The Love List: Pennsylvania Wines

By Lisa Elbert | Jaclyn Warren | Caroline Hatchett


Lisa Elbert
Jaclyn Warren
Caroline Hatchett

For a state that produces more than 1.6 million gallons of wine annually and is home to a multibillion dollar wine industry, people sure don’t know much about Pennsylvania wine. The state’s legislature and rigid Quaker laws are largely to blame. As a control state, wineries can sell direct to consumers and restaurants within state lines only, so they’re typically less inclined to go through a middleman distributor to sell out of state.

“We make a lot of wine here that never gets noted or drunk by anybody outside of Pennsylvania,” says Pennsylvania wine enthusiast and Rising Star Sommelier Alex Cherniavsky of The Love. “This is a whole state that no one is even thinking about. We grow wine all across Pennsylvania. We have all these little microclimates, so everyone’s making different wines from different grapes. [The wines] are unexpected and surprising, and it’s important to pour local wines and support them in the same way we support local food growers.”

Pennsylvania has five AVAs—Central Delaware Valley, Cumberland Valley, Lake Erie, Lancaster Valley, and Lehigh Valley—with more than 200 wineries. “We grow hybrids, native grapes like Concord, Niagra, and Catawba, and, among them, probably the most interesting are Grüners, Cab Francs, and Rieslings,” says Cherniavsky. “There are lots of native Italian varieties like Barbera and Nebbiolo and a fair amount of Merlot and Albariño.” The budding wine region is going through the same growing pains as any other, trying to figure out what grows well, what can be made consistently, and how to sell it.

Cherniavsky is leading the charge to share the wide world of Pennsylvania wines to guests and peers through her list at The Love. “We have a guest that comes to the bar every day—and when I say every day, I mean every day— just to drink the [Pennsylvania] Grüner we pour by the glass,” says Cherniavsky. “He’d never had it before, but he comes back so often because we turned him on to something new and exciting and delicious."


Maple Springs 2018 Albariño | Bechtelsville
Juicy ripe peach and apricot dominate the palate of this Albariño. It finishes with a lovely salinity and balanced floral notes of orange blossom and honeysuckle. This wine demonstrates how Albariño and other Spanish grape varieties can thrive in Pennsylvania.

Galen Glen 2017 ‘Vinology’ Grüner Veltliner | Lehigh Valley
Sarah and Galen Troxell of Galen Glen consistently make one of the best examples of Grüner Veltliner in Pennsylvania. Flavors of green apple, citrus, white pepper, and lentils complement aromas of white flowers and hints of green herbs, balanced by mouthwatering acidity.

Galen Glen 2017 ‘Fossil Vineyard’ Riesling | Lehigh Valley
Grown on a steep, marine fossil-rich hillside, this Riesling is dry but fruit-forward. Stony minerality off sets juicy bright fruit flavors of crisp yellow apple, peach, pear, and lemon rind with aromas of honeysuckle and wet stone.

Va La Mahogany 2015 | Avondale
This unlikely blend of Barbera, Malvasia Nera, Charbono, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Teroldego, Lagrein, and Sagrantino has rich tannins and complex flavors and aromas. Benefiting from time in a decanter, this wine opens up with flavors of sour cherry, plum, cedar, leather, tobacco, cocoa, and forest floor.

Wayvine Vineyard and Winery 2016 Carmine | Chester County
Planted accidentally with their original Chardonnay crop, Carmine has become Wayvine’s flagship variety. This vintage is full of lush, juicy fruit with notes of red cherry, blackberry, cassis, and plum. Spice notes of cardamom and clove, along with black and green pepper, complement well-integrated tannins.

Vox Vineti 2016 ‘Galloping Cat Vineyard’ Nebbiolo | Christiana
With a tiny production of around 55 cases, this wine is limited in quantity yet powerful in flavor. Aromas of rose petal and candied cherries leap from the glass. Those same cherries, along with leather, turned earth, and a lovely sanguine quality dominate the palate in this light-bodied expression of Nebbiolo.

Fero Vineyards 2016 ‘Bison Roots Blue’ Pinot Noir | Lewisburg
This is Fero Vineyards first foray into oak-aged Pinot Noir and is hopefully an example of the kinds of wines that Pennsylvania can and should be making. It’s medium bodied with nuanced notes of red cherry, turned earth, cocoa, and baking spice with balanced acidity.

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