19th century Swiss barn that houses the tasting room. The operation began almost 40 years ago when John and Jan Landis purchased the initial 5 acre estate and the first vines were planted in 1974. The winery itself did not open until 1989 and soon expanded with 23 additional acres of a mix of vinifera, labrusca, and hybrid grapes. Today their son Sam manages the business, as well as the current president of the Pennsylvania Wine Association, and John still operates as the winemaker. It's nice to see a business have a succession strategy.

When we arrived, we immediately noticed the advertisements for the winery's latest medal winner, the 2009 Chardonnay which was a Double Gold winner at the 2011 Indianapolis International Medal Competition. A three pack for $30; shows how affordable these wines are priced. Back in Virginia, an equivalent medal winner would be marked up to $30 a bottle. We sampled a double tasting of 12 wines which gave us a good representation of their portfolio. Starting with whites, the aforementioned Chardonnay was okay, but for us, nothing really special - no noticeable mouthfeel of Chardonnay flavor. Yet the Traminette and Riesling (Both dry and semi-dry) where exactly what you would expect from these grapes. And the biggest surprise was the Vynecrest White, a blend of labrusca and hybrids such as Cayuga and Vidal. Made semi-dry, the acidity balanced the sweetness and this was one we enjoyed out on the lake the following day.

Moving to reds, the vinifera were mostly medium bodied wines that I've found are common in Pennsylvania red wines. The Pinot Noir and Lemberger were both medium bodied, smooth, but not much complexity. On the other hand, the Chambourcin was our favorite red, full bodied with strong cherry flavor, yet a smooth silky finish. This was nicely done. The "house" red, Vynecrest Red, was also appealing for what it is, a semi-dry blend of several grapes - yet not overly sweet and quite tasty.

Finally, the winery offers a small selection of fruit and sparkling wines. The Blueberry and Cherry DiVine are made sweet and are full of their respective flavors. And for those who like semi-sweet sparklers, we prefer brut, the Sparkling Chambourcin is for you.

All in all, Vynecrest produces several wines we really enjoyed. And with all the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail events planned throughout the year, we shall return to the area. And we will revisit the Lemberger in a later varietal tasting. Got to love that they planted this grape variety.
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