Northeastern Favorites, Part 2

Wisdom Oak Vineyard

Photo courtesy Wisdom Oak Winery

In celebration of our 100th “Like” on Facebook, today’s topic is provided by our 100th “Liker,” Mark Vietri of Newark, DE. Mark writes:

Tell me ‘PW’ what are your top 10 wineries in the North east and what makes them your favorite or most unique?

We complete our answer to Mark’s question, with the remaining five picks reflecting a variety of wineries making wines in a great diversity of styles.  As in part one, we’re defining “Northeast” as Virginia to New England,  and with each  entry the primary American Viticultural Area (AVA) is indicated as well as a suggested “One Wine to Get” if you’re only bringing home one bottle.

Karamoor Estate (Montgomery County, PA) – A relatively recent addition to the northeast’s wine scene — vines were first planted in 2006, and their first major vintage produced was 2012 — Karamoor has quickly established itself as a top producer of vinifera wines. Diligent science and painstaking artistry have brought great wines from standard varieties in a non-standard place.

One Wine to Get: Karamoor’s best-selling Cabernet Franc is a prime example of why the variety should be the flagship grape of the Mid-Atlantic.

Dr. Konstantin Frank (Finger Lakes, NY) – One can’t talk about the wine industry in this part of the world without a nod to Dr. Konstantin Frank. A Ph.D. in viticulture, Dr. Frank founded his Vinifera Wine Cellars in 1962 after years of promoting the idea that proper rootstock would allow European grape varieties to grow in the northeastern United States. The winery quickly earned and maintains a reptutation for top Rieslings, and its plantings were the foundation of New York’s wine industry for years.

One Wine to Get: So you think you know the grey Pinot? Well you don’t. Not until you’ve given Dr. Frank’s Pinot Gris — in the Alsatian style — a try.

Nissley Vineyards (Lancaster County, PA) – At first glance, Nissley appears to be a typical small family-run winery making  unpretentious, fruit-forward wines with mass appeal. And in many ways, appearances are accurate. Nestled in tourist-driven Lancaster County, they have to be. But they have a bit of subversive edge that Your Private Wineaux finds appealing: a white wine made from a blend of French hybrid grapes and bosc pear that’s strongly suggestive of Riesling and a dry pink wine made only from Montmorency cherries are two favorite examples.

One Wine to Get: Concord, made in the standard sweet style, but balanced with acidity from the addition of a French hybrid variety. Your Private Wineaux has mentioned their very fine Apple wine previously.

Va La Vineyards (Chester County, PA) – It should come as no surprise to regular followers that Va La is on this list. One of the first wineries Your Private Wineaux discovered, it’s close to my Philadelphia home and I count winemaker Anthony Vietri as a personal friend. Were none of that true, it would still be here. Vietri practices what I think all wine growers should do: he grows what works on his piece of the earth. The imminently terroir-reflecting results speak for themselves.

One Wine to Get: Va La’s flagship white, La Prima Donna. A blend of white varieties from northeast Italy and southwest France, this full-bodied intensely aromatic wine is done in the “orange” style: the grapes receive extended skin contact as black grapes do when producing a red wine.

Wisdom Oak (Monticello, VA) – Founded by Jerry and Melanie Bias in 2001, Wisdom Oak is the only Black-owned winery on the east coast. They produce wines from vinifera and French hybrid varieties and host private events at the winery. Their tasting room is currently closed to the public, but the wines are available at local shops and through their wine club.

One Wine to Get: Seek out their Petit Manseng. This grape from Southwest France is finding a second home in Virginia as the state’s second signature variety. Wisdom Oak makes it in a slightly sweet style with its trademark acidity buffered a bit by the addition of some French hybrid grapes.

With a limit of ten, this list is naturally highly subjective. Your Private Wineaux is a big proponent of “drinking locally,” and will surely have more to choose from as time goes on. Meanwhile, have you found a winery in the northeast that you really love? Tell us about it in the comments!

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