When you think of wine, you think of Pennsylvania, don’t you? Probably not. Neither did I when I embarked on a Wine Trail Staycation Road Trip in my own Pennsylvania county. What I learned changed my perspective and opened my mind up to a wonderful region full of delicious and affordable wines. I discovered the fantastic Bucks County Wine Trail. It’s one that you need to include on your list of places to visit as soon as things are safe to do so.
Pennsylvania as it turns out, specifically Southeastern PA where scenic Bucks County is located, is full of gentle, rolling green hills and sports a similar climate to both Southern Germany and Northern France — each terrific winemaking regions of their own accord. It’s easy to look out across the rows and rows of grape vines you come across here and convince yourself you’re wandering about Europe. It’s eye-opening to realize you are in fact in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is ranked the fifth largest grape grower in the United States. There are 14,000 acres of vineyards here that produce more than two million gallons of wine annually. Southeastern PA is one of the premier grape-growing regions on the entire East Coast. Come with me and see the places that make up this lovely little wine trail.
Where It All Began
It was quite fitting that Buckingham Valley Vineyards, the county’s first winery, was where I began my journey. Jerry Forest and Kathy Forest started this vineyard in 1966, when there was nothing of this kind in the area. It was Jerry’s desire to create something wonderful that he could both enjoy and make a living from, and perhaps one day pass down to his loved ones. He has succeeded in all of these areas. Buckingham Valley Vineyards is one of the oldest vineyards in the state of Pennsylvania. The wines they produce are award-winning. In fact, they have won an award for every wine they have ever entered into a contest. What should you try if you visit? Definitely grab a bottle of their Blackberry Sparkling Wine. The vineyard is the only one in the county that makes and bottles their own sparkling wine, and this particular variety was deemed so delicious it was served at a James Beard dinner. I sampled it, and not being a fan of sparkling wine, or sweet wines as a whole, I was surprised to really like it. It is fruity and fun without being overwhelming or super sweet. A true treat.
Where You’ll Find The Castle On The Hill
There’s no winery quite like Sand Castle Winery. Wind your way up the long, steep driveway at the entrance and suddenly you’re in another world. A castle appears out of nowhere (a sand castle!) and makes you feel like you’ve emerged into a make-believe fantasy. The castle is surrounded by rows and rows of vines, and the view of the surrounding region from this vantage point is just breathtaking. It was very calming and beautiful. In speaking with Sand Castle’s owners, I learned they are from Czech Republic and grew up surrounded by the wine industry. The ability to recreate that kind of thing here in Pennsylvania was a wonderful opportunity. According to them, a vineyard is one of the only places where history, people, animals, and nature coexist together. They produce wine in the traditional European manner, cultivating just four European vinifera grapes on 72 acres, but do so with great care and patience. They also host all kinds of events for their clientele (many who are from the northern NJ and NYC area). Celebrities have tasted wines here, and have enjoyed both the products as well as the venue and the view. It might just be the coolest place you’ve ever tasted wine.
Where Farming Takes Center Stage
Roaming down the long driveway towards the tasting room at Rushland Ridge Winery makes you feel like you’re a special guest at someone’s secret farm, and you are. Proprietor Ed Ullman and his staff grow everything they sell on their 22-acre farm and six acres of vineyards. They have 18 varieties of grapes with plenty of room to expand and add more should they decide to do so. Ed considers himself a farmer, and likens his tasting room to a farm stand. If there was ever a place to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures in life, this is it. There are no buildings in sight, just pretty green vineyards. Sample a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Franc here and let your taste buds decide which you prefer. Each does quite well in this region and are solid choices. I personally preferred the Chardonnay I tried, and need to make my way back there to replenish my supply. The wines here are only available to order via phone or in person, adding to the local charm.
Where You’ll Find The Best Weekend Entertainment
Bishop Estate Winery, a spacious, rustic family farm, has found a way to make their winery a place that anyone can come and enjoy. It’s the newest winery on the trail, and whether you’re more of a sweet wine person or a dry wine connoisseur, you can find a bottle of something you’d enjoy trying (or gifting). It was interesting to check out the entertaining labels on the wine varieties as well (Croc My World Red, Tipsie Cow Sweet Riesling, and Bee Sting Honey Jalepeno Wine). One of the areas in which this winery also shines is in the entertainment they provide. The venue is really a terrific place to set up a tent and some chairs in the field, purchase a bottle or two of wine, enjoy food trucks, dance to terrific live music, cozy up to the fire pits, and just gather (safely of course) for a good time. Their space is currently undergoing some changes in the hopes of adding a space to handle special events, house several bars for tasting and gathering, as well as showcase the more than 16 terrific wine varieties they have to offer.
Where Weddings Take The Cake
Wandering into Rose Bank Winery, the historic barn and spacious grounds are the first things you notice. It’s interesting to realize that these grounds were first deeded to William Penn’s daughters! This winery has an etched stone in their converted barn that dates from 1835 and is assumed to have been done by the mason who built the place. When you visit, ask to see it. French-style crisp, fruity wines, which are produced, bottled and sold here, are free to sample. You can even see the outdoor space where they had their first farm stand in order to sell wine. Who knew in the days of coronavirus, this would again come into fashion as a wonderful outdoor “tasting room” and counter? I recognized that where Rose Bank excels is in their ability to bring a simple and rustic elegance to any event you’d want to hold here. Everything from small celebrations to large weddings and corporate events can be accommodated in their various spaces. It made me take note that the next significant event I had might be a great excuse to visit this pretty winery again.
Where Washington And His Troops Regrouped
Bucks County does have some history to it, and stopping off at Crossings Vineyards helps to remind you of that. This winery is rumored to be on land that offered a staging ground for General George Washington and his troops before the famous crossing of the Delaware River just down the road. This makes the vineyard very aptly named, and certainly caused me to look around and imagine history forming on the green, rolling hills. I also love that on their labels is a black and white drawing of the estate and vineyard. Roaming inside, it’s evident that the winery is now a place where things still take place that bring people together. Visitors can frequently enjoy live music, join in on fun activities like wine pairings and tastings, classes, and outdoor activities that vary by the season. They pride themselves on being a part of the community and try to offer events and activities that bring members to the winery to enjoy themselves. Crossings Vineyards’ wines range from eight award-winning red wines to eight award-winning white wines (off-dry, dry and sweet) to their fun specialty wines like peach, sangria and a chocolate cherry truffle port.
Where Vintage Labels Welcome You To The Family
Wycombe Vineyards is another place where you drive down the long driveway and feel like you’re visiting someone’s home. That’s the beauty of the place. You really do feel like you’re visiting their home. This farm has been in the owner’s family for generations. It’s history to them, and it’s wonderful as a visitor to see this kind of thing carrying on with such care and love. Wycombe Vineyards is a part of their community. They encourage community members to help them with harvests if they’d like. The owner and staff come out to talk with visitors when they stop here, they encourage folks to have their small events here, and they love taking part in the area’s culture. Their labels also feature vintage photos of family members, allowing buyers to feel like they are again part of the family. No fancy pretenses here, just a warm and inviting venue that’s perfect for meeting a friend, buying and opening a bottle of wine, sitting on some chairs and catching up. I sampled a Chardonnay here, and felt bad getting rid of such a pretty bottle when the wine was finished.
Finishing the last of the wine trail made me wish there were a few more venues to visit (who knows, perhaps in the future?). Hopefully, visitors will emerge from the experience much more educated on the wines and specifics of the region. Drinking some of the varieties that do especially well here lets you appreciate that Pennsylvania really is a contender in the area of good wine. Should you find yourself in Pennsylvania, be sure to include a visit to the wineries of Bucks County on your bucket list.