Wine doesn’t need to be just an after-work treat or with-dinner staple. In fact, local wines can be much more than that for those who call the state of Pennsylvania home. With nearly 300 wineries and 14,000+ acres of vineyards in total in the state, there are a wide variety of opportunities for anyone with any level of wine experience to indulge in some vino. To help narrow down some choices on your wine journey in PA, we’ve rounded up some top spots to get unique experiences.
Most vineyards in the state have that family touch, and that’s because they are family-owned like Nissely Vineyards in the Hershey-Harrisburg Wine Country. With some original buildings still on the property from the 1800s and miles of vines spanning this estate, this is a quintessential peek into the PA wine life. Over the span of 30 acres, this particular vineyard grows 14 varieties of grapes with many of their varieties garnering numerous awards over the years in state and international competitions. Nissley has been a huge part of the wine culture in the state since the 70s and were among some of the first to make the Keystone State a prime location besides California and France for vino. The tradition has been kept alive in the family, but the younger generation has been garnering in a new chapter for the Nissley winery.
Besides being able to take self-guided tours at Nissley, the massive winery also hosts weddings and other events, including live music on the lawn by local musicians from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. every Saturday with fresh smoked meals from Brewster’s Barbecue to accompany the drinks. During the warmer months, visitors can also enjoy a carry-in picnic with a bottle of chilled Nissley wine on the lawn or picnic patios. In total, their wine list has grown over the years to include a wide variety of wines ranging from dry to sweet and made from grapes grown on-site as well as other fruits from local orchards. As their website states, for now, wine-lovers can head to the Vineyard for fire tables to relax by, spicy red served warm, a seasonal cocktail, seasonal beer from local breweries, and a selection of meats, cheeses, and crunchies throughout October and November.
140 Vintage Dr, Bainbridge, nissleywine.com
The idea of family takes on another meaning with Cassel. Known as a a popular vineyard in the Hershey-Harrisburg Wine Country, Cassel is truly a familial affair. It’s newer when compared to other wineries, but it’s full of character and also does a lot to bring in the community around them (even having days where volunteers can pick grapes and then enjoy a home-cooked meal.)
The winery’s land (Brookside Stables) itself has been in the Cassel family for over a century since 1903, and is 3 miles north of Hersheypark. Cassel prides itself in producing Estate Grown wines from their vineyard. Over the 135-acre family farm, the winery takes over six acres and produces six varieties of grapes: Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Concord, and Niagara.
As the official website states, it is managed and operated by Cassel brothers, Craig and Chris, and their wives, Becky and Jody. Cassel Vineyards was established in 2008 and licensed in 2009 to sell their first vintage—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what the land offers. On top of the wines, there are many unique sights to see on the Cassel farm spanning from free roaming peacocks and guineas, a picturesque vineyard, along with mares and foals grazing on the hillside. On top of their wine, Cassel also makes their own cider (a passion project of the family) and even recently hosted their first-ever Ciderfest full of cider samples, a chili cook-off, food trucks and a lot more. Cassel also hosts trivia nights and is hoping to introduce more interactive activities as well such as chocolate and wine pairings for visitors to look forward to in the future.
80 Shetland Dr, Hummelstown, casselvineyards.com
Waltz is perhaps one of the most well-known and recognized vineyards in the state, and there’s good reason for that. For generations, the farm was used to produce traditional crops including tobacco, corn, soybeans and wheat before moving into the wine business. The farm enjoys a unique micro-climate similar to Northern Italy and Central France and boasts well-drained soils and abundant airflow—which makes it quite a hotbed for making award-winning wines, something they moved into after realizing the wealth they had in the late 90s.
As their official website states, the goal has always been the same—to be good stewards of the land we have been given. Jan Waltz, sixth-generation Lancaster County farmer, and his wife, Kimberly, sought out to utilize their unique site and produce a product that could be set on a world stage. Jan’s Agricultural heritage and related degree from Penn State paved the way for meticulously maintained vineyards. Located in the sweeping hills of Lancaster county—which offers just as much of a treat for your eyes as the wine does for your tastebuds—Waltz offers estate-grown premium wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. For this particular “boutique-styled” winery, reservations are required.
Those who aren’t able to make it out to the vineyard themselves can also join their wine club where you choose from a three, six, or twelve bottle quarterly wine club package. All members also enjoy exclusive member events, tiered discounts, complimentary tastings, and access to library and pre-release wines.
1599 Old Line Road, Manheim, waltzvineyards.com