Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Beer Guy Does a Wine Tour: Tastings and Tours of New Hope, PA

I know what you are thinking… “This is a beer blog. Why are you writing about wine?” Trust me, just keep reading.

Tastings and Tours is a small company based in New Hope, PA that provides guided wine tours throughout Bucks County. Their product is a great deal when you consider all that you are getting. The tour includes visits to three Bucks County wineries from a list of eight, lunch at one of two BYOB restaurants, and you are driven around the beautiful Bucks County countryside by a knowledgeable tour guide. Having a designated driver by itself is almost worth the price of admission when you consider the peace of mind it offers (not to mention it’s the responsible thing to do). Our itinerary for the day included Buckingham Valley Vineyards, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, and Wycombe Vineyards.

The first stop on our tour was Buckingham Valley Vineyards. This is a beautiful property. Maybe it was the time of day, but there was something about the way the sunshine glistened across the vineyards that made it the most appealing property on the trip in my eyes. As the tour of this winery commenced inside, we were shown a short a video of how the grapes are harvested and then given a show-and-tell of a really interesting bottling/corking machine.

Following the presentation, it was down to the cellar to sample some sparkling wine. The wine was good, but the ambiance of the cellar was my favorite part of this winery. It was rustic with subdued lighting and wine barrels stacked in various places. It also provided great inspiration for my future beer tasting cellar.

We rose from the cellar and into the tasting room to pour our own samples of wine. The Riesling was really good, so I purchased a bottle and we were off to our BYOB lunch. Apparently, just about everyone in our tour group shared my sentiment as the Riesling was the only wine that showed up on the table during lunch. It turned out to be a great choice because this wine paired up really nicely with the tilapia dish I ordered.

Crossing Vineyards Barrel Room
Photo Courtesy of Tastings and Tours
After lunch, we headed to the second winery on the tour, Crossing Vineyards and Winery. As we entered the winery, we were escorted through a retail space and into a beautiful barrel room. Tasteful d├ęcor and barrels racked to the ceiling provided a great environment as we were guided through several wine and chocolate pairings. The pairings were good, however, I have to admit I wish I had a nice Imperial Stout on hand to throw into the mix. A few photos outside and we were off to our next winery.


As we entered the property of Wycombe Vineyards, our third and final stop on the tour, I recall thinking that this place didn’t quite have the ambiance of the other two. However, what this winery lacked in glitter and glamour, it certainly made up for in its wine and food offerings. Waiting for us were delicious cheeses, crackers, breads and olive spreads.

By far, my favorite wine of the day was Wycombe’s Smoke House Red. Smoke House Red is a Chambourcin-Merlo blend and, contrary to the name, there is no smoke in this wine. The name comes from an old photograph of the owner’s grandfather leaning up against the property smokehouse right there on the wine label. Indeed, all of the wine labels here are part of the charm of this winery. Old photographs are used on every label, depicting scenes and people from Wycombe Winery’s past.

As we sipped our wines, we were treated to interesting stories about each wine’s history, trials, and tribulations. It was a great way to end the tour. Wycombe isn’t glamorous, but it is warm and charming… I don’t think the owners would have it any other way.

This blog wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our great tour guide, Glenn. Glenn knows Bucks County wine. He knows which vintages are good and which vintages have their issues. He knows when to sit back and allow you to explore and enjoy yourself. However, what is most impressive about Glenn is his ability to know when to step in and offer explanations and advice.

As I tasted and contemplated a wine I knew was off, the look on my face must have said it all. As if on cue, Glenn appeared and asked me what I thought of that particular wine. I told him what I thought and offered up my glass for a sniff. Glenn confirmed my assumptions and happily provided a great explanation of what was indeed wrong with the wine. The coolest part was that he had a respect for my own palette and the fact that a beer guy inexperienced in grapes could pick up flaws in wine. And why not? It only makes sense that a palette developed through critically evaluating one type of beverage could translate to another. I’m not suggesting that this makes me a wine connoisseur, but it definitely helped to make the tour a more fun and enlightening experience.

As my conversations with Glenn continued throughout the day, we eventually came upon the topic of Tastings and Tours beer tour. Yes, they do a beer tour as well. The tour currently includes a visit to River Horse Brewing in Lambertville, NJ; Triumph Brewing in New Hope, PA; as well as the Penn Tap Room and the Mesquito Grill in Doylestown, PA… all fine places that I have visited many times. There are plans to expand the itinerary and… get this… they are already talking to Free will Brewing Company of Perkasie, PA about adding them to the tour when they open for business. Glenn seemed pretty excited by the prospect when I told him Free Will does indeed plan to have a tasting room when they open later this year. I share in Glenn’s enthusiasm and feel this would make the current itinerary more well rounded by adding another straight up production brewery to the list.

So, all of you so called “beer snobs” listen up… if you are even remotely curious about wine, if you have a significant other that enjoys wine, if you are looking for a great way to celebrate an event, or just looking for a nice little weekend trip then book a tour With Tastings and Tours. It’s fun, interesting, educational, tasty, and the responsible thing to do.

Cheers!





For more information regarding Tastings and Tours, please visit their website at: http://tastingsandtours.com/


3 comments:

  1. If Free Will is a stop on the tour, count me in!

    But yeah, I like wine. I'd do some wine tasting. I just prefer beer because, well, the bottles are way more fun.

    Hahah, jk! I will definitely be looking into this. Thanks for the heads up!

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  2. Yum, I could try this any time.

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  3. Kevin:

    Thanks for your comment. I think we can both agree that beer is the better beverage. It is much more diverse and, unlike wine, you can pair a beer with just about any food. However, variety is the spice of life and I like a nice glass of wine from time to time :)

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