AWG Correspondent

Kat Collins

Black Walnut - Phoenixville Photos

Black Walnut - Phoenixville Review

Region: Pennsylvania

Reviewed: April 30, 2016 by Kat Collins
Published: August 23, 2016

Sometimes you happen to find a good thing, and Black Walnut Winery is one of those things. The desire and drive to produce high quality, dry European red wines is not a common theme among Pennsylvania wineries as it is challenging to produce grapes not native to the area. There is a reason Pennsylvania is known for its fruit wines and sweet wines; they do it well!

I can count only a handful of wineries that I know of who doggedly pursue European varietals in Pennsylvania. Often, people are surprised to know that there are Pennsylvania wineries that produce incredibly high-quality, European red wines that can compete with some of the best in the world. Black Walnut Winery is one of the wineries committed to dry red European wines and committed to doing them well. While the winery does not grow its own grapes, they only source grapes from local, high-quality vineyards in Chester County where their main winery is located.

It all started one day in 2001 when Lance, his wife Valerie, and their friends Jack and Karen, decided to try their hand at winemaking as a hobby. Their friends joined in, and they processed 500 pounds of grapes for their first unofficial first crush under a canopy of Black Walnut trees (hence the winery name). This quickly became an annual event, and several years later, they talked about opening a winery. The main winery opened in July 2009, and in September 2010 they branched out and opened a tasting room in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

The main winery is located in a beautifully renovated, historic bank barn, set in the countryside of Chester County in Sadsburyville, PA. All of their wines are produced, bottled, and cellared here at their production facility. As much as I prefer to visit the main winery, because of the distance, I chose to visit their Tasting Room & Wine Bar located in the heart of artsy Phoenixville, on the bustling main strip of Bridge Street.

It was quiet for an early Saturday afternoon, but most likely people were waiting to visit until the evening when the live music started, usually a popular and well-attended event. According to Alan, the Tasting Room Manager, it’s the place to be at night. They feature live music every Saturday night with no admission fee, and guests are welcome to bring their own food to enjoy anytime.

The tasting room was spacious with an open, inviting feeling. The room had lots of windows to let in the natural light as well as several tables and chairs to watch the world go by while sipping a glass of wine. A large bar takes up part of the back wall with bar stools to sit and munch on their cheese plates (available for purchase) while tasting wine. It costs $7 to sample five wines or $10 to sample seven wines. It’s an additional $5 to sample both of their port-style wines (highly recommended).

We were thrilled with their exquisite 2012 Merlot, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2014 Cabernet Franc (almost sold out), but the piece de resistance is their port-style wines. They have two port-style wines, a red and white, which have won several awards. Most recently they were named 2015 Best Port-Style Wines by Mainline Today. Deception is a white port-style wine made with Syrah brandy and Vidal Blanc. This is a wine that gets you in trouble because it’s juicy with bright fruit, warm baking spices, and goes down way too easy. It’s called Deception because it doesn’t taste like it has a lot of alcohol in it, although it is 20% ABV. Seduction is a red port-style wine that is made with their 2010 Merlot wine and Syrah brandy. First, they aged the Merlot wine in French and American oak, then fortified it with the Syrah brandy, and then aged it in Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels to layer the flavors. The result is a very structured and complex port-style wine.

The passion for dry European red varietals speaks loudly in the quality of the wines, as well as by Alan, the Tasting Room Manager. It is clear that Black Walnut Winery believes in what they do, and they have the quality to back it up, both in staff and product. My hope is more wineries in Pennsylvania take note, as well as those who visit these wineries and those who don’t believe Pennsylvania makes anything other than sweet wine, that high-quality, dry red European wines are possible in Pennsylvania and quite successful.

Address & Contact Information: 260 Bridge Street Phoenixville, Pennsylvania 19460. Telephone: 484-924-8740, website: Tasting Hours: Wed-Thurs 4:00-9:00, Fri 4:00-10:00, Sat 11:00-10:00, Sun 1:00-8:00.

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