PA Wine Excellence 2016

Pennsylvania Wine Excellence XV Competition

91 wines from 19 wineries were entered into the 15th annual Pennsylvania Wine Excellence Competition. Judging was held in November, led by Dr. Gary Pavlis of Rutgers University. On January 22nd, 2017, the top wines were presented at a tasting event held by the Pennsylvania Wine Society, who sponsored the judging and the tasting.

 The Pa Wine Excellence Award went to the top scoring wine:

PA EX Waltz 2016 0554


The Pa Wine Excellence Certificate for the top scoring white wines went to:

PA EX Olivero 2016 0549

The top 10 wines, listed in alphabetical order were:

  • Armstrong Valley Vineyard and Winery Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
  • Blair Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014
  • Mazza Vineyards Bare Bones Rose
  • Nissley Vineyards and Winery Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc 2014
  • Olivero’s Vineyard Traminette
  • Olivero’s Vineyard Vidal Blanc
  • Penns Woods Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013
  • Presque Isle Wine Cellars Lake Erie Cabernet Franc 2013
  • Waltz Vineyards Cherry Tree Merlot 2013
  • Waltz Vineyards Crow Woods Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The fourteen honorable mention wines in alphabetical order were:

  • Armstrong Valley Vineyard and Winery Armstrong Red
  • Armstrong Valley Vineyard and Winery Cabernet Franc
  • Armstrong Valley Vineyard and Winery Muscato,
  • Blair Vineyards Vances’s Cuvee Pinot Noir 2012,
  • Conneault Cellars Winery Cabernet Sauvignon,
  • Franklin Hill Vineyards Chambourcin,
  • Franklin Hill Vineyards Trio
  • Franklin Hill Vineyards White Jade
  • Manatawny Creek Winery Meritage 2014,
  • Mazza Vineyards Lake Erie Cabernet Franc 2013,
  • Penns Woods Winery Bancroft Moscato Rose,
  • Penns Woods Winery Merlot Reserve 2013,
  • Waltz Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2014,
  • Waltz Vineyards Baron Red Lancaster County 1013

President’s Column by Averill Shepps

At December’s Board meeting, we held an election for Officers and Directors of PWS. I am pleased to report to you that there will be no changes in the Board positions. This is healthy for an organization; constantly changing leadership can sap energy and create other problems. The vote also indicates that the individuals on the Board can work together more easily as they have learned one another’s skills and abilities. I look forward to yet another successful year!

This year will not only mark the 15th year of judging Pennsylvania wines and presenting the winners to the public, but in addition, it will mark 30 years of existence for the Wine Society itself. It began as a small group interested in learning about wine, and quickly expanded to holding meetings and tastings at various venues before settling on the Hilton. It has been twice as large as it is now, but it has never been as well managed. We intend to be here as long as you want the knowledge and tasting experience that we offer every month.

I have attended American Wine Society Conferences, where often I am asked about our organization, and how it has been able to continue on its own for so long. The AWS has many chapters all over the country, but the chapters seem to be limited to groups meeting locally in one anothers homes to taste wine or to exchange information on making wines. Very few of us have houses large enough to handle groups of 36, 48. 60 and more to sit in a room where they can share wine together, and who has over 600 wine glasses that they are then willing to wash, dry and store? Every month??

Early PA Wine Society members developed the format that we now use. Most of it was trial and error as ideas were tried and either used or discarded. I have to say, it was always interesting! We plan to hold a Gala celebration of those 30 years in December, when we can review some of the ups and downs of the earlier years. We will remind you of our plans as they develop.

Sonoma – Our First Wine Vacation in California by Scott Casper

This past October, my wife and I made our first wine country visit to California. We spent a week in Sonoma County visiting several wineries in the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River Valleys. Zinfandel is king in Dry Creek, but surprisingly, we were most impressed by the Sauvignon Blanc there. Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Alexander Valley and after tastings at Silver Oak and some other wineries it can safely be said it will rule supreme for a VERY long time in that appellation.

But the appellation that really impressed us was the Russian River Valley. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were long considered to be royalty there…and they certainly did not disappoint, but the single vineyard Zinfandels at Hartford Family Winery in Forestville “hit the ball out of the park!” Cool climate terroir with great Pinots and Chardonnays is understandable but RRV Zinfandels from Hartford were spectacular. By the way, their multiple vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel clinched Number 10 of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016. Back in September, I bought a bottle at the West Shore Plaza for $37.99. At that time, it was the best Zin I ever had…and the most expensive. That was until I went to their winery and had a flight of their single vineyard Zins…and bought their Highwire Vineyard Zin for a lot more.

Overall, we visited more outstanding wineries in the Russian River Valley than anywhere else in Sonoma County. In addition to Hartford, the outstanding list had to include Dutton Estate and Dutton-Goldfield (brothers in a friendly rivalry…most of the time), Emeritus, VML, MacRostie, Rochioli, Thomas George Estate, Matrix and Bacigalupi, who helped to make history when they sold fruit to Chateau Montelena for its 1973 Chardonnay (40% Bacigalupi Vineyard) that won the judgement of Paris in 1976. Their invoice for the sale is framed and hangs in their tasting room.

This year…NAPA!!

The Inn at Herr Ridge by David Williams III

900 Chambersburg Rd, Gettysburg, PA. 17325 717 334-4332

Wine dinners are nothing new, however, superb food and wine dinners at reasonable prices in historic venues near Harrisburg are worthy of mention. I have to admit I was not familiar with the Inn at Herr Ridge but have driven past it innumerable times as it sits on Rt. 30 about 4 miles East of Gettysburg. My bet is you have too. I strongly suggest becoming familiar with this establishment.

Sommelier Brad Doerr and Chef Michael Andrews are pairing up to do themed wine dinners every Friday over the winter season. The themes change monthly. November 11, we attended a 4 course “Casa del Vino” Wine Dinner featuring wines and foods from Spain. Before I share the menu, I must tell you this location owned by Steve Wolf since 1977 has a 6000+ bottle wine cellar with domestic and international vintages dating back to 1970’s. It has also multiple Wine Spectator recognition awards. Brad has been given stewardship over the cellar and selects wine for the wine dinners not seen on the restaurant wine list. Trust me, after the tour of the cellar they have many surprises worthy of superlatives. Chef Andrews is certainly up to the challenge. Our menu is outlined below:

Manchego-Chorizo Pisto a la Macha served with Casa del Mar, Cava Brut NV
Valencia Seafood Paella paired with 2007 Martin Sancho, Verdejo, Rueda
Stella Cherry Braised Pork Belly with Smoked Bacon Gigante Beans, dancing on one’s tongue with a 2000 Segura Viduas Reserva from Penedès (Tempranillo)
Astorgia Chocolate Crema Catalana Raspberry Espuma wonderfully paired with a 2004 Dominio de Tares from Bierzo (Mencia)

I am a tough restaurant critic but was more than delighted with all 4 courses; in fact, I was impressed. The wines were expertly matched and highly complementary. One comment I have to make, a 9 year old Verdejo was the surprise of the evening, although the significant red with dessert made me momentarily pause before consuming both completely, ending with a wonderfully sated smile. Verdejo is typically youthful, light in color and tart with nice balance. However, this was truly golden showing a richness of age and deep elegant notes with a lingering finish. All of this for $70 per person plus tax and tip. Attending the wine dinner, should you wish to spend the evening and enjoy the B&B, you receive a 33% discount off your room. Look for me as I plan to return for the food as well as the wine. Check the web site under events for upcoming wine dinners. December will be Argentina. Yummmmmm !

President’s Column by Averill Shepps

2016 is the 15th year of our judging of Pennsylvania wines, known as Pennsylvania Wine Excellence. Although I have been involved in the process for all those years, I found that this year’s judging reached a level of professionalism that surpassed all the previous ones. We had Board members judging who have been doing this for some time; we had some new Board members; and we invited previous Board members who had extensive experience with wine. The larger number judging were needed to get through the 91 wines that were entered. Since no one could have tried all of them and survived with nose and taste buds intact, we divided ourselves into 3 panels.

Dr. Gary Pavlis led the judging, explaining the system to everyone, thereby educating the new people while reminding the experienced ones of the 20 point scoring system used for many years by the American Wine Society. Gary has led us for all those 15 years, and he also leads the judging of the “Farm Show” wines and teaches the AWS wine judge certification course every year. Behind the scene we had 3 pourers who were also involved in setting up the bottles and placing them in numbered bags while making a master list of all 91 wines, complete with its number in the scoring process. The 3 did not judge, and were the only people who knew which wines were being poured. We completed the whole process in record time and without any glitches. Gary and all who had worked at previous judgings agreed that this year we were well organized, and everything went very smoothly. At the end of the afternoon I was really pleased with what we had done together. Oh, and best of all, the wines are terrific!

Greystone Public House by Bill Beeson

The Greystone Public House has made a spectacular entrance, quickly ascending to the top of the Harrisburg dining scene. Chef Jason Viscount, formerly of Bricco, has a creative approach to “contemporary, rustic American” dishes. What I appreciate most is the consistent attention to detail that is (unfortunately) not often encountered locally. An example – salads are never overdressed, and the balance of spices and flavors is in perfect harmony. We’ve tried four of the five standard salads and wouldn’t change a thing about any of them.

I enjoyed black cod and clams in a clam broth so delightful, I took the leftover home for use in my cooking the next day. Portions, by the way are always generous—think of the next day’s lunch. Other dishes we and our friends and business associates have enjoyed, include the seared yellowfin tuna with baby turnips, lentils, kabocha squash and spiced pumpkin seed gremolata; blue catfish with fingerling potatoes, braised kale and endive; swordfish atop oyster mushroom risotto; a smoked elk sausage sandwich with chipotle apple butter, warm pepper onion and cabbage slaw; braised beef shortribs with smashed red bliss potatoes, brown butter brussels sprouts and red wine sauce; and yellowfin crostini with chili aioli and avocado – all of these and more completely wowed us!

The wine service is equally impressive, and unmatched in this area. Over 200 bottles are offered, many also available by the glass. And Greystone takes an innovative approach by offering “The Stack” of three 8 oz. carafes (stacked via unique bottle design). This enables individuals to pair a different wine with each course as the three wines chosen can be different. Wine and food prices are reasonable – which is refreshing!

The building’s original structure was built in the 18th century, and the newest renovations were reconstructed in a modern rustic style. We recommend dining upstairs if you like intimate conversation. The bar is large, open, with table seating on both sides and wonderful for socializing on a more casual conversation level. It can be however, quite noisy! Parking is plentiful and free!

Every wine selection we tried has been excellent, further demonstrating exceptional care and planning with the menu in mind. This is yet another feature that makes Greystone stand out in the local dining area. Reserve a table soon! You will find Greystone at 2120 Colonial Road, Harrisburg, PA 17112. Phone: 717.829.9952 Hours : M-Th: 11am – 11pm; Fri – Sat: 11am – 12am; Sunday: 10am – 10pm [Sunday Brunch 10am – 3pm].

President’s Column by Averill Shepps

This year has been a busy one for the Board. We have held some unique events, tried a new venue or two, made a field trip to a local winery, as well as running our regular monthly program. We have sought to have a variety of tastings; some are high end while others feature good value wines.

If you have suggestions for us to consider, please talk to any board member. I want to thank all the officers and directors who have served this year. Dave Williams has been Vice President which means he oversaw the program. He has come up with new ideas and has directed committees. Our Treasurer, Lynne Beeson and Assistant Treasurer, Nicole Paul, work throughout the year keeping our finances in order, and you see one or both of them at every event, checking in attendees. Our Secretary, Brenda Beland, keeps the minutes of our meetings as well as the records of past meetings. Stevie Posey is our Newsletter Editor, reminding those who are writing articles of her deadlines, checking the content of each, and putting all the information in order for the printer. Marc Perrone has been Webmaster. He has made changes to the site, and keeps it updated with news of our events. This year he has added online registration and payment for events, a project that involved the Treasurers as well.

Our 6 Directors have been generous with their time and skills. Scott Casper you know well as our Italian wine expert. He has been doing an Italian tasting since he has joined the Board. Cathy Boyd has brought us unique tastings every year, from Austria to Bordeaux and recently Spain. Her knowledge is extensive. Bonnie Knoll worked with a new venue this year for our Blue Light tasting and has been generous with her time in checking out possible venues as well as in getting free publicity for PWS. Cindy Shingler is ready to help whenever she can and has worked on tastings and writes BYOB columns for the Newsletter. New Board members Natalie Scavo and Chris Hammacher have helped with tastings, Natalie has taken photographs of some events and helped with Spain while Chris co-hosted Kermit Lynch. Chris is working on plans for a spectacular Fall event in 2017. Stay tuned. Meanwhile his wife Jacy has agreed to oversee our social media presence.

The December PWS Board Meeting is the one at which we elect Officers and Directors to manage the Society in 2017. All members may attend that meeting and vote on the slate of officers and directors. The meeting is at 6:30 PM, December 12th at the Hilton.

BYOB Insider by Zachary Ortenzio

Giorgio’s Ristorante 104 W Main St, Annville, PA 17003 ·
Phone: (717) 685-1738 Open 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM

If you want a BYOB restaurant with ambiance, white table cloths, linen napkins or fine stem ware then STOP READING ! Giorgio’s Ristorante (Giorgio’s) is not your kind of place. However, if you desire exceptional Italian food that matches the wine you carefully selected for your dining experience then Giorgio’s is worth considering. Their full menu is on their website.

I will comment on the appetizers, entrees and desserts that the four of us selected for our dinner. We chose pizza (you can order either a 12 or 16 inch pizza), garlic bread with cheese, and grilled shrimp and calamari. The pizza was a perfect balance of flavors: the garlic bread came with a side of tomato sauce which, when spooned onto the bread, added a depth of flavor; the shrimp and calamari were grilled to perfection with none of the chewiness that can happen with calamari.

All of our main courses came with homemade pasta, and in two instances there was a choice of pasta to complete your meal. The owner’s wife / waitress explained the differences in the types of pasta which helped us to make our selections. We had penne vodka with prosciutto and plum tomatoes; spaghetti carbonara with bacon, eggs and onion in a cream sauce; pasta alla Giorgio’s – linguine with thinly sliced ham and mushrooms in a Bolognese sauce, and ravioli Bolognese. The dishes were not over sauced, and all were thoroughly enjoyed.

Giorgio’s has two desserts, both are which are home made. We decided to order both and share them. The tiramisu was very light and did not have the heaviness associated with some tiramisu; the cannoli were rich and flavorful without being cloyingly sweet. Both dishes were accompanied by several small dollops of homemade whipped cream.

Too sum up, Giorgio’s is a hidden food gem worth the trip to Annville. You can locate coupons for Giorgio’s on either Local or Groupon .com. although even without discounts, their prices are reasonable. Buon Appetito.

President’s Column

by Averill Shepps

Your Wine Society has been going through changes recently. The pricing for the Hilton food and facilities has changed, meaning that we have had to adjust our pricing so as not to lose money on our events. Meanwhile our administrative costs have risen. Our membership has gone down in recent years. The Board has been reviewing our financial picture, has cut back on some expenses, but finally decided that we need to raise our dues by $10 making the basic fee $40, which is still a bargain compared to what most organizations charge.

Our attendance figure at tastings has also gone down, and this is disturbing. We are a unique group in that we offer a true educational experience and a way for attendees to compare one wine with another at each event so that they can constantly improve their knowledge. We have no monetary motive in what we do as do other venues that offer wine dinners and wine tastings. We are not pushing a particular winery, winemaker, wine area, or wine importer; we remain open to all that produce exceptional wines.

I find it amazing as I look back on my many years with PWS to realize how much I have refined my tastes and improved my experience with wine, and certainly any members that have been attending for a while can agree. My life is enriched on an almost daily basis as I enjoy wine with dinner or with friends. I cannot imagine life without PWS. Our Board members feel the same, and we intend to work to keep PWS strong and active, pouring intriguing and exceptional wines for you each month.

Memberships fees effective January 1, 2017 will be:
Single Regular Membership – $40; Double Regular Membership (2 persons at same address) – $60
Single Patron Membership – $95; Double Patron Membership – $190