Pennsylvania Wine Month

It is Pennsylvania Wine Month, a state where no matter your location, you are within a 1 hour drive of a winery.  The state boasts over 200 wineries and an annual production of 1 million+ gallons of wine.  Recently wines from the state have seen international recognition by winning awards globally.  One example of this was a French wine competition where in the Champagne category the only non-Champenois wine to be awarded and recognized was a Pennsylvania sparkling Blanc de Blanc.

Yet the modern Pennsylvania wine industry had a rough start.  After prohibition, the state was a controlled state with many hurdles that seemed to deter people from being winemakers which is unfortunate as PA has 14,000+ acres of land fit for grape growing and a climate that is more like Europe than the western coast of the US or Australia, where you find higher recognized Vitis vinifera wines.  In addition, a lack of seriousness from the wine industry was due in part to having produced fruity-sweet wines from the Concord, Cayuga, and Niagara grapes.

It is always darkest before the dawn; when Vitis vinifera grapes were incorporated into the state, a lack of research and education made things even tougher on the reputation of wines from PA.  In the US the vast swash of research and funding went into the west coast, where the findings had little or no use for the eastern soils and climate.  With perseverance and time PA growers and winemakers have come to understand their land and climate with assistance from local research, and achieved what some may consider the holy grail of wine production: producing Pinot Noir (remember how thin-skinned, temperamental and disease prone this grape is).

By the early to mid-1980s AVAs were being established in and around the state.  Today, the state boasts 5 AVAs: Central Delaware Valley AVA (est. 1984) which the state shares with NJ, Cumberland Valley AVA (est. 1985) that stretches largely into MD, Lake Erie AVA (est. 1983) is in the north of the state along the south shore of Lake Erie and is shared with OH and NY and known for Riesling production, Lancaster Valley AVA (est. 1984) and Lehigh Valley AVA (est. 2008) are the only AVAs completely within the states boundaries and Lancaster Valley is considered some of the most fertile land in the state.

If you live in or plan on visiting, pennsylvaniawine.com has a great resource on the grapes grown and regional overviews that can be found here.

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