When most people think of wine, they think of the big wine regions on the west coast of the U.S. – Napa and Sonoma in California, Willamette Valley in Oregon, Yakima and Walla Walla in Washington State. There are also a couple of big wine regions on the east coast, including the Finger Lakes in New York and the Blue Ridge Mountain area in Virginia. But did you know that you can find at least one winery in almost every state in the country? A lot of these smaller wineries are the best ones to visit, because they are usually locally owned and not as “commercial” as some of the big wineries in the major wine regions. It’s not unusual for the winemaker to be in the tasting room and maybe even do your tasting for you.
Pennsylvania is a state that wouldn’t immediately come to your mind for wine, but it’s a very established wine region with over 200 wineries located throughout the state. One of those wineries is Kreutz Creek Vineyards, which is located in West Grove, PA and run by Jim and Carole Kirkpatrick. Jim is the winemaker and Carole runs the tasting rooms and the business side of things.
Jim’s passion for winemaking started in 1989, when Carole bought Jim a wine kit for his birthday. After mastering making wine from kits, Jim and Carole decided to take the plunge and buy a property that had a few acres of land, where they planted some vines and began making wine from their own grapes. Their “hobby” kept growing and growing, and they eventually purchased their current property which contains their home, vineyards, tasting room, and outdoor facility.
Tip #1: When you visit a local winery, you get to actually taste the wine before you purchase. Wine tastings are a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t like before you commit to buying a whole bottle (or a case!).
Kreutz Creek Vineyards has 11 different wines in their regular rotation. They range from dry whites to dry reds, as well as semi-dry and sweet wines. Although I’ve been to Kreutz Creek Vineyards several times, during a recent Sunday afternoon visit, I tasted the wines again so I could share with all of you.
Tip #2: Not everyone will like every wine. Everyone’s palate is different. Some people prefer dry wines, while others like their wines to be sweeter. When doing a tasting, you should never feel bad about “dumping” when you don’t like a wine and don’t want to finish the pour. Any good winemaker will not be offended, but will understand that the particular wine you tasted just did not fit your tastes. You’ll typically find a “dump bucket” sitting out on the tasting bar for any wine you don’t like or can’t finish.
Dry Whites: The winery offers three different dry whites – Pinot Grigio, Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay. The Pinot Grigio and Vidal Blanc are both aged in stainless steel, so they are both very light and crisp. The Pinot Grigio has a bit of a fruity taste for me, with a little bit of acid on the finish. The Vidal Blanc is more citrusy. Both should be served slightly chilled, and make for a great every day dry white wine. They were out of chardonnay on the day I visited, but I’ve had previous releases. They age their chardonnay in oak, which gives the wine nice vanilla flavors.
Dry Reds: The winery has four dry reds on a regular basis – Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Wickerton Red and Kordeaux. Chambourcin was not available to taste, however, I’ve had it in the past. It’s a unique wine that some people love and some people hate. The acid is very high, which gives it an almost tart taste (think Sweet Tart). The Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite wines at Kreutz Creek. The Cabernet Franc grape does well in a cooler climate (this varietal is also very popular in the Finger Lakes region). The wine has loads of berry flavors, with a bit of vanilla on the end. Wickerton Red is their everyday table red wine. It’s a blend of their Chambourcin and Kordeaux, so you get the berry and heaviness of the Kordeaux mixed with the acidity of the Chambourcin. It has a bit of oak on it, but not overpowering. Finally, the Kordeaux is Jim’s version of a Bordeaux style wine. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this is a dry and heavier wine with a lot of tannins. This is one you want to drink with a meal.
Semi-Dry: If dry wines are not your thing and you prefer something sweeter, the semi-dry wines might be more your style. The first semi-dry they offer is Stueben (yes, that’s the name of the grape). It’s in a rosé style, but the Stueben grape adds a lot of strawberry to the taste of the wine. This is a great wine served chilled on a nice summer day. The winery also makes wine slushies with this wine (more on that, below). The other semi-dry wine is Niagara. The Niagara grape is the same grape that is used to make white grape juice, and you will recognize the smell right away. This is much sweeter than the Stueben, but not overpowering with sugars. They also use the Niagara to make to make their Holiday Wassail (typically available starting in the fall and then until it is gone). Jim blends in cinnamon, cloves and pumpkin as the spices. This is a great wine to serve warm (simply put it in a crock pot and heat it up on low heat), but can also be served chilled (which gives it a totally different taste).
Dessert: The final wine you will taste at Kreutz Creek is their dessert wine – Ruby “K”. Made in the same style that a port is made, this is one of my favorites. It’s a fortified wine made of a blend of several of their reds and Pennsylvania spirits. This wine has a cherry flavor to it, and because of its high amount of sugars, it’s very sweet. You’ll be able to try the wine with a piece of dark chocolate. The bitterness of the dark chocolate perfectly compliments the sweetness of the wine. Take a bite of the chocolate and keep it in your mouth while you take a sip of the wine, to see how the two go together.
Beers: If you have someone in your group that is not a fan of wine, there is also beer available for purchase. Because of some recent changes to the Pennsylvania alcohol regulations, local wineries are now able to serve beer made in Pennsylvania. Kreutz Creek has Victory, Yards, and Troegs beer available.
Tip #3: When doing a wine tasting, be sure to taste the wines in the proper order. You always want to start with the dry whites, then move to the dry reds. Finish up with any semi-dry wines or dessert wines. If the tasting room has crackers available, you may want to eat a cracker or drink some water to cleanse your palate as you move from style to style.
Tip #4: A lot of people believe they should rinse their glass with water in between tasting each wine. When you rinse, you typically leave water in the bottom of the wine glass which will water down the next pour. The proper way to transition from wine to wine, is to have the person doing your tasting pour a little bit of the next wine in your glass, swirl it around and dump it out. However, for most tastings (unless you are tasting very expensive wine) there is no need to do this either.
Tip #5: Did you know that the names of certain varietals can only be used for wines that come from that region? For example, champagne can only be used for wine produced from the Champagne region in France. The same is true of Bordeaux (only from the Bordeaux region in France) and Port (only from Portugal). That’s why Kreutz Creek’s Kordeaux and Ruby K are done in the style of a Bordeaux and a Port, respectively, but cannot be called a Bordeaux or Port.
Visiting the Vineyard
The vineyard is a great place to visit. They have a large indoor tasting room when the weather is not cooperating. They also have a patio outside, as well as picnic tables next to the tasting room entrance, so you can enjoy your wine outside on a nice day. One of the things I like the most about doing a tasting at Kreutz Creek, is that they bring the wine to you. This allows you to enjoy your tasting while sitting at a table, rather than standing at the tasting bar.
Kreutz Creek is BYOF (bring your own food), so feel free to bring cheese, crackers and other food to snack on while enjoying your wine. They are also pet friendly, so you can bring your well-behaved dog. The vineyard dog – Reilly – is usually there on Saturdays and at the summer concerts. Jim and Carole are also in the process of training their puppy – Corky – to “work” the tasting room and events.
There are a lot of things going on at the winery on the weekends. They often have live music on Saturday afternoons. During the summer, they have their Summer Evening Concerts. Those take place down by the barn from 6 – 9 p.m. on select Saturdays. There is a large tent for people to sit under, and a tasting bar right there for your convenience. There is wine available by the bottle or glass. They also make wine slushies – one made out of their Stueben and one made out of their Niagara. Beer is also available for purchase. Please note that outside alcohol is not permitted. However, feel free to bring your own food. The concerts are also dog and kid friendly!
Tip #6: Bring your chairs or a blanket for the concert. Also, a lot of people get together and bring all sorts of food to share. If you don’t want to bother with your own food, there is typically a food truck there for the summer evening concerts with food to purchase.
Tip #7: If you are at the vineyard for a summer concert, take a walk up the hill around sunset. There is a gazebo there and gorgeous views of the sun setting against the vineyard. I’m sure some marriage proposals have happened there, as it’s a really romantic spot!
Tip #8: A great time to visit the vineyard is Sunday afternoon. It’s typically not as busy, so you get more personalized attention during your tasting, and avoid big groups (bachelorette parties, etc.), who tend to come out on Saturdays.
Visiting the West Chester Tasting Room
Kreutz Creek also has a tasting room on Gay Street (the main thoroughfare) in downtown West Chester, PA. You can get all of their wines in the tasting room. As with the vineyard, they sell wine by the glass or the bottle. They also have their beers available. West Chester is also BYOF and dog friendly. In fact, they have “Yappy Hour” from 6 – 8 p.m. every Thursday in the summer. Bring your dog and you will get $2 off your bottle of wine.
The West Chester tasting room has live music every Friday and Saturday night from 7 – 10 p.m., so it’s a great place to bring some friends and food, sit down and enjoy some wine and good live/local musicians.
Tip #9: The tasting room can get busy on the weekends, so be sure to call and make a reservation in advance if you have a large group.
Kreutz Creek Vineyards is a great place to visit and taste wine. The owners are fantastic people who love to share their wine with everyone. Be sure to check out their website for their calendar of events – both at the vineyard and at the West Chester tasting room. Check them out at www.kreutzcreekvineyards.com. Come look for me if you come out for a summer concert. I can be found from time to time helping behind the tasting bar!