Did you know that Pennsylvania is home to more than 200 wineries? Wherever you are in the state, you’re less than one hour away from at least one of those wineries!
As the nation’s fifth-largest grape-growing state, Pennsylvania is rife with opportunities to taste wine, tour wineries and meet winemakers. During the summer, many wineries also add musical entertainment, art exhibits and winemaker’s dinners to their agendas. The state’s 12 – soon to be 13 – wine trails can assist visitors with making the most out of their wine-tasting experience. Each wine trail is membership-based and while there isn’t a wine trail exclusive to Lancaster County, both the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail and Hershey-Harrisburg Wine Country feature county wineries.
Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association, notes that the state’s first wine trail – Lehigh Valley Wine Trail – was inspired by a trail in the Finger Lakes region of New York. She explains that wine trails not only provide a sense of purpose and schedule to a wine-tasting trip, but they can also add structure to your visit, especially if members are hosting a wine trail event. The association’s website, pennsylvaniawine.com, features an interactive map of “PA Wine Land” and a location-based itinerary-builder to help you make the most of your trip on the trail.
The trails have become important to tourism. According to Michael Wilson, vice president of marketing and outreach at The Vineyard at Hershey, the 16 members of Hershey-Harrisburg Wine Country, one of the state’s newest collaborations, came together as one entity to promote agri-tourism and to celebrate the uniqueness of each winery.
While the majority of Pennsylvania-based wine trails feature only Pennsylvania wineries, the aptly-named Mason-Dixon Wine Trail includes four Maryland winery locations. According to Louise Heine, destination marketing director for the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau (YCCVB), which runs the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail, the organization concentrates most of its promotion outside of the area in an effort to attract visitors and creates packages with local hotels and attractions to increase the visibility of the trail.
The Lehigh Valley Wine Trail partners with local vendors for its events, notably Harvest Week, which is dubbed “The Butcher, The Baker and The Winemaker.” Tracey Werner, of Blabbermouth Communications (the trail’s marketing partner), says the “buy local” mindset is important to the wineries on the trail, and they try to work with the PA Preferred vendor program as much as they can. “We want to celebrate the marriage of buying local and supporting local farmers and local goods,” she says.
Both Michael and Tracey express pride in the quality of wine members are producing along the trails. In Tracey’s estimation: “Times have changed in the Pennsylvania wine industry. Pennsylvania has been stereotyped as only being able to do sweet, syrupy wines, and that’s just not the case.”
In Michael’s opinion, “There are good wines in Pennsylvania, and they’re not all sweet wines. In the ‘80s, that was their specialty, and people who tasted the wine then want to paint everyone with the same brush.” He adds, “In this era of craft and customization, everyone wants something unique.” As a result, from dry reds to semi-sweet whites to sweet fruit wines, there’s something to please every palate statewide.