Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes.
We’ve known for several years that good-to-great wines can be made on Delmarva and in southeastern Pennsylvania, even as local winemakers are exploring the kinds of grapes they want to grow and the kinds of wines they want to make. The French varieties that grow so well in California also grow well in the Mid-Atlantic, but so do varieties from northern Italy, Germany and Austria. Though some local wines are rustic in style or unsophisticated sweet wines, most local winemakers produce wines on par with those from any region of Europe or the New World. Don’t miss these.
Crow Vineyard Sparkling Vidal Blanc 2011 ($30).
Vidal Blanc makes good table and dessert wine, but this Maryland winery shows that Vidal also shines as a sparkler, with rounded flavors of apples, hints of honeycomb and caramel, and a crisp finish with savory bitters notes.
Paradocx Vineyard Traminette 2013 ($18).
Traminette—a cross of hybrid Seyval Blanc and Gewürztraminer—has recently become a darling of local winemakers. Here it is at its best, with lots of spicy, floral notes of honeysuckle, a nice body and a dry finish.
Stargazers Vineyard Arneis 2014 ($20).
Veteran winemaker John Weygandt pioneered Grüner Veltliner in this region, and he has now come up with another winner with Arneis, a little-known white grape originating from Piedmont, Italy. It has rich fruitiness, with notes of sour cream and lots of stony, minerally content.
Patone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($15).
Whatever obstacles and delays Mario Patone may have faced in opening his Landenberg, Pa., tasting room, there is no doubting his winemaking skills. Most of his releases are Californian in style, including this smooth, creamy Sauvignon, with lots of mellow apple to go with the grapefruit.
Nassau Valley Vineyards Chardonnay NV ($19).
This is the kind of voluptuous Chard that would go great with a chicken stew or juicy pork roast—a little floral with honey notes, some chalky flavors and a nice spiciness.
Va La Vineyards “La Prima Donna” White Blend 2012 ($42).
Anthony Vietri has become a cult winemaker without trying by making a small number of terroir-driven blends. His reds are always great, but this multicultural white blend stands out for its full-bodied flavors of honey and tropical fruits, which is nonetheless dry, with edges of prickly apple peel.
Penns Woods Winery Cabernet Franc 2012 ($32).
Trained in Italy as a winemaker and quite successful as a wine importer, Gino Razzi allows his wines plenty of time to age in the barrel and bottle before release. This Franc has evolved with rounded cherry flavors, a hint of mint and well-integrated, savory barrel notes.
Borderland Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (soon to be released, most likely $30-$40).
Borderland has vines, but no winery or tasting room of its own. Young winemaker Gabriel Rubilar shows that it’s the wine that counts, and this is a lovely one—dark, rounded flavors of plums, figs and blackberry, with nice prickly bitters around the edges that give definition.
Grace Winery“Dragonfly” Red Blend 2013 ($32).
An inventive blend of nearly equal amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with 7 percent Chardonnay—made separately, then blended—this one shows lots of bright fruit, mainly sour cherries, with nice tannins.
Galer Estate Cabernet Franc Ice Wine 2012 ($42).
Ice wine, whether the grapes are frozen on the vine or in the fridge, is generally made from white berries. Here, fridge-frozen Cab Franc results in the clean, rich flavors of chestnuts, figs and molasses—sweet and sophisticated. This is a well-made wine, but the grape and the style are not for everyone.
Harvest Ridge Winery Chambourcin 2013 ($21).
Chambourcin is the regional go-to hybrid red grape that, like Zinfandel and Syrah, can have many faces. Here it is lightly tart, with elderberry flavors, some spice and good acidity. It is similar to an everyday Beaujolais—good with spicy foods.