Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Manatawny news: Syrah, new Web site

So what's coming up this year at Manatawny Creek Winery in central Pennsylvania, which sits on the western flank of the group of wineries that make up the Berks County Wine Trail.

Owner and winemaker Joanne Levengood had a short list that included the first-ever release of a Syrah, using grapes grown in her vineyard and a few others around the county. It's another arrow in the quiver, so to speak, in her mission to get more of her customers to at least try dry reds. "I just think it's a nice drinking wine," she said. "It's got real nice black fruit to it, got some peppery, some black peppery spice characteristics, and we aged it in Pennsylvania oak, so it has a nice oak component to it."

One of a half-dozen premium reds, this one sells at $15.95, about what you'd expect to find at a majority of the wineries in the midstate. She also said she'd like to get rid of some of the fruit wines she sells and make use of the Muscat grape as a dessert wine. "I have a little Muscat in the tank right now and I don't quite know exactly what to do with it. That's the only other thing that I can think of that would be new [in 2010]. I do want to continue the Syrah program and all the dry and just keep trying to get people to drink more of them. I'd love to eliminate the sweeter stuff," she said, laughing, but that's a tough business decision with the palate of most of her customers leaning toward the semisweet and sweet wines.

What's also new and fresh is the Manatawny Web site that includes a link to a unique description of sustainability in the vineyard.

On the other hand, what never gets old at Manatawny and others on the Berks County trail are the free tastings. Levengood said that while a few of the wineries have started to charge, they're planning to continue to offer the entire lineup for free. Well, with one exception. "After the [trail's] chocolate event last February, I had a bunch of people complaining to me about how they had to wait forever [to get up to the bar and be served]. And that spurred our decision to ask people to keep their tastes to eight wines and stop. But, you know, that's kind of a little bit of a loose rule. We're trying to plan that wine and chocolate event in February again and we are going to cut everyone off at eight. And I'm hoping that will alleviate the problem and not have to force us to charge to taste. Just about everybody who walks through that door buys a bottle, so I don't really want to charge for tastes. It's just another headache to deal with."

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