Tour de Grape

The seven vineyards of the Bucks County Wine Trail will host a Holiday Festival Dec. 10-11.

By: Megan Sullivan
   Don’t forget to purchase festive wine to celebrate this holiday season, whether it’s to pair with a home-cooked meal or simply to give as a gift. With the inception of the Bucks County Wine Trail in 2004, area wineries have become much more accessible and shopper-friendly.
   The seven wineries on board (Buckingham Valley Vineyards, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, New Hope Winery, Peace Valley Winery, Rose Bank Winery, Rushland Ridge Vineyards and Sand Castle Winery) are set to host a Holiday Festival Dec. 10-11, providing a nice opportunity for guests to learn more about wine varieties and make the perfect drink selection.
   While Europe and California may be the first hotspots that come to mind as wine industry dominators, Pennsylvania is working hard to create an identity for itself.
   "In the early ’70s, people laughed at the idea that good wine could come from California, and they earned their stripes," says Chris Carroll, co-owner of Crossing Vineyards in Washington Crossing, Pa. Seeing how New York has a good reputation for wine, Virginia is earning quite a name and Washington and Oregon have also made their mark, Ms. Carroll thinks it’s only a matter of time until Pennsylvania is recognized for a particular varietal.
   Ms. Carroll suggests three different wines from Crossing Vineyards that she thinks say "holiday." The new Blanc de Blancs ($20), a sparkling wine, comes from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes. "Sparkling wine has come to be known as a special occasion wine, but it’s really an everyday wine," Ms. Carroll says. "It’s my first choice for the holidays though because it pairs well and because it’s festive." She stresses the importance of chilling sparkling wines, but not much colder than 55 degrees, to ensure optimum flavor. For a sweeter taste, she suggests adding a little Wild Berry ($15) wine.
   Spiced Apple wine ($13), made with Pennsylvania fruit, also makes a nice holiday choice and can be served warm or straight from the bottle. Samples will be on hand during the festival. Crossing Vineyards also sells Olde Tradition Spice, which Ms. Carroll says some people enjoy mixing with their regular Apple wine ($12) that’s made with a blend of Granny Smith, York and Winesap apples.
   Le Nouveau ($13), made from the first fruits of the harvest, is Ms. Carroll’s third choice for a great holiday wine. The semi-dry, fruity wine is made in the traditional French Beaujolais style and pairs well with ham and turkey. Going from vine to wine in a month, Nouveau has slightly lower alcohol content than other wines as it has a shorter fermentation period. "It’s a fun, celebratory wine," she says of the candy apple red beverage.
   For those who will only drink red wine, Ms. Carroll recommends two recently introduced reserve wines, a 2003 Merlot ($20) and Cabernet-Merlot ($21). The Cabernet-Merlot combination is the richest wine Crossing Vineyards has made yet. It has a slightly fruitier taste than the Merlot, which has stronger oak overtones.
   Rose Bank Winery in Newtown, Pa., another winery on the trail, also will open its doors to those in search of holiday wines. Dave Fleming, who purchased Rose Bank Winery in 2000 from its former owner, will offer samples of warm spiced apple wine. Made with apples and then mixed with cloves, cinnamon and ginger, the wine tastes best when heated, Mr. Fleming says. "It’s a very nice wintertime drink to have after dinner, at the ski lodge or on a cold, rainy night," he says. The female musical group Joyful Voices will add to the holiday atmosphere Dec. 11 singing a cappella style.
   The formation of the Bucks County Wine trail allows the wineries to co-promote and owners hope it will get the word out there that yes, there are wineries in Bucks County and it’s good wine, too. "Every weekend people come in and say, ‘We’ve been driving by you for years,’" Mr. Fleming says. "Then they find out we have 20 different types of wine: dry red, dry white, sweet red, sweet white and fruit wines — people get really excited about those.
   "That’s the good thing about wine," he adds. "What you like is what you like. You don’t have to like them all."
The Bucks County Wine Trail Holiday Festival will be held at all seven trail locations Dec. 10-11. For information, call each individual winery: Buckingham Valley Vineyards, 1521 Durham Road, Buckingham, Pa.,, (215) 794-7188; Crossing Vineyards and Winery, 1853 Wrightstown Road, Washington Crossing, Pa.,, (215) 493-6500; New Hope Winery, 6123 Route 202, New Hope, Pa.,, (215) 794-2331; Peace Valley Winery, 300 Old Limekiln Road, Chalfont, Pa., (215) 249-9058; Rose Bank Winery, 258 Durham Road, Newtown, Pa.,, (215) 860-5899; Rushland Ridge Vineyards, Almshouse Road, Rushland, Pa.,, (215) 598-0251; Sand Castle Winery, 755 River Road, Erwinna, Pa.,, (800) 722-9463. Bucks County Wine Trail on the Web: