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The past few years have brought several new vineyards —some established ones have grown — and more are on the horizon.
The latest is so close to opening that you can actually taste it (tonight at Hilton Harrisburg, via a wine pairing dinner), The Vineyard at Hershey.
Not actually in Hershey, but just a stone’s throw away in Londonderry Twp., this rural — yet easily accessible — new venue will open fully to the public next weekend, sharing its dozen-plus wines and unbridled enthusiasm for winemaking and wine drinking. However, there will be a special preview from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
The really cool stuff — the two-story, glass-front tasting room with wraparound porch overlooking the vineyards and its natural water source (which is fed from a natural spring in Hershey, thus the name) — and a season of entertainment and events — is in the future.
However, with good planning and luck, The Vineyard at Hershey is able to open earlier than originally scheduled, setting it in line to participate in the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail’s 2012 Tour de Tanks next month.
For now, you can peek at the decrepit barn that will soon be demolished, the site at which the aforementioned tasting room and rental facility will be built. Expect indoor and outdoor seating, a top-of-the-line sound system and a full kitchen, equipped for nearly any type of wine event, from your basic Saturday afternoon drop-in to a chef-prepared pairing dinner to weddings, reunions or other parties.
The Vineyard at Hershey is built with room to grow. Based at a family farm and adjacent to a dog kennel, you also can expect to see outdoor and pet-related events. Think summer concerts, picnics and the like.
Next weekend, it will begin to offer a small tasting room inside the old farmhouse, which would likely fit 15 to 20 people. Downstairs is the bottling and labeling operation. This is where we sampled the much-anticipated Merlot, being bottled and then tucked away to age gracefully until its coming out party on Sept. 17. (Mark your calendars; this will be a big event.)
Upstairs, we were treated to a cheese/fruit/nut plate to cleanse our palates between samples of Vineyard of Hershey’s dozen varieties. The focus so far has been on white wines, many of which play to the tastes loved locally — meaning semisweet and sweet. However, for those with drier tastes, the Oaked Chardonnay ($18.99) was our hands-down favorite.
I also enjoyed the Seyval Blanc, which has a bit of a mineral taste to it, and the Dry Reisling, a style I became a fan of after a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada, where it’s very popular. As I’m undiscriminating with oak, I also liked the Unoaked Chardonnay.
Even the blush wines are tasty — something to enjoy chilled during a summer picnic, although perhaps not an everyday wine for me.
The most economical wine Vineyard at Hershey offers is one of the most popular styles in this area — the Niagara ($10.99).
Tastings are $3 for five wines — but if you buy a bottle, it’s like an instant coupon for $3 off.
The Vineyard at Hershey opens Feb. 25 and will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Visit the website, www.vineyardathershey.com, for upcoming events — including two new wine dinners.
Because tonight’s introductory wine dinner sold out quickly, the Vineyard at Hershey arranged two additional wine dinners in the area.
On March 9, enjoy a four-course “Couer de Cajuns” pairing dinner at Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen in Columbia. On March 30, Alfred’s Victorian in Middletown will host The Vineyard at Hershey for a five-course pairing dinner, focusing on locally grown produce and cheese. For tickets and to see the menu for either event, go to vineyardathershey.eventbrite.com.
Also, check out the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail’s upcoming Tour de Tanks for specials and deals for exploring Pennsylvania’s growing wineries.
Follow Vineyard at Hershey on Twitter @VineyardHershey or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/vineyardhershey.
Visit SaraBozich.com for more events and weekly giveaways. Follow Sara on Twitter @sarabozich and at facebook.com/outwithsara. Celebrate responsibly.