The Pennsylvania wineries just north of the Delaware border—the unofficial Brandywine region—are coming to terms with what grapes grow best there and how best to make them into wine. Each year, we celebrate the region’s diversity by choosing 12 wines—a Case of the Brandywine—that collectively illustrate the best winemaking in the area.
This year showed the addition of Grace Winery at the Sweetwater Farm B&B in Glen Mills, and so far they are quite promising. Unfortunately, with the exit of Eric Miller as head honcho, the pioneering Chaddsford Winery has dropped out of the fine wine business, concentrating on high-volume, seasonal wines whose grapes (or apples) mostly come from elsewhere. Patone Cellars is still waiting for a tasting room.
This year the 12 wines are:
- NV Kreutz Creek Vidal Blanc ($14). Crisp apples and apple skin flavors. A light, refreshing white, perhaps the best local wine made from hybrid grapes
- 2011 Grace Pinot Gris ($18). Fragrant, full, green fruit with touches of soda bitters around the edges. Fresh and well-balanced
- 2010 Galer Estate Chardonnay ($21). A very French-style Chard with just a touch of oak to balance the crisp apple fruit—excellent structure
- 2010 Va La “La Prima Donna” ($40). Wine of the Year! Truly an outstanding white blend of northern Italian and southern French grapes that changes somewhat yearly but always makes our list. This one is spicy with lots of pepperiness, orange peel and other citrus flavors. It is full-bodied yet crisp and dry. Delicious now, but it will also age well.
- 2010 Grace Rosé of Merlot ($18). Lots of cherry fruit, moderately full, but with a crisp finish
- 2011 Penns Woods White Merlot ($22) A Tavel-like rosé with light cherry flavors, a touch of soften creaminess, but a dry, long finish
- 2008 Va La “Silk” ($25). Not often that you see a blend of Barbera, Corvina, Carmine, Petite Verdot and Nebbiolo. Light-colored red with a great satiny texture and flavors of bright cherry and other stone fruit, tempered by peppery edges. Moderate oak
- 2010 Galer Estate Cabernet Franc ($35). Dark, intense flavors of cherries and black berries with good finishing acidity
- 2010 Paradocx Petite Verdot ($27). Tightly wound, tangy fruit—concentrated cherries—with smooth tannins, a hint of cream and lots of acid in the finish
- 2008 Stargazers Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($18). Best buy! Bordeaux-style with cherries and cassis, hints of tobacco, good tannins
- 2007 Penns Woods Proprietors Reserve Red ($26). Penns Woods and Va La tend to release their reds only when they’re ready, and this Merlot-Cabernet blend is ready—dark cherry, mellow old oak flavors, hints of tobacco and a great acidic, lean finish primed for food.
NV Stargazers Brut Traditional Sparkling Wine ($26). Blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is full-bodied with nice tangy, gamey flavors and is quite dry though not acidic. Total price for our case: $290 or about $24 a bottle, the price of a dinner entrée.