Duncan Allison, Chester County Farm Bureau Fall 2015
Chester County is considered to have the ideal conditions to produce wines that can compete with the best from California and Europe. The proof has come with some of our local vineyards competing in national and international competitions and winning awards for their wines.
Pennsylvanian wines have not always enjoyed a reputation for high quality. Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery recognized that it was going to be critical to gain a reputation for quality to be successful. It was not sufficient to compete in regional wine competitions. They had to enter their products so that they could be compared to the wines from the best wineries in California, France and Italy.
Galer has proved that their wines from the heart of Chester County can win awards against producers from the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. They have earned over 90 international and national medals and awards since opening their doors in late 2011, including a recent 2015 Gold Medal from Sonoma for their 2014 un-oaked Chardonnay and Silver for their 2014 Pinot Gris. They have also won the prestigious Best of Show, Double Gold and Gold Medals for their two ice wines, and many gold, silver and bronze awards for their other white, red and Rosé wines.
Establishing a vineyard is no trivial task and involves deep knowledge of viticulture and significant investment of dollars and time. Terroir is the term used to describe careful choice of aspect and soil to plant the particular clones or varieties of grapes best suited to the area and needs of the winemaker.
Brad and Lele Galer, vineyard and winery owners, employed Jan Grimes to manage their vineyard and ensure that the vines produced grapes that would produce high quality wines. A certified viticulturist, she watches over the vineyard throughout the year from the careful pruning in winter to achieving the right balance of growth and grape development during the summer to netting the ripening vines to stop birds eating the grapes as they begin to color.
Galer grows their own grapes but also purchases grapes from other vineyards which have not invested in the large expense of equipping and running a winery. It is expected that this pattern will continue as wineries need more grapes to utilize their wine production capability.
At harvest the next critical stage begins when the grapes are crushed and pressed and the winemaker or vintner takes over to produce the finished product – the wine. Significant knowledge and experience is required to manage all the different stages of production to create the unique wine that is produced each year depending on the year. There has to be complete integration of culture in the vineyard and wine-making to obtain that wine that reflects the varietal and each year’s distinctive growing season.
Marketing the finished product is another critical function. 80% of local wine sales are at the winery so customers must be attracted to the winery to taste and purchase the wine. Much care and attention was put into the aesthetics of the Galer Estate Winery, from repurposed architectural elements, hand hewn wood from the felled trees from the first vineyard, a deck overlooking the Chardonnay vineyard, and paintings from local artists. It was designed to be artistically pleasing and relaxing, to complement wine tasting. Galer Estate employs a very knowledgeable sales team to discuss the wines with customers, has an event manager to organize non-profit events and small wine-tasting group gatherings, hires local musicians to perform during Friday and Saturday evenings, and has pop up art shows every Thursday.
Vineyard owners need to be fully aware of local municipality zoning rules and neighbors assured that events will not disturb their evenings – further responsibilities and skills needed by the winery owner and staff!
It is clear that Chester County has the soil and climate that can produce excellent and varied wines. Demographics are highly favorable with such a large and affluent population within an hour’s drive. The wineries are often set in beautiful countryside, like at Galer Vineyard, contributing significantly to the afternoon or evening as you sip your wine and taste the cheese or other snacks.
Wineries can be found from Penns Wood on the Pennsylvania Delaware border to other vineyard/wineries throughout the county including Galer, Kreutz Creek, Borderland, Paradocx, Chadds Ford, Va La, Wilson, and Black Walnut. Find them on the Brandywine Artisan Wine Trail website.
Vineyards not only enhance the diversity and beauty of our landscape but provide employment and many opportunities for visitors to drive through our countryside and enjoy another one of the products of our farmers, soil and special environment.
The Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau supports all those involved in farming in Chester and Delaware Counties. It has 7,800 members in Chester County and over 61,000 in Pennsylvania. CDCFB is a grass roots non-profit organization which advocates with officials and legislators at county, state and federal level to ensure farmers both large and small of every sort are treated fairly.
The Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau is a voluntary organization that works to advance the interests of agriculture and rural communities by working with policy makers at state and federal levels. At the local county level it carries out such programs as Farmers Care Day to provide food to the hungry and uses the Food Wheel at local events to educate youth on food and farming. It offers numerous benefits and services to over its 7,800 members, and is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.