The Vineyard at Hershey Review
Address: 598 Schoolhouse Rd Middletown,Pennsylvania 17057.
Phone Number: 717-944-1569
Tasting Hours: 11:00-6:00
Reviewer: Joanne Dunne
Review Date: 10/31/2015
Reviewer: Joanne Dunne
The Place: The Vineyard at Hershey is a popular destination in the Hershey/Lancaster/Harrisburg area for wine tastings, events and weddings. The winery’s proximity to major roadways makes it easy to add it to the itinerary when traveling through the Susquehanna Valley. The winery is large and holds frequent events throughout the year. Take note, though, the winery itself is not actually IN Hershey, a major tourist attraction for couples and families alike. The winery and vineyard are in Middletown, PA. If you are staying in the heart of Hershey for its outlet shopping, Hershey Amusement Parks, etc, it will be a 20 minute drive out of that area to visit the winery…not a chocolate kiss in sight!
The tasting room itself is very small, located in the main house on the property. There is a separate large barn with two levels of patios (and a brewery!) where there are extra tasting areas that are only open for events or particularly heavy volume weekends. There is plenty of seating to accommodate large crowds. Back in the main house, there are small rooms strictly for VIP wine tastings and small gatherings. Upon arrival, it’s probably best to go to the main house first to start your visit.
The Experience:  I have visited The Vineyard at Hershey a few times, and on this particular autumn Saturday, we arrived near noon, mistakenly thinking we would say ahead of the crowds and enjoy a leisurely, informative tasting. I was quite wrong. It was the last day of a Cornucopia wine trail event where wine lovers purchase tickets to visit several wineries. We were asked if we were part of that event, and we stated we were not. We were still able to do a tasting, but clearly there was not enough staff at that particular time. Our host, dressed in Halloween attire, welcomed us and set us up quickly with another pourer, a friendly woman who immediately shared that she doesn’t serve normally (our hopes of learning were clearly dashed at that point). Okay, time to try some wine! The cost is $5.00 for five tastes. The wine list is not nearly as extensive as at a winery like Moon Dancer Winery in Wrightville, PA, but that can be a good thing. Unfortunately, my wine tasting partner this day was looking forward to sampling the dry red wines, as is his preference, and only two were available. Nevertheless, the wines were very good in general, but we were definitely left on our own to learn about the winery and the vineyard.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time that the lack of a well-trained staff marred my tasting experience. I previously took part in a VIP tasting that includes a tour and private sit-down tasting with complementing pastries and fruits. Arriving at the scheduled time for the reservation, we told the pourer that we were there for the VIP tasting. Our group of four was given glasses of wine and told we could venture out and enjoy the grounds, then return to the house in 15 minutes. We did this, and upon our return, we were ushered to our table in a quaint little room only to discover that the tasting had already started for a bachelorette group, and while we weren’t late, clearly there was a lack of communication between the front end and the back end. We were rushed through to catch up, and really what could have been a fantastic day for us, was only somewhat so. We never did receive the included tour!
My word of advice is this: Get there and ask questions. Demand attention, if that is what you desire, and if you are more than the casual wine drinker just out to enjoy the day. Expect it to be very busy in season, and probably understaffed. This has been my experience during every visit.
The Wines:  The selection of wines at the Vineyard are what keeps people coming back. The wines are tasty and reasonably priced. The Gewurztraminer at $16.00 was very good. The semi-sweet and sweet wines are the stars, and almost everyone will be able to find something they like. Our favorite is always the Niagara at $13.99 not too sweet, not too fruity, just right. We also had the pleasure of trying their specialty hard cider called DeCider ($12.99 for a 22. oz bottle. 6 packs available). The idea of peanut butter and caramel in a cider made us a little nervous, but it was surprisingly light and not overwhelming. Comments on this cider always include the idea of adding it to a sundae, definitely decadent.
Overall, the Vineyard at Hershey has a nice lineup of wines, but the service continues to disappoint. Go prepared to figure things out on your own or employ a lighthearted let’s just wing it approach.