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Yesterday there was an article in the Harrisburg Patriot News where I was quoted as saying, “People will come back about once a week and if there’s nothing new after a few weeks they’ll move on to somebody else”.  Well my friends, it seems that this is a clear case of do as I say and not as I do. Between my day job and selling picnic baskets, picnic backpacks and other picnic accessories, I’ve let this blog go far to long without a post. For that I am truly sorry. In all honesty, I haven’t been doing anywhere as much wandering as I like to.  That is all about to change. This weekend, I will be “on the road again” and you will hear all about it.

In the meantime, I did go to Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton last week. Mahoning Valley is one of my favorite tracks in the world and tomorrow I will write all about it. I hope you will check out the article where I’ll give you plenty of reasons to spend a Saturday evening there.  Stay tuned!

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Are you ready for Spring?  I sure am!  Things really heat up in March along Pennsylvania’s wine trails.  Get your wine carrier out and hit the road with The Pennsylvania Wanderer.  I’ll be on the road every weekend in March visiting some of the special events and tasting some great wine.

Adams County Winery

Adams County Winery

Welcome Spring to Central Pennsylvania with the 2009 Tour de Tanks wine tasting event on the UnCork York Wine Trail. Every weekend in March, the wineries of the UnCork York Wine Trail invite you to enjoy your first taste of the new year’s vintages straight from the barrels and tanks. You’ll also have the opportunity to talk to the winemakers and learn more about the wines and how they’re made. The event begins on February 28th and continues every Saturday and Sunday through March 29th. The wineries will be open on Saturdays from noon to 5:00 and Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00. Admission to the event is only $15.00 and your ticked is good for all five weekends. You’ll also receive 10% off your wine purchases and stamps that make you eligible to win UnCork York Wine Trail prizes.

Hunters Valley Winery

Hunters Valley Winery

The Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail proudly presents March Madness, 2009, “A Ticket to Good Taste and Adventure”. Visit any of the six wineries on the trail and purchase your ticket to great food and wine. Each weekend, each of the wineries will present a spectacular food and wine pairing. The wineries will be offering tours and special tastings; and some will offer live entertainment. Each winery will stamp your ticket and once you’ve visited all six, your ticket stub will be entered in a special drawing that could win you a romantic night at a bed and breakfast or a meal at one of the local restaurants. In addition you will receive a complimentary gift at each winery. Tickets are only $18 per person or $30 per couple. Please check out the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail for much more information.

Last year I spend March weekends on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail at their March Madness events. Alas when I checked their website this morning, I learned that this year’s event is completely sold out. I’d strongly recommend you plan ahead and enjoy March Madness on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail in 2010.

Twinbrook Winery

Twinbrook Winery

March weekends mean Barrels on the Brandywine along the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail. Your $25 ticket entitles you to be among the first to enjoy tastings of the wineries’ 2008 vintages. The wineries also plan special events like music and art shows, barbecues and barrel tastings just for you. As a special gift, you’ll receive a Brandywine Valley Wine Trail logo glass with your ticket. Learn about the wine trail’s special March events here.

I love March along Pennsylvania’s wine trails. The only problem is that there isn’t enough time to get to every one of these great events. Oh well, there’s always next year. I hope you decide to head out to some of these March events. If you do, please tell them that the Pennsylvania Wanderer sent you.

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Nissley Vineyards and Winery Estate

Nissley Vineyards and Winery Estate

Brenda and I spent a beautiful fall Saturday touring and tasting at Nissley Vineyards and Winery Estate in Bainbridge, PA. J. Richard Nissley first planted wine grapes on his 300 acre farm in 1974 and the winery opened for business in 1978. Today, 50 acres of the farm are dedicated to growing 14 varieties of wine grapes that range from vinifera to Native American Varieties. In total, Nissley produces 20,000 cases of wine per year.

The Limekiln

The Limekiln

My favorite part of a visit to Nissley is the self-guided tour. The winery will lend you a guidebook that shows you the root and explains everything you’ll see. Your first stop will be the 19th century limekiln that was used to create lime by burning native limestone. The lime was then used for cement, fertilizer and whitewash. The limekiln has stood idle since before 1920 but looks like it could still be used today. Next you’ll visit the vineyards. If you’re lucky enough to be there in June, you’ll enjoy the sweet aroma of grape blossoms. A short walk back toward the fermenting room will take you past the outdoor crushing area. Once inside the fermenting room you’ll be able to see the many fermenting tanks, the filtering equipment and the bottling line. Nissley uses only metal fermenting tanks for its 25+ wine varieties saying that the metal tanks are more sanitary and less expensive to use than wooden barrels and tanks. The bottling line can handle up to 1,800 bottles per hour and because of that high capacity, Nissley can bottle all its wine for the year in approximately 30 days.

Our New Friends

Our New Friends

After our tour, we headed to the tasting area which was outside the front of the winery since it was such a beautiful day. There we were joined by a bridal party for a very pleasant time.  I’ve tasted Nissley wines many times before and Nissley wasn’t our last stop of the day so I limited myself to a couple of dry whites that I hadn’t had before.  I really enjoyed the 2007 Seyval Blanc which had a clean crisp flavor with just a hint of citrus.  I always wonder where citrus undertones come from in a wine.  I also tasted the 2007 Vidal Blanc which had a somewhat fruitier flavor than the Seyval Blanc.  I think I’m starting to develop a taste for dry white wines.  Brenda decided not to taste today so her analysis of the sweet wines will have to wait for another day.

The reason I’ve been to Nissley so often is because of their Music in the Vineyards series held every Saturday in July and August.  They offer a variety of music that includes big band and swing, top 40, classic rock and Motown.  There’s a very nice bandstand and a roomy dance floor for your pleasure.  The best part of the concert series is that you can bring your own food, buy some wine and sit outside and relax.  I’ve seen some groups bring spreads that rival any tailgating party I’ve ever seen but I just pack up my wicker picnic basket and buy a bottle of Nissley’s 2006 Cabernet Franc.  I’d highly recommend that you pay a visit to Nissley Vineyards and Winery Estate for one of these concerts.  If you do, please tell them that The Pennsylvania Wanderer sent you.

Map of the area around Nissley Vineyards and Winery Estate

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Back in October, Brenda and I were driving through the Lehigh Valley on our way to an auto race in Connecticut and had the opportunity to visit the Vynecrest Vineyards and Winery in Breinigsville, PA. Unfortunately we didn’t have our camera with us so we don’t have any original pictures to share with you.

John and Jan Landis purchased a small farm in Breinigsville in 1972 and planted their first 50 grape vines in 1974. Since then the farm has grown to 80 acres and they now grow 17 acres of grapes that vary from vinifera varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Riesling to hybrids such as Seyval Blanc, Vidal and Vignoles to modern varieties such as Cayuga and Traminette. Winemaker Dr. John Landis is able to use this variety of grapes to blend some unique wines to go with some of the traditional ones he makes.

The winery itself opened in 1989. Prior to then, John and Jan sold their grapes to other Pennsylvania wineries. In 1998, the tasting room was moved to its current location on the main floor from the basement of the former barn that serves as home to the winery. The lower level was remodeled and opened as Tom’s Vyneskeller which is available for private wine tastings, wine appreciation classes and is also open on weekends as a wine bar.

In the tasting room, I especially enjoyed the Shiraz. You don’t see much of this dry Australian inspired dry red in Pennsylvania so it was a real treat. I also enjoyed the Lemberger (Vynecrest’s signature wine) which is a very dry, full bodied red with very strong tannins. Brenda really liked the Niagara (what else is new?) and the Late Harvest Vignoles. I wish we had been there a few weeks later so we could have tried the Nouveau Beaujolais which was released for the first time on November 17th. I’ve never had a Pennsylvania Beaujolais so I’m going to have to get back there for next year’s release.

I found a couple of videos about Vynecrest on You Tube so I’m going to share them with you here.  The first one was recorded by Sam Landis (John and Jan’s son) on November 2nd and talks about the history of the winery.

The second video celebrating Nouveau Beaujolais Weekend was recorded on the third weekend in November and narrated by John Landis.

Vynecrest Vineyards and Winery is a member of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.  In fact, Jan Landis served four years as president of the Wine Trail.  Vynecrest also hosts several special events during the course of the year.  The next one, Super Bowl Saturday, scheduled for January 31st will feature chili samplings, recipes, prizes and, of course, wine tasting.  The winery is open on Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 to 5:00.

When you visit Vynecrest, don’t forget your wine carrier so you can bring home several bottles of the delicious wine you’re going to taste.  If you need a wine carrier please visit Picnic Baskets and More where we have a great selection of wine carriers and wine totes at a variety of prices.

Vynecrest Vineyards and Winery is conveniently located just off exit 49A of Interstate Route 78.  For some reason I can’t get a Google Map to import into this post so I’ve taken the map off of Vynecrest’s web site.

vyncerest-map

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Too Cold to Wander?

Down by the Lazy River

Down by the Lazy River?

If you happen to be in Minnesota or Maine and reading this, you’re going to laugh at me but for Harrisburg, PA, 7 degrees is very very cold!  In fact, it’s so cold that even The Pennsylvania Wanderer decided to stay in today.  Well, except for a few minutes that is.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to wander down to the Susquehanna River to take a few pictures and I thought my readers might enjoy them.

Harrisburg from Across the Susquehanna Glacier

Harrisburg from Across the Susquehanna Glacier

I’ve lived in the Harrisburg area for 17 years now and every winter, until last year, the Susquehanna has frozen over at least once.  When it didn’t freeze last year I thought that maybe global warming had taken over.  In fact, on New Year’s Eve 2006, it was 60 degrees and we were out in sweatshirts.  Well let me tell you something, global warming hasn’t taken over yet!  This week, we’ve suffered our coldest weather in several years and it’s continuing today.  Here’s a shot I took from across the river looking back at Harrisburg.  As you can see there are no breaks in the ice at all.

Silly Geese?

Silly Geese?

I did find one break in the ice back on my own side of the river.  Believe it or not, there were actually some geese who weren’t smart enough to get out of the water.  Just seeing them made me even colder than I already was!  Most of the geese did decide that discretion was the better part of valor and headed for higher ground and I was close behind!

I can't blame them.  Can you?

I can't blame them. Can you?

I think I’ll pack up my wine carrier and head out to Davenport’s Italian Oven for some dinner.  It should be nice and warm in there!

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Did you know that a hawk car fly from Vermont to Tennessee without ever flapping its wings?  That’s what Hawk Mountain Sanctuary volunteer Lyle Russell told me last Saturday at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.  It seems that the hawk can catch an updraft in the Vermont mountains and ride it southwest and pick up other updrafts until he arrives in Tennessee.  One of the places that these hawks pick up the updraft is at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was established in 1934 by conservationist Rosalie Edge.  It was the world’s first refuge for birds of prey.  The sanctuary consists of 2,600 acres on Kittatinny Ridge, part of the Appalachian Mountains.  It’s part of a 13,000 acre tract that makes up one of the largest protected forest areas in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Why do over 60,000 people visit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary each year?  Perhaps the better question is why should you visit the sanctuary?  Why, to see the big birds of course.

Hawk Mountain Volunteer Lyle Russell at the Farm Show

Hawk Mountain Volunteer Lyle Russell at the Farm Show

Lyle Russell told me that in 2008, 12,193 hawks, 255 bald eagles and 4,289 broad winged hawks were spotted at the sanctuary.  In total, there are over 300 species of birds of prey that frequent the sanctuary.  South Lookout, one of the best vantage points is located a mere 300 yards from the Visitors Center.  It’s an easy walk and can also be handled by motorized wheelchairs or scooters.  There are an additional eight miles of backwoods trails on the sanctuary grounds that offer several outstanding points from where to spot the big birds during their migration.

The hawks’ migration season lasts from mid-August through the first week of December and most of the Bald Eagles are spotted in August and September.  If you visit in May, you’re likely to catch the sweet tunes of migrating warblers.  The June view features acres and acres of mountain laurel flowers.  With views that stretch for over seventy miles and over 1,400 species of plants and animals, you’re sure to see something exciting no matter what time of year you visit.  Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!

The sanctuary does have a couple of rules you’ll need to know about.  First, no pets are allowed.  This is for the safety of the raptors.  In addition, no fires of any kind are allowed.  Therefore you’ll have to fill you picnic backpack with sandwiches, snacks and other ready to eat food.  There are lots of picnic tables available for your use.  Admission to the trails from December – August is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children aged 6 – 12.  During the migration season (September – November) is $7 for adults & seniors and $3 for children.  Fees are collected at the Visitors Center which is open daily from 9:00 to 5:00 from December through August and 8:00 to 5:00 during the migration season.

I want to thank Lyle Russell for the great information about the sanctuary.  I hope you get the opportunity to visit Hawk Mountain Sanctuary soon.  Maybe you’ll even run into The Pennsylvania Wanderer there.

Map of the area around Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.  The map will zoom out for you.

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Judging and the awards ceremony were held today for the wine competition at the 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.  This year’s wine competition attracted 237 entries from 35 wineries located throughout the State.  The awards ceremony itself was sparsely attended and I was disappointed to find that many of the winners were not there to accept their awards.

The Winning Wines

The Winning Wines

Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff, kicked off the ceremony by commenting on how the wine industry is among the only Pennsylvania agricultural industries that continue to grow in size.  Mr. Wolff, PA Farm Show Executive Director Patrick Kerwin and PA Wine Association Executive Director Jen Eckinger handed out a total of 166 awards including eight “best of” awards and 16 gold medals.

The Best of Show and Best Hybrid went to the 2007 Chambourcin from Pinnacle Ridge Winery in Kutztown.  Owner Brad Knapp accepted his third Best of Show award in the seven year history of the competition.  Pinnacle Ridge was also the winner of the Best Sparkling Wine for their Curvee Chardonnay and a gold medal for their 2005 Veritas.

The Best Fruit Wine competition ended in a tie between Sorrenti’s Cherry Valley Vineyards in Saylorsburg and Heritage Wine Cellars in North East (yes that’s the name of the town).  Mary Sorrenti accepted the trophy for Cherry Valley which won for their Elderberry wine and Matt Bostwick was on hand to accept for Heritage Wine Cellars’ Blueberry Spumante.  Heritage Wine Cellars also won a gold medal for their 2007 Peach Fuzz.

The Antler Ridge Winery in Rome, PA won in the Best American and Best Dessert categories for their Red Vixen.  Several members of the Unis family were on hand for the presentation.  Antler Ridge also collected a gold medal for their 2007 Diamond.

Shade Mountain Vineyards and Winery in Middleburg was the Best Vinifera winner for their 2006 Lemberger.  Unfortunately, nobody from Shade Mountain was on hand to accept the award.

Gold medal winners were:  Vynecrest Winery (2007 First Blush), Benignas Creek Vineyard and Winery (2007 Traminette and 2007 Benignas Tears), Pickering Winery (2007 Vignoles), West Hanover Winery (Sour Cherry), Clover Hill Vineyards (Vignoles, Concord and 2006 Merlot), Winfield Winery (2007 Concord), Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate (2007 Seyval Blanc and 2007 Vignoles) and Greendance the Winery at Sand Hill (2007 Black Currant and 2007 Red Raspberry.  Of the gold medal winners, only West Hanover Winery and Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate were represented at the ceremony.

I’ve visited many of the award winning wineries and will try and get to the rest of them this year.  I will, however, set my priority list to visit those wineries who had representatives at The Farm Show to accept their awards today.

Brad Knapp - Pinnacle Ridge Winery

Brad Knapp - Pinnacle Ridge Winery

The Unis Family - Antler Ridge Winery

The Unis Family - Antler Ridge Winery

Mary Sorrenti - Cherry Valley Vineyards

Mary Sorrenti - Cherry Valley Vineyards

Matt Bostwick - Heritage Wine Cellars

Matt Bostwick - Heritage Wine Cellars

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