Author's Note: Any and all opinions are just that -- my opinions and personal preferences. I recommend striking out on your own to find out what’s most palatable to your taste buds.
At 10 a.m. on Oct. 15, five of us set out from Nazareth with a mission: get to all eight wineries that make up the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail to celebrate the Chambourcin Weekend.
Spoiler Alert: Seven hours later, we succeeded and our mission was complete. We were quite proud of ourselves as we wearily trudged home with 44 bottles of wine in the trunk.
It’s hard to determine what the best thing is about the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. It might be the breathtaking views as you make your way from one winery to the next via winding mountain roads you probably didn’t even know existed.
It might be the delicious food pairings, things like Chanterelle mushroom soup, authentic Polish pierogies, and tender beef French dip with a Chambourcin reduction.
But it was probably the opportunity to taste more than 50 different wines at eight family-owned wineries, none more than 40 minutes from home.
This past weekend, Oct. 15 and 16, was the Chambourcin Weekend for the wineries of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. The weekend celebrated the Chambourcin grape, also called “the jewel of the Lehigh Valley.”
The French-American hybrid grape was designed to grow well in East Coast soil -- and thrive it does. Each winery offers at least one Chambourcin wine, no two of which are the same.
What follows is a brief exploration into the wine trail -- delving too deep into any one winery would take way too long. Suffice it to say they are all great, and they all offer incredible wines.
Even the wineries themselves range from rustic farmhouses to upscale European-style tasting rooms. The diversity is astounding.
Our first stop on the wine trail was Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery in Breinigsville. Its tasting room is impressively large, and attached to a banquet hall that can be rented for special occasions.
I sampled six wines here. The standouts for me were the Turtle Rock Red, a semi-sweet, berry-flavored red wine; the 2009 Chambourcin, which had a definitive oak flavor, and the DeChaunac, a semi-sweet earthy red.
My Pick: DeChaunac
Stop number two was Vynecrest Winery, also in Breinigsville and less than 10 minutes from Clover Hill. This winery was in a high-raftered farmhouse, which really gave it a welcoming feel.
I sampled six wines here as well. The DiVyne Red was a semi-sweet red made from the Concord grape. The Autumn Gold was also great, a sweet white and a Silver Medal winner. I left with a bottle of each!
My Pick: DiVyne Red
Next we went to Pinnacle Ridge in Greenwich Township, Berks County (it has a Kutztown mailing address). This winery was a bit more rustic than Vynecrest, and the owners and employees were all extremely friendly.
I sampled five of its wines, including the 2009 Chambourcin and the 2008 Syrah, both of which were great red wines. The Niagara was a noteworthy white -- very tasty and sweet.
My Pick: Sweet Seduction, a semi-sweet red made from the Chambourcin grape.
The fourth stop on the wine trail was Blue Mountain Vineyards & Cellars in New Tripoli. This winery, up on a hilltop, offered the best view so far, overlooking its own small lake.
I tried six wines at Blue Mountain, including the 2004 Chambourcin paired with ziti pasta and select cheeses. The Red Horizon, a sweet red concord wine, was a standout, as well as the Mountain Frost, a delicious white that would be great as a dessert wine.
My Pick: Mountain Frost
Next up was Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery in Andreas. Although it is the farthest winery we traveled to, it offered a spectacular view, probably the best on the whole trail.
I sipped six wines here, the best of which (for me) were the Winter Mountain Red, a sweet red made from Concord grapes, and the Cellar Red, a semi-dry made from the Chambourcin.
My Pick: Winter Mountain Red
Number six was Big Creek Vineyard & Winery in Kunkletown. The owner doled out a pairing of Chanterelle mushroom soup with the Chambourcin red, which were pretty amazing together.
I tried four wines at Big Creek besides the Chambourcin. Among them were the La Brusca, a sweet concord wine; the Vin Di Pasqualina, a dry rosé, and the Apple Raspberry, which apparently goes really well with vanilla ice cream. Can’t wait to try that!
My Pick: Apple Raspberry
The second-to-last stop was Franklin Hill Vineyards in Lower Mount Bethel Township (it has a Bangor mailing address), the second-closest to home. Franklin Hill offered a ton of food, including Pivinski’s Premier Polish Prince’s Pierogis, an authentic pierogie recipe inspired by the owner’s Polish background. Delicious!
I’ve drank plenty of Franklin Hill wines before, so I was determined to taste only new ones. I tried the Seyval Blanc, a dry white; the Chambourcin red, oak-aged, and the Fiesta, a sweet fruity red.
My Pick: Fiesta
The final stop was Amore Vineyards & Winery on Steuben Road in East Allen Township. Amore had a great selection, and custom labels are available for customers who want pictures on their bottles!
I tried five wines at Amore. The Red Rapture, a semi-sweet red made from the Chambourcin, was great, as was the Spiced Apple.
My Pick: Blackberry Bliss
Check out the accompanying photo gallery for shots of all eight wineries -- and some of the views, the bottles and labels.
For more information about the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, visit www.lehighvalleywinetrail.com.