If you live in southeastern PA, New Jersey, or the NYC area, a great place to plan a day trip is Bucks County, PA. Running right along the Delaware River on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the area is full of beautiful views, great restaurants, cute little towns and lots of wineries!
If you live outside of the area, you may not think of wine when you think of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, the wine business is booming there! What started out as a few farmers experimenting with growing grapes and making wine, has turned into a fast-growing winemaking industry.
On Sunday, we spent the day visiting some of the wineries in the area. We wrapped up our day with dinner at a fantastic restaurant in New Hope. If you visit the area, here are some things you should check out, and some tips to keep in mind during your visit!
Bucks County is home to a number of wineries. What I enjoy about these wineries, is that they are typically small and family-owned. It’s very common to find the winemaker and/or owner in the tasting room. They are always happy to answer your questions and talk to you about their wine. To me, this makes the tasting experience so much better.
Tip #1: If you are looking to plan a day of wine tasting, check out the Bucks County Wine Trail. They organize special events throughout the year with all the participating wineries. In addition, you can purchase a Passport to Bucks card for $30. The card gets you a complimentary tasting at each of the member wineries, that can be redeemed any time between November 1st and April 30th. It also enters you for a chance to win prizes. Check out their website at www.buckscountywinetrail.com for more information.
Wycombe Vineyards (www.wycombevineyards.com)
The land that the vines are planted on has been in the family since 1925. The vines were planted in 2000, and the first harvest was in 2005. The tasting room opened in 2006. Wycombe Vineyards is the driest winery in Bucks County, so if you like dry wines, this is the place to go. The tasting room is quaint, and they always have delicious cheese, crackers and other goodies set out for you to enjoy while you do your tasting. When I visited, they had blood orange brownies out, which were amazing!
The owners are typically around in the tasting room. The young lady that gave us our tasting told me she was a neighbor who started helping around the vineyards when she was 14, and started working in the tasting room as soon as she was old enough to pour wine.
A tasting at Wycombe Vineyards is $5, and you get to taste 8 different wines. Here are the wines I tasted.
Riesling (2016): Their Riesling is very citrusy, with a lemon/lime taste to it. It has a lot of acid on it as well.
Naked Chardonnay (2015): For those of us that don’t like oak on our Chardonnay, the Naked Chardonnays are a good option. Wycombe’s is very light, with some apple on the tongue.
Pinot Grigio (2016): This was my personal favorite. Lots of apricot, this wine was a bit sweeter.
Chambourcin (2015): Chambourcin is the type of grape that you either love or hate. It’s very acidic, and can have a very tart taste and be very earthy. Wycombe’s Chambourcin had a very earthy nose, but was very tart on the tongue. It had a little touch of berry to it as well.
Somkehouse Red: This wine is a blend of 60% Chambourcin/30% Cabernet Franc/10% Merlot. The Cab Franc and Merlot cut some of the acidity from the Chambourcin, making this an easy drinking red.
Cabernet Franc (2015): This had lots of black pepper on the nose and the tongue. Our wine pourer said she always gets black licorice, but neither my husband or I got that from the wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon (2016): This has only been in the bottle 2 months, so it needs a little more time to age. It’s very dry with a lot of berry on it. I think with more time, this will be a very nice wine.
Just Married: A blend of their Riesling, Naked Chardonnay and Niagara, this is a much sweeter wine with a taste of grapefruit. Great chilled in the summer.
We also got to try their Sangria Slushies. Their Sangria is made with the Chambourcin grape. They add cinnamon to the wine, which really comes through in the slushie.
Buckingham Valley Vineyards (www.pawines.com)
Buckingham Valley Vineyards was one of the first wineries started in Pennsylvania, and is now one of the largest. It is a less personal experience to visit their tasting room than other places. You get to taste 8 wines for a $5 tasting fee. Here are the wines I tasted.
Pinot Gris: This was a very sweet and citrusy Pinot.
Seval Blanc: This white was much drier, but still had a touch of citrus.
Riesling: This is a semi-dry Riesling, so it is a bit on the sweeter side. Lots of floral on the nose.
Chambourcin: Not quite as tart as a lot of the Chambourcins I’ve tasted before. A little smoother, with some vanilla on the finish.
Chancellor: This was a very dry red with lots of tannins. Also some berry on the nose and the tongue.
Cabernet Sauvignon: A very dry Cab, lots of vanilla.
Concordia: This is just like drinking red grape juice. Very sweet and very grapey.
Holiday Spice: Their Sangria with cinnamon. This would be good served warm in the winter.
Tip #2: Buckingham Valley Vineyards does a “pour your own tasting”. They have all of their bottles out, and you just walk around and pour your own. While this allows you to move through the wines faster so you don’t have to wait for a pour, it really takes away from the experience in my mind. There is no personal connection with the wine, and as you can see from my limited notes, no interaction with anyone to explain the wines to you. If you are looking for a more educational experience on the wine, skip this winery.
Rose Bank Winery (www.rosebankwinery.com)
This was my favorite stop during our day. We got talking to owner, Bev, during our tasting, and she called over her husband and co-owner, Dave, who took us on a tour of their facility. Dave spent a lot of time with us, showing us all of the equipment, his wine storage, and talking about his philosophy about winemaking. He shared with us that he brought on a winemaker – Ray – who worked in one of the largest wineries in South Africa. Ray has done a fantastic job with the wines. After spending time with Dave and Bev, you can tell this is their passion, and it comes through in their wines. The wine was so good, that we walked out with half a case!
For $8, you receive a small coupon book to taste 8 wines. Here is what I tasted.
Sauvignon Blanc: This white wine was quite tart. It was also very light tasting. This would be a good wine to drink with pasta.
Serendipity: This was one of my favorite wines of the day. A blend of their Riesling and Pinot Grigio, it was very dry and very light and easy to drink. I thought the Riesling came through more than the Pinot.
Chancellor Royale: A dry red wine, I got a lot of oak on this wine. I also got a lot of vanilla on the nose.
Dechaunac: This was a grape that I was not familiar with. It originated in the Lake Erie area. A heavier red, I got a lot of plum on the nose and the tongue.
Vidal Blanc: This was a much sweeter white. It was very light and crisp, with a taste of pineapple that gave it the sweetness. This would be a very nice summer wine served chilled.
Red Sangria: While I prefer dry wines over sweet, I found Rose Bank’s Red Sangria to be very good. It’s made with the Dechaunac grape, so I got more of that “grape taste” from it.
Blackberry: This wine is not made with grapes, but with blackberries. It’s one of several fruit wines they have available. You can definitely tell it is made from blackberries as soon as you taste it.
Apple/Hallowine: Their apple wine is very light. In fact, I didn’t get a lot of apple taste in the wine. They’ve taken their apple wine and added spices to it to make their Hallowine. I thought the Hallowine was very good and would be tasty served warm as a mulled wine.
Tip #3: Be sure to shop around the tasting room and check out some of the sauces and other goodies they have. They carry Robert Rothschild sauces (they have some set out on the tasting bar for you to try), and everything we tried was delicious.
Tip #4: Rose Bank Winery is also set up to host large events and weddings. While we were there on a Sunday afternoon, there were two weddings happening. As we got a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen and winemaking area, we could see that the operation was a well-oiled machine. As busy as it was with the weddings and the crowded tasting room, the owner Dave was still able to spend lots of time with us talking about his wine.
Crossing Vineyards & Winery (www.crossingvineyards.com)
Tom Carroll, Jr. decided that the 20-acre piece of land that his parents had purchased when he was a young boy would make a great vineyard. He partnered with his parents in 2000 to create Crossing Vineyards and Winery, planted the first vines in 2002, and became one of Pennsylvania’s youngest vintners.
The property is beautiful to visit. The tasting is a little pricey at $15, but you get to taste 12 wines. Here are the wines I tasted.
Chardonnay 2015 Estate: Grown on the property, this is a very nice Chardonnay. I am not a big fan of Chardonnay, as I feel most winemakers “over oak” the wine. However, this wine was much lighter on the oak.
Viognier: This is a varietal that you don’t find very often. It’s typically used for blending. This Viognier was floral and very light. I found it to fall a little flat.
Vidal Blanc 2015 Estate: Another wine grown on the property, this is a bit sweeter. It was still very light and crisp as you’d expect this varietal to be, with some hints of citrus.
Riesling: This was a sweeter wine with 2% residual sugar. I got a lot of fruit on it for a Riesling.
Pinot Noir: Moving on to the dry reds, this Pinot was very jammy. It had some spice on the nose, but a sweeter finish on the tongue.
Merlot: Merlot is not my favorite red wine. This was a typical Merlot. I got a lot of smoke from the oak, and a chocolate finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon (2014): Aged in French oak, this had a lot of tannins. I am normally a big Cab fan. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about this wine that I didn’t like.
Cabernet Franc (2015): I normally get a lot of pepper on a Cab Franc. While this one had some, I thought the berry taste overpowered the pepper.
Apple: We moved onto the sweeter wines, starting with the apple wine. Made from Granny Smith, York, and Wine Sap apples, this was not as sweet as I expected it to be. It had almost a medicine taste to it for me.
Sangria: Their Sangria is a red wine base, although the winemaker won’t share what wines are used. Lots of cinnamon.
Wild Berry: This wine is made with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. It’s very tart. I mostly tasted blackberry.
Chocolate Cherry Truffle: This is a true dessert wine, and one of my favorite in this tasting. Made with fortified brandy and Ghirardelli chocolate shavings, this is a 17% alcohol wine made for sipping. It tastes like a chocolate covered cherry. This would be delicious with some bitter chocolate.
Tip #5: There are several other wineries to visit in the area. We simply ran out of time. A winery not on the Bucks County Wine Trail, but recommended to us as a unique place to visit is Vivat Alfa Winery (www.vivatalfawinery.com). It will definitely be on our list during our next visit.
When you are done with your wine tasting, take some time to visit the towns of New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ. They are located right across the river from each other, and you can walk across the bridge and visit each town.
Both towns have a wonderful downtown area, with lots of shops and restaurants. If you want to continue your “wine-themed” visit, there are also several wine shops in both towns. We did a quick visit to the Tomasello Winery tasting room in Lambertville (www.tomasellowinery.com). We walked in just a few minutes before they were closing, so they were anxious to shut down. We were able to do a quick taste of a few wines. I recommend the 2015 Sangiovese, which was very dry and smoky.
We wrapped up our visit with dinner at Marsha Brown New Orleans Restaurant (www.marshabrownrestaurant.com). Marsha owns the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse franchises in Center City Philadelphia and King of Prussia, PA. We’ve met Marsha before at her King of Prussia restaurant, and she’s a powerhouse of a lady! We are such big fans of Ruth’s, that we have been wanting to give Marsha’s namesake restaurant a try.
The restaurant is housed in a 125 year-old stone church right in the middle of downtown New Hope. The inside of the restaurant is beautiful, featuring stained-glass windows, and a balcony area where you can picture the church organ originally sat. The service was fantastic, and the food was amazing. Expect to spend $150 plus for two people, particularly if you get any appetizers, drinks or dessert. This is a place to save for a special dinner.
Tip #6: We had the Crab Cheesecake and the Hickory Smoked Bacon Slab for appetizers. Both were delicious and I recommend them.
Tip #7: Even if you just stop in for a drink at the bar on the first floor, walk up the stairs and check out the second floor. It’s an amazing dining room.
There are lots of other attractions to see in Bucks County, including Peddler’s Village, which has lots of great shops and restaurants. We couldn’t fit it all into one day, but we’ll be back soon!
Have more questions about the Bucks County area? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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