Penns Woods Review
Address: 124 Beaver Valley Rd Chadds Ford,Pennsylvania 19317.
Phone Number: 610-459-0808
Tasting Hours: Mon-Thurs 12:00-5:30, Fri 11:00-6:00, Sat 11:00-6:00, Sun 11:00-5:00
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Review Date: 9/6/2015
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
In 2002, longtime wine importer and distributor, Gino Razzi, after having successfully made his first Italian wine, a 1997 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo called Symposium, set out to find out more about Pennsylvania wine production. In his research, he discovered that vineyards were growing good grapes, but that the winemaking process was what needed addressing. He decided to create a micro-fermentation of about 80 cases of red wine with grapes sourced from quality vineyards in Pennsylvania. The resulting wine, his 2002 Ameritage, an American version of a Bordeaux-style red blend, turned out wonderfully and confirmed to him that quality wine could be made in Pennsylvania.
After a two-year search, in 2004, Razzi purchased the former Smithbridge Winery in Chadds Ford, whose vineyard was primarily comprised of vines that were 25 years old. He released the first official vintage of Penns Woods Ameritage, the 2005 vintage, shortly thereafter. In 2010, Razzis daughter, Carley, joined him in building and growing the winery we know today, an ultra-premium, Chester County, Pennsylvania winery.
The winery has two vineyards, 12 acres in vine (of 30 acres total) at Penns Woods and six acres in Coatesville, and sources grapes from other quality Pennsylvania vineyards. The wine itself is made at the production facility in Eddystone. The annual case production is around 2500 cases.
When I visited Penns Woods in September 2015, it was my second visit, my first being in May 2014. Both times I was hosted on the patio of an old homestead-like building turned tasting venue, this time by Andrea Creto, the tasting room manager. About 20 minutes into the tasting, Gino Razzi himself showed up and gave me an unforgettable tasting experience and vineyard tour.
I had the opportunity to taste a number of Penns Woods’ award-winning wines, including the new 2014 Grüner Veltliner, 2013 Chardonnay Reserve, 2014 Traminette, 2014 Bancroft Riesling, 2014 White Merlot, 2012 Chambourcin, 2012 Merlot, 2013 Bancroft Moscato, and NV Lacrima Dolce, as well as sangria, made daily at the winery from seasonal fruits and their Viognier, which can only be purchased onsite by the glass. The tasting fee is only $9.00. The wines on the tasting menu the day I visited were reasonably priced from $19 to $36.
A few of my favorite wines of the day were:
2014 Grüner Veltliner: Sporting an elegant new label design, the Grüner Veltliner is a mouthwatering sipper produced in stainless steel, with aromas and flavors of tart apple, lemon, lime, lively acidity and a hint of warm pepper on the finish. $28
2014 Traminette: Do not be afraid of this aromatic, semi-sweet, Gewürztraminer-based hybrid. It exhibits a lovely balance of honeysuckle sweetness and a citrusy acid finish that screams for spicy Asian food. $24
2014 White Merlot: This rosé made from Merlot is a beautiful salmon color, with a mélange of red berries and stone fruits on the nose and palate, complete with juicy acidity. $22
2012 Chambourcin: Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid grape, produces a wine similar to a lighter style Zinfandel. This example was no exception: a peppery wine with bright red and black fruit flavors, firm tannins, delightful acid, and unique Pennsylvania earthiness. $30
NV Lacrima Dolce: I am typically not a dessert wine person. However, this wine, made from Merlot in the recioto style, caught me off guard, literally, as I gasped, my eyes widened, and Gino smiled at me. German chocolate cake in a glass. Heavenly. $36.
As I learned that day while tasting with Gino and riding through the vineyards with him on a golf cart tasting grapes, less is more. The wines in the bottle should taste as close as possible to the grapes on the vine. All of Penns Woods wines are made with great attention to vineyard management and careful production choices. As Razzi told me, the keys to great wine production include good grapes, vineyard canopy management to ensure optimal grape ripening, a clean winemaking environment, and the judicious use of oak as a tool for tannin and structure only. Since wine is not a necessity, but rather a choice, his goal as a producer is to make wine that surprises, satisfies, and moves us emotionally. Gino and Penns Woods, you have succeeded.