Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winery Tour

So, one of the many things that happened over my busy past few days is the annual winery tour that I organized. Three years ago, two of my friends and I spent a beautiful fall weekend at my parents' cottage, on Pymatuning Lake about 1.5 hours north of Pittsburgh.

We decided to go to two local wineries, and then ventured over the border into Ohio and visited a ton there. We wound up going to 10 wineries that day. I was driving, so I stopped drinking - I only took a sip here or there if my friends thought I'd like it. We had a blast, my friends were very tipsy, and we bought tons of wine.
After we came home, everyone we told about our weekend wanted to do something similar. So, last year, we got a group together and did the same thing. We wound up with about 16 people, we booked a (short) school bus, and were on our way. We had mimosas on the bus, lots of snacks, and visited five wineries in Northeast, PA (just north of Erie). It was a blast!

I know this pic is not the best, but it really gives you a beatiful glimpse of the short bus :)

After the school bus, more and more people wanted to join our fun. I mean, who wouldn't? What is there not to love about family and friends chugging around wineries on a short bus?
This year the trip was later due to everyone's busy schedules. My parents wound up not being able to come with us (b/c my dad doesn't pay attention when I tell him things) and a lot of people who committed early on wound up dropping out for one reason or another. At any rate, we wound up with a large school bus this year, and 15 friends. Once again, we had a blast!
There were a few stress & drama-filled moments for me that had me swearing up and down I would never organize another trip, but overall, it turned out great. We had originally asked for a large bus b/c we had so many people, and I tried the day of the trip to get us into a smaller bus to save some cash, but it turns out only the full sized buses can go out of state. Weird, huh?
We returned to the site of our original winery tour, chugging around Madison and Geneva, Ohio. We were on this wine trail, and we were on the section that forms a little "s" on the bottom left. There are 10 wineries in that area, but we only made it to six of them.
The bus was gigantic. Our driver Leigh was phenomenal until she got a little touchy at the end - not all of the parking lots were "bus friendly" and it started to snow as well.
My favorite wine came from St. Joseph's Vineyard. That's their logo (cute, huh?) to the right. I personally prefer dry and semi-dry wines, and I think I liked all of their wines that fall into those categories. In addition, the wife of the owner was the person who poured our samples, and she was amazing! Per Ohio wine, the vineyards are supposed to charge you for samples. She gave us all of our samples for free, and she knocked $5 off of the price of each bottle of wine we bought. That's good for business - we will definitely be back!
Another favorite location was Harpersfield Winery. They had a fire going that smelled out of this world good, and their tasting room was small but very cozy. A few of my friends ordered food, and that was delicious. Plus, their wine was delish! The atmosphere was so fantastic I had to remind myself to mention the wine, but it was a great place. Very chateau-esqe! That's the outside of the winery to the left, and the yummy fireplace to the right. Actually, I think the pic to the left is going to have a room or two available as a bed and breakfast in the spring. Great idea!
There was another winery where I really liked the wine, but the employees were not fantastic. I called every winery to make sure they were cool with us coming in with a busload of people (even though it wasn't full). If I didn't talk to a person, I left a voicemail. Everyone I spoke with was super friendly and happy for us to come.
The South River Vineyard was the exception. We had specifically remembered their winery b/c it is housed in an old church and is very unique. Plus, they have beautiful grounds, including a pavilion with a fireplace and adirondack chairs.
So, we arrive and march up the steps into the winery. We were particularly excited about this winery b/c we planned to take our snacks off of the bus and sit for awhile, eat, drink wine, etc.
The woman working the counter looked at us and said, "Wow. No one told us there was a bus coming." My friend said we could leave if they didn't want our business.
I don't think the employee heard her, but I told her that I had called to let them know we were coming, and if it was inconvenient, we would leave (there were not a lot of people in the winery, I don't know what they were worried about). At this point she back-pedaled and said it was fine. We tasted a few and bought some bottles. One of my friends bought an entire case for holiday presents.
I asked if we could unload our snacks and eat outside or inside at the tables. She said it wasn't a problem at all. So we went outside to start unloading and one of my friends overheard another exchange. A couple was walking into the winery and the guy said to the employee something about the bus. The woman told him we were leaving.
What? You just told us we could eat here, and now we're not allowed to stay?
We left. We probably would have anyway, since the weather was getting iffy and it was too windy to sit outside, but talk about unaccommodating. Why would treat a group who gave you significant business in such an unfriendly way? I guess I just don't understand. It's a shame, I'll probably never go back and their wine really is good. Oh well!

We didn't let it bother us. We visited another winery, Debonne, and were able to get in and taste right away. They even had a mini brewery for my cousin's boyfriend to enjoy, along with live music. Two of my friends immediately got on the tiny dance floor and made friends with the band, and the rest of us just hung out. We really had a great last winery. We drank a bottle of their yummy red wine with the best name: Cab/Cab (that entertained us for awhile) and then piled back on the bus to head back to the cottage.
Overall, it really was a good time. Everyone who went was fun and I think had fun. I think I'll probably do another year, although I may leave the planning up to my sister! My parents are sad that they missed it, so I think we'll have to do a repeat.


Steelers Wine Girl said...

Just so everyone knows, I reposted this post 5 times to try to get the spacing and pics right and it wasn't dealing with me, so I gave up. I promise it drives me crazier than it does you!!!!

Courtney said...

That sounds like so much fun! Maybe I should organize a weekend like that for a few friends this summer... go to the Okanagan (our wine area out here) and make a weekend of it or something. Huh.

Vegas Princess said...

First off OMG! I used to go to Pymatuning ALL THE TIME!! It was halfway between me and hubby-to-be when I lived in Cleveland and he lived in Franklin, PA. I took 144 all the way to his house almost every other weekend. How funny!

I love the wineries in Ohio and PA. There are a lot in that area and it is fun to check them all out. There is this one particular one near hubby's hometown that has the most delicious catawba that my mom and I fell in love with. Now I get it shipped to me in Vegas. :)

Next time you do this let me know. We will plan a trip to PA around that time so we can join you!

Steelers Wine Girl said...

Courtney - you should definitely do it. School buses are AMAZINGLY cheap to rent!!

VP - I will definitely let you know when we do this next year, probably in October. That's so exciting that you knew what I was talking about!!!