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Tour de Taste: Discover Local Wineries Near Pittsburgh

By Liz Petoniak
Photographs from Gervasi Vineyard, Christian W. Klay Winery, + Greendance Winery

Import quoi? Our region boasts the soil and climate to produce first-class wines, and winemakers are taking advantage, crafting vino that expresses the roots of our domaines. Within 100 miles of Pittsburgh, wine lovers can find beautiful vineyards with more than just their favorite juice — many offer gourmand dining experiences and concerts, too. Save time to smell the bouquet and spend an evening, day, or weekend amongst the vines. There is no better way to spend the last few days of summer. We’ve got the details on three remarkable local wineries, here.


GERVASI VINEYARD

Tuscany is much closer than you think! Enter the gates of Gervasi Vineyard in Ohio and prepare to be transported to Italy. Brick walking paths throughout this picturesque vineyard lead guests through its gorgeous grounds. From the Villas, to dining at the Bistro, to the lake and the new Crush House, guests can sip vino while gazing out at the vines. Family-managed, Gervasi prides itself on its hand-crafted, award-winning wines, in addition to accommodating its guests to their upmost satisfaction.

wineries near Pittsburgh - Gervasi Vineyard, Canton, Ohio

Plan Your Trip

A trip to Gervasi is all about the ultimate experience — the vineyard provides enough activities to pack an itinerary for the entire weekend. We recommend calling ahead to reserve a room, or an entire villa for an overnight stay, and scheduling a tour. Each Saturday, Gervasi offers vineyard tours, free to the public, but extended tours are also available to visitors seeking to delve deeper into the inner-workings of a vineyard, and to sample wine and food pairings on-site. Dining options at Gervasi don’t disappoint. Guests will find upscale Italian offerings at The Bistro, in addition to vino, and out on the patio, enjoy a more relaxed setting with live music in the evening from Thursday through Sunday. Head over to The Crush House wine bar to taste a few of the vineyard’s 23 wines and casual cuisine in a lively atmosphere. Guests of Gervasi’s Villas also have access to the Glenmoor Country Club Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, and in-suite spa services and yoga classes. Additional programming includes the Musica Summer Concert Series on select Tuesdays in the summer, yoga class in the vineyard on Wednesdays, as well as a farmers market. Lastly, stop in the boutique Marketplace and pick up your favorite wines to take home and share!

The Wine

wineries near PittsburghFrom the beginning, Gervasi’s wine offerings have always been carefully calculated. When Andy Codispoti, originally from Italy, began to develop the wine portfolio, he considered the vineyard’s terroir, and prospective clientele, and ultimately, Gervasi consulted with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at Ohio State University to determine the ideal varietals that would flourish in the local climate. Gervasi then laid the path with classical European varietals for old-world style, vintage-produced wines with balance and true expression. He says, “We recognize that there are intrinsic characteristics to each varietal, and every varietal really likes to display and express its characteristics just like a person does. By having minimal intervention, we give the varietal the freedom to express itself.”

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In August, Codispoti suspects guests would enjoy the refreshment that comes from Gervasi’s newly introduced Sauvignon Blanc “Fioretto,” or any of the vineyard’s other fantastic whites. “In September, I would lean towards our Pinot Noir “Velutto,” but white wine drinkers don’t need to change their habits,” he says. “Pinot Noir can actually be served chilled at 60 degrees because of its low tannins and soft texture. But, I personally like mine between 63 and 65 degrees.”

Pairings

When it comes to pairings, which comes first — the wine or the food? Codispoti says, “I’m usually hungrier than I am thirsty. But, if there’s a particular wine I really want to try, I will pair an entree with that. The wines are designed to complement food, even though you can enjoy them by themselves.”

Codispoti’s Favorite Gervasi Pairings:

Abbraccio Cabernet Sauvignon + Manzo Italian Filet
Bellina Chardonnay + Lobster Formaggio
Truscano Sangiovese + Housemade Meatballs

Gervasi Vineyard, 1700 55th St. NE, Canton, Ohio. 330.497.1000. gervasivineyard.com.


CHRISTIAN W. KLAY WINERY

Sharon and John Klay searched for three years to find the ideal location for Christian W. Klay Winery. When they arrived upon a 215-acre farm in Chalk Hill, they knew they had found their ideal spot. Owner Sharon says, “My husband was looking for an elevation that would put us above the frost line. This farm was selected because of the elevation of 2,300 feet. The soil was perfect since grapes do not thrive in extremely fertile soil.” The experimental vineyard of 100 varieties found that European wine varieties, Vitis Vinifera, grew well in the soil, in addition to French-American and University-bred hybrids that tolerate cooler temperatures. Christian W. Klay Winery offers visitors a total wine experience, from vineyard to bottle, offering a taste of the region.

wineries near Pittsburgh - Christian W. Klay Winery, Chalk Hill

Plan Your Trip

Located in the Laurel Highlands, a stop at Christian W. Klay Winery, with its picturesque pond and 1800s barn, complements an itinerary filled with nearby activities, such as white water rafting at Ohiopyle, or a visit to Fort Necessity or Fallingwater. Tastings run every day, and the winery offers hour-and-a-half long tours for those interested in a more in-depth look into the process of winemaking. Prior to arriving at the vineyard, Sharon recommends scheduling a tour and checking the website ahead of time. It presents a number of events each month, including the Pavilion Music Series, which brings in local artists to perform. And, every Thursday evening, the winery hosts outdoor acrylic painting sessions from Liz Jones Arts.

The Wine

Sharon, who is also the winemaker, likens her style of winemaking to creating a palette of colors for painting. “If you take the color straight out of the tube, it’s kind of boring, but if you blend another color into it, you get a richer, more exciting color,” she says. By growing so many different varietals, her hand was initially forced to do some blending. But, she found it to be advantageous to have pressings from more than one varietal in order to achieve a consistent taste from year to year, especially when the weather proved to be inconsistent. “It’s a unique winemaking style in that it really starts with my approach of being an artist, except instead of a paint palette, it’s the mouth palate,” she laughs. In order to appeal to a variety of palates, Sharon aims to produce a broad selection of wines, including everything from a dry white, to full bodied reds, to sweet and sparkling. She says, “Not only do men and women perceive things differently, but each individual has different numbers of taste buds. So, you want to make sure you’re able to find something for everybody. I think we do have the bases covered.”

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Sharon recommends the winery’s Double Gold award-wining Lavender Mist. “It’s a semi-sweet wine infused with lavender flowers [grown on-site], with a very delicate flavor of lavender, and nose of lavender. People have been comparing it to Moscato,” she says.

Christian W. Klay Winery, 412 Fayette Springs Road, Chalk Hill. 724.439.3424. cwklaywinery.com.


GREENDANCE WINERY

Celebrating its seventh anniversary this year, Greendance Winery at Sand Hill has grown into a destination with beautiful grounds sprawling across the 120-acre farm, grazing farm animals, sweet smells wafting from the bakery, and, of course, a wide range of delectable wines. The winery started with a specific vision in mind for the farm that has evolved over the years. Richard Lynn, a partner who oversees the vineyard, says, “As a small fruits and apple farm, we originally aspired to making very interesting fruit wines, but we have since additionally dedicated ourselves to optimizing the strengths of French hybrid grapes that can flourish in our often severe Appalachian foothills climate. This past winter was a true test of bud strength — primary fruit bud emergence from the varieties we grow has resulted in a nearly perfect amount of shoots for an optimal harvest.”

wineries near Pittsburgh - Greendance Winery, Mt. Pleasant

Plan Your Trip

Less than an hour outside of Pittsburgh, Greendance Winery makes for an entertaining day trip. Fridays through mid-August, the winery features a special themed menu from Elegant Catering and a late night concert in the garden. Opt for a picnic in the Apple Orchard or sandwiches, salads, meats, and cheeses from the winery in the Nectar Garden on Saturday and Sunday afternoons through October, where visitors can also find live, outdoor music. Discover your personal preferences at the Tasting Bar, open every day for complimentary tasting, where anywhere from six to eight reds, several whites, and six to 12 fruit wines are on rotation for tasting. Before heading home, be sure to check out adjacent Sand Hill Berries, for a light meal at its Cabin Café and take-home goodies like fresh fruit, jams, and baked goods. The staff relishes in seeing the same customers return time and time again, in addition to those who saw the sign on the highway, stopped on a whim, and stumbled across a treasure. “Wineries have become a choice destination for Sunday afternoon relaxation. And, it’s lovely because that’s exactly what they can do in our garden,” says Diane Dilworth, tasting room manager. “It’s private, but yet there are still people; it’s a really intimate setting.”

The Wine

wineries near Pittsburgh - Greendance Winery, Mt. PleasantWinemaker Walt Vinoski describes the vineyard’s terroir as chalky, and filled with limestone and mineral content. “In some areas, you can grow in extremely rocky conditions, like in the limestone. You let the roots attach and the vines struggle, but it makes great wine,” he says. Generally, Greendance produces new world style wines from Vitis Labrusca grapes. The fruit wines, though, made from red currants and raspberries for example, are some of Greendance’s most unique offerings. Working to preserve the original taste of the fruit, Vinoski adds minimal sugar and ferments at a cool temperature. He says, “You’ll notice right away that the wine is not sweeter than the fruit itself. It’s a little bit ‘bite-y.’ It has that acidic nip that hits at the back of the tongue just like the fruit.”

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Vinoski proposes a number of wines to drink during this season, depending on the time of day and accompanying food. For an August evening, he says, “The flavors and aromas of the Reserve 2008 will fill every part of the palate.” But, during the day, he suggests the Isabella or the Gewürztraminer to pair with light tapas. For dessert, finish the evening with one of Greendance’s pies, fruit cake, or cheesecake with a sweet glass of fruit or dessert wine.

Walt Vinoski’s pairing tip: “The general rule with pairings is that the wines should have the same amount of weight as what you’re eating.”

Greendance Winery, 306 Deer Field Road, Mt. Pleasant. 724.547.6500. greendancewinery.com.

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