Travel: Vintage Visits: Chester County
From 14-year-old French Creek Ridge Vineyards in Elverson, an hour west of Philadelphia, through the winding back roads of Chester County to Chester Springs and Coatesville, an upper Chester County winery tour takes you into family garages and photo albums.
The hillside tasting room of French Creek Ridge, one of the prettiest area wineries, is in a converted farmhouse and barn. Amid the grape-embossed souvenirs, owner Janet Maki pours generous samples from the extensive tasting menu ($5), to a soundtrack of the clink and clatter of the bottling process in the adjacent room. Unless you buy a bottle, you won’t get a taste of the vintner’s award-winning champagnes—except on special occasions like Champagne Day, held each October. But Janet delights in offering her Vidal Ice Wine, a viscous and sweet, but nuanced, tropical-fruit-scented dessert wine.
The country-cozy tasting room at Clover Mill Farms, home to Olde Mill Race Wines, is the domain of Gay Denny. She got into the wine business when she fell in love with the farmhouse on this lush Pickering Creek property seven years ago. Her husband, Bill, tends to the three-acre vineyard with the help of their three grown daughters. Gay will as happily show you family photographs as pour almost-full glasses of the winery’s native-grape wines, like the soft, dry red chancellor or the late-harvest seyval.
John Weygandt and his dog Frère man the outdoor tasting table at Stargazers Vineyard, set at the far end of a Coatesville housing development. John and his wife, Alice, established the winery in 1996, producing cherry- and strawberry-scented pinot noirs and ripe pinot gris. Summer picnics at the winery, held most Friday evenings in July and August, are a great way to sample the Stargazers offerings.
French Creek Ridge Vineyards, 200 Grove Road, Elverson, 610-286-7754; frenchcreekridge.com. Open Firday to Saturday noon to 5 p.m.
Olde Mill Race Wines at Clover Mill Farm Vineyards & Winery, 1439 Clover Mill Road, Chester Springs, 888-655-WINE; clovermillfarm.com. Open Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Stargazers Vineyard, 1024 Wheatland Drive, Coatesville, 610-486-0422; stargazersvineyard.com. Open Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.