Popping the cork on spring

Tour de Tanks offers early taste of new vintages

March 03, 2011|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Usher in the month of March — and the much-anticipated start of spring — by getting out and about in Pennsylvania wine country as the UnCork York Wine Trail presents the 6th annual Tour de Tanks.

The monthlong event celebrates the sampling of new vintages before they are bottled during special tastings from the tank or barrel every Saturday and Sunday in March.

Visitors can sip wine, chat with winemakers, enjoy delicious food and take in the scenic views of the Susquehanna Valley. The event features 13 wineries along the UnCork York Wine Trail in the York, Lancaster, Gettysburg and Harrisburg areas.

"This gives visitors a unique opportunity to go around and get a sneak preview of wines right out of the tanks and barrels," said Zach Chizar, public relations coordinator for the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The event is thriving. We have more and more people coming to this each year."

The first Tour de Tanks in 2006 sold 882 tickets. Last year, that number jumped to 2,835.

In addition to the weekend wine tastings, several of the wineries are offering Meet the Winemaker Dinners every Friday evening in March. The night includes a meal at some of the area's finest restaurants, along with the opportunity to learn about wine and food pairings from the winemakers themselves.

The Tour de Tanks marks the unofficial start of wine season in Pennsylvania.

"It really gets the wineries going and then they start having more events come April, May and throughout the summer," said Chizar. "It's the perfect way to kick off wine season."

For area winemakers it's a way to show off their wine and at the same time personally meet customers from all over the region.

"It's a nice way [for visitors] to get behind the scenes at our local wineries," said Carl Helrich, winemaker and owner of Allegro Vineyards and Winery in Brogue. "They get extremely special treatment and get to talk to all the winemakers."

The tasting at Allegro Vineyards will feature 2010 vintages of merlot and Chambourcin, both dry red wines from the barrel, as well as Harmony, a sweet wine offered from the tank. Visitors will also be treated to a sampling of breads, soups and cheeses.

"This has been an amazing thing for this area," said Helrich about the Tour de Tanks. "It has really taken off."

Salvatore Cullari, owner of Cullari Vineyards and Winery in Hershey, will introduce barrel tastings of merlot, Old Country Red and at least one other wine.

"I get to spend a lot of time talking to customers about my personal method of making wine," said Cullari, who was born in Italy. "It's more traditional and more of an Old World style."

For the first time, Cullari will host one of the Meet the Winemaker Dinners, on March 25 at the Yorktowne Hotel's Commonwealth Room.

He said visitors taking part in the Tour de Tanks event enjoy a boutique wine experience.

"They get to taste wines they'll never be able to taste anywhere else," he said. "Every boutique winery is different; every blend I make is unique."

If you go

Tour de Tanks

Admission: Tickets are $25 per person and include an UnCork York wine glass, wine tastings, light food and presentations by the winemakers. One ticket is good for all four weekends at all 13 wineries. Visitors must be 21 years old or older for wine tastings. Designated driver tickets are also available for $15 each (the ticket excludes the wine glass and wine tastings).

Participating wineries: Adams County Winery, Allegro Vineyards and Winery, Cullari Vineyards and Winery, Four Springs Winery, Fox Ridge Vineyard & Winery, Hauser Estate Winery, Hummingbird Ridge Winery, Moon Dancer Vineyard & Winery, Naylor Wine Cellars, Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate, Reid's Orchard & Winery, Tamanend Winery and West Hanover Winery.

Dinners: Tickets for Meet the Winemaker dinners include meal and selected wines as well as tax and gratuity. Advance tickets are required and space is limited.

Lodging: Area hotels, historic inns and B&Bs are offering a variety of getaway packages at UnCorkYork.com.

Information: For information on planning your wine weekend, visit UnCorkYork.com or call 888-858-9675. Tickets are available online and can also be purchased at the wineries.

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