Sunday, February 15, 2015

Grovedale Winery & River Barge Brewing Company - So Much Fun! (PA)

Grovedale Farm has been in the Homer family since 1812. Matthias Hollenback gave the property as a wedding gift to his daughter Ellen, who had married Charles Fisher Welles, the first prothonotary of Bradford County. The couple moved from Towanda, PA in 1822 into a log cabin on the property here in the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania. The original name of the farm was Grovedale because it is said that the people of Wyalusing used to come to the area to have their picnics, in the grove or the dale.

Construction of what is now known as the Old Red House began in 1822 and was not totally finished until the 1840’s. In 1895, an addition was built, doubling its size. In 1918, for unknown reasons, the family abandoned the house, leaving the building sat abandoned for almost 70 years. It was remodeled in 1985-6 by Dean and Kay Welles Homer. It is now on the National Historic Registry and tours are offered regularly.

Jeff Homer
Jeff and Kim Homer moved onto the property and used the farmland to plant a vineyard. The grape vines have been planted since 2005 and the tasting room opened in September of 2008.

Grovedale Winery & Vineyard is a producer of premium wines grown on their own eight acres of vineyards and from the surrounding area. At Grovedale, they focus on growing Riesling and Minnesota hybrid varieties such as Frontenac Gris and St. Pepin. They grow for low yield and quality fruit.

The eight acres of vineyards surrounding the winery and tasting room boats 11 different varieties of red and white wine grapes. Our original vineyard planting was mostly Minnesota hybrid varieties. Since then they have added some Vinifera as well as other hybrid grapes. The wine grapes they grow include: Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal, Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Louise Swenson, St. Croix, St. Pepin, Marquette, Lando Noir, and Lacrosse.
David, Jeff and Kevin
I was spending the day in the Endless Mountains region of Pennsylvania with friend and fellow wine journalist David Falchek. David Falchek writes a weekly wine column for several newspapers in Pennsylvania, including the Scranton Times-Tribune. Like many wine drinkers who grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, David started out drinking Boone's Farms in abandoned coal breakers and sneaking sips of Riuniti at family picnics. He lived in the Finger Lakes wine region in the 1990s, discovered fine wine, and began regular coverage of the wine industry.

In addition to writing for Appellation America, David contributes regularly to trade publications such as Vineyard & Winery Management and Beverage Media and irregularly to several others. David has judged regional, national, and international wine competitions where he likes to think he lauds outstanding Seyval or Foch just as readily as Cabernet or Riesling. David is an active member of the American Wine Society. Often asked his favorite wine, his reply is the same: "The one in my glass."

Luckily for David and I, Jeff Homer and Kevin West, the assistant winemaker, were on hand to walk us through our tasting. Only winemaker Chris Anglucci was missing.

Grovedale Tetra 2012 is a Bordeaux style, blended to be complex and layered - and it is! It is a blend of Grovedale's finest reserve barrels, comprised of of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petite Verdot sourced from Pennsylvania and New York states. This is a big, luscious red wine, with dark ripe cherry, ripe cherry, cranberry and a hint of red cassis an a touch of graphite. Aged in oak, it exhibits vanilla, nice tannins and good balance. An excellent red wine!!!

The Grovedale Merlot 2012 is a big, cooked cup of dark red cherries, as if you were making compote. Big and engrossing with it's hints of mocha and even a touch of blackberry or blueberry? A lovely, medium-bodied red with great complexity and balance. Very nice!!!
At this point in the tasting I was interrupted by a visitor. Roxy had wandered in. This black cat was super affectionate, and adorable. An unofficial mascot on a very quiet Tuesday morning, Roxy took the time to meet a guest or two. His presence was much welcomed and appreciated. He made it feel like home.

Next came one of my favorite wines. I am not a huge Chardonnay fan so if I am effusive about it, you now they've done something right. And I loved this wine. This Chardonnay was oaked for one year - using Pennsylvania oak! And it was not a clunk you in the head kind of oak. It was present, but soft, and subtle with hints of green apple, pear, vanilla and toast. Gorgeous. A wine that would impress in any region!

The Grovedale Frontenac Grs 2013 was a rose colored wine. It smelled of bright, light, fresh cherries. Super fresh, with a nice tartness of lemon and lime. And an acidity tat absolutely gave it a major pop! A lovely, lovely wine. I am partial to Frontenac Gris, and I have never had one like this. Fantastic!

The Grovedale Wyalusing White 2013 was another wine that absolutely impressed. A blend of Frontenac Gris and Vidal grapes, salmon/pinkish in color, this wine featured fantastic tropical flavors up front, with hints of peach/apricot, and accentuated by a zippy acidity (no doubt from the Frontenac Gris) that gave it an incredibly fantastic refreshing finish. And lovely, lovely, well balanced, and absolutely lovely, lovely wine. 

The Groveland Riesling 2013 was a big bite of fresh green apple with tropical notes, and a hint of a citrus ending.

The last thing I tried that I really, really liked was the Grovedale Heritage 2011. This is a big, sweet red port-styled wine. Thick and unctuous, it was jam packed like a mixed berry cobbler, with overwhelming notes of blueberry and red cassis. But there was also something else, something bigger in the background like toffee and mocha. It was a big, sweet port, but it was supported with huge tannins that gave it structure and gravitas. An impressive dessert wine begging for a molten lava cake or a dark chocolate mousse! Fantastic!

One of the things that I really liked about Grovedale was the impressive patio/portico that they rent out for weddings and large events. It was closed off with tent sides that let in the light. A huge space. Lovely!
Grovedale Winery is a serious winery for people who like serious wine. Yes, they have a bunch of wines aimed to please larger crowds. They have to. In a region so small and far from any other region, many of these wineries need to be all things to all people to stay in business. But the serious wines at Gravedale are serious. They are in fact quality focused and show immense progress and promise. Grovedale would be a credit to any wine trail, anywhere. Jeff, Chris and Kevin are doing some fantastic things. If you live anywhere near the Scranton area, or are going out that way, Grovedale should not be missed. One of the new rising stars on the Pennsylvania wine scene.
River Barge Brewing Company was founded by Jeff Homer and Thor Trowbridge in 2012.  It was created with the dream of bringing local craft beer to the heart of the endless mountain region.  River Barge offers a local beer to compliment the local fine wine available at Grovedale Winery and Vineyards which is adjacent to the brewery.

The name comes from a river boat, named “The Mary Ann”, that was owned by Jeff’s great grandfather Fisher Welles.  In the 1880’s and 1890’s, he would take his good friends and float from Sayre, PA to Pittston, PA on the Susquhanna River.  It was customary for them to bring cooks to prepare the meals for the group and on one particular occasion, he hired cooks not only for their ability to cook but also to sing and play music as entertainment for the group.  On one memorable trip, he took some executives from Corning Glass and as it was a great trip by all accounts, as a token of their appreciation, the executives from Corning Glass gave Fisher a hand blown glass walking cane that has been passed down through the family and now resides at the brewery.  In addition to this unique piece of history, the original violin that was played on the journey and inscribed with all of the crew members’ names as well as a picture of the actual river boat also resides at the brewery.

Kevin West, the assistant winemaker at Grovedale, is the brewer at River Barge. 

River Barge Knotty Blonde was the first beer I tried. It's a summer-styled ale, that's very mild. A nice, predominantly malty beer. It's only slightly hopped with Cascade for just a hint of bitterness. Its easy to drink. Loved it!
Rover Barge Killer Frog IPA is an American Indian pale ale finished off with Willamette, Cluster, and Cascade hops. As Kevin's description so aptly points out, "Expect a bitter finish without the sour aftertaste typical of many IPAs." True! Really enjoyed this. Again, not a hop monster, but a good, quaffable IPA with balance and taste.
Scottish Ale has long been among my favorites. Malty and roasty with a slight nod to toffee, coffee with only a hint of bitterness at the end to keep it honest. Very nice.
beer taps
Even Kiel Ale was easily my favorite of the tasting. This mild Southern English style brown ale finished with the traditional Fuggle hops. It was a big drink of molasses! Hints of coffee, but the mat carries the day! This taste was begging for a big juicy bacon cheeseburger or a bowl of cheddar soup. I loved this beer! 
I loved River Barge. I kinda like them for what they are not - a big, over-the-top brewer. I like them because they make very good, stylish beers, without al the fireworks of the current craft brewing edge. Kevin crafts very good beers that will pair well with food and are easy to drink by themselves while hanging out with friends or watching a ball game. These are not tastingroom beers. They aren't made to impress beer critic. They are meant to be enjoyed. And enjoyed they should be. Quality stuff!

I loved Grovedale Winery and River Barge Brewing Company! I think you will too! More importantly, Roxy says, come on down!