"When tasting wine, connoisseurs hold their glasses up to the light to look at the wine’s color and clarity. I don’t always know what I’m supposed to see, but at Naylor Wine Cellars in Pennsylvania, I held up my white wine and it was crystal . . . No. I have to say that it was most definitely cloudy. Very clearly cloudy."
That's how today's Washington Post story, called A winemaking and tasting tour through Pa. and Md., begins.
I went with a friend during the 8th annual Tour de Tanks event, which is how we got into all the back rooms. It runs until the end of March, every Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., except for Easter Sunday.
Whether the wines compare to California or Italian or New Zealand wines... Who am I to say? I like what I like and I'm no connoisseur. You'd have to taste for yourself.
My friend "L," a Harrisburg, Pa. resident, says I missed two really good wineries. One is the The Vineyard at Hershey in Middletown, whose wines "have brought Pennsylvania wines to a whole new level," he says.
The Hershey winery is on the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail, but the others are not, and therefore not a part of the Tour de Tanks ticket. But that's just a marketing construct anyway. Drink wines where you want to drink them, not because someone grouped them a certain way for publicity.
It sure was a fun trip, though, particularly in the gray days of March. I liked getting to see the cellars and back rooms of wineries. Especially Moon Dancer in Wrightsville, PA. They did it up right. Candles flickering atop barrels. A cozy orange glow to greet us.
And winemaker Jim Miller had interesting stories about the grapes and the wine and the fact that one great-grandfather was a cooper, the other a brewer. I think he mentioned he's going to look into brewing beer next.
Again, I'm not a wine critic, so it would make sense for wine connoisseurs to research the wines and choose wineries based on taste reviews.
During our trip, I was the designated driver, note taker, photo maker and winemaker questioner, since I was writing the above-mentioned story. So I didn't get to down as much wine as I would have liked.
If you travel the trail solo, you will be designated driver, eater and everything else. It's an enjoyable way to spend a weekend. A day would be fine, actually. If you eat all the food the wineries offer, and take very small tastes of the wine, it can be done.
Unless you are a very cheap drunk. Then, visit one or two top wineries tops and hang out for a while to process the alcohol.
You will get to see pretty parts of rural Pennsylvania and barrel and tank rooms that are not usually open. It will cost you $25, though, whether you visit one winery or 26, although you can taste wines the usual way, without the tours, for the usual nominal fees set by individual wineries.
People who live in the area can use their $25 ticket all month, once at each winery. I'm told some people set the challenge of hitting all 26 wineries. Good luck to you. I think.
Photos: Ellen Perlman