Va La Vineyards, Avondale, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on May 16, 2018

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Pennsylvania, Review, Wine

Va La Vineyards

8820 Gap Newport Pike (Route 41)

Avondale, Pennsylvania

(610) 268-2702

Va La Vineyards - EntranceIf you happen to be cruising south on Route 41 in Chester County, you might easily overlook the entrance to Va La Vineyards, a tiny island of vines surrounded by a sea of fungi. However, this is a case where size – if you’ll pardon the double entendre – really doesn’t matter.

VA La Vineyards - ExteriorAccording to the review American Winery Guide, Va La is quite possibly the best vineyard & winery in state of Pennsylvania and, arguably, the best on the east coast. It has also been listed in the “101 Best Wineries in America” published by The Daily Meal. Not bad, not bad at all… for a vineyard that is less than seven acres in size – 6.73 acres, to be precise – and has an annual production of less than 750 cases per year.

Va La Vineyards -Tasting Room SignAfter a ten-year stint as a script writer in the entertainment industry, Anthony Vietri and his wife, Karen, decided to return to the farm in Avondale that his family has owned since 1928. The first vines were planted in 1999; the grapes came in 2001; and the winery opened in 2002. Mr. Vietri definitely adopted an “Old World” approach to viticulture and enology by planting, growing, and producing “field blend” wines. The wines are made in the ancient methods of uvaggio, the piemonte tradition of growing and fermenting together northern Italian and French varieties, to create wines that are unique to this particular site.

Va La Vineyards - MahoganyMr. Vietri has continually experimented with dozens of grape varieties and clones to discover which grow best and produce the best fruit for winemaking in each part of his vineyard. The result is four primary wines, each a “field blend” or vin de terroir of various grapes grown in one of four vineyard subplots. His primary white wine, La Prima Donna (which is actually amber-hued), is produced from the stony soils in the southeast area of his vineyard and is a blend of Tocai, Malvasia Bianca, Fiano, Pinot Grigio and Petit Manseng. His primary red, Mahogany, comes from black mushroom soils at the center of the vineyard and is composed primarily of Malvasia Nera, Barbera, Sagrantino, Carmine, Lagrein, Charbono, Teroldego and Petit Verdot. In addition, there is also an unusual blend of five clones of Nebbiolo (Michet, Lampia) & Corvina Veronese called Cedar, as well as Silk, a dry, blended rosato (also known as rosé in French and rosado in Spanish).

Va La Vineyards - InteriorThe winery itself, domiciled in a century-plus old barn sandwiched between an odoriferous mushroom farm and a cement factory, doesn’t look like much. Once you cross the threshold, however, you know immediately that you’re in for a unique and rewarding experience. The tasting room on the main floor is simple and rustic with a comfortable bar that will accommodate 12 guests. In addition to the wines that may be tasted and/or purchased, there are also local artisan cheeses, chocolates, crafts and artwork for sale. The upstairs tasting room has a standing bar and several high-top tables, as well as access to a deck for warm-weather imbibing.

Va La Vineyards - Wine TastingThe wine tasting here is a marvelous experience and will cost you $20.00 per person. Many wineries refund the price of the tasting if you purchase wine. Va La does not. This may sound rather expensive, but a tasting here also includes other items that would be an additional charge elsewhere. The tasting includes four wines, each paired with a local artisan cheese, homemade focaccia bread, olive oil, plus a special dark chocolate truffle spiked with Va La Silk from Neuchatel Swiss Chocolates of Oxford, PA.

My wine tasting began with the vineyard’s primary white wine, the aforementioned amber-hued 2014 La Prima Donna, which was quite aromatic on the nose. One sniff and you assumed the wine would be slightly on the sweet side… but it was bone dry and quite complex on the palate. This was followed by the 2015 Castana, a hefty red wine that is only bottled in certain vintages, and the vineyard’s two signature reds, the 2015 Mahogany and the 2014 Cedar, the latter having just been released the weekend of my visit.

Va La Vineyards - CastanaI found the Castana, which is referred to as the vineyard’s “steak wine,” to be deep, dark, brooding, slightly on the smoky side and rather rough around the edges. The brochure suggests that the wine is at its best after 2-6 hours of decanting time. It certainly needs an extended period of time to soften up; and it will also benefit from several more years of bottle aging as well.

With the 2015 Mahogany and the 2014 Cedar, Mr. Vietri obviously feels that he has saved the best for last… and these were my favorites of the tasting as well. Both are age-worthy, the former expected to reach its peak of flavor in 5-10 years; the latter in 6-12 years. The Mahogany, in my view, was slightly astringent on the palate, still needing a few years to mellow out. The Cedar, on the other hand, was more approachable but would obviously be even more so a few years down the line.

I was also very much taken with the Silk. Though not part of the tasting, my companion and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing a glass in the upstairs tasting room. As mentioned above, this is a completely dry rosato (rosé). And, unlike many so-called “pink” wines, it possesses an unusually full body and delightfully elegant complex texture. A complete joy on a warm summer’s afternoon!

Va La Vineyards - Anthony Vietri, WinemakerDue to the small production, Mr. Vietri’s wines are available in limited quantities and often sell out at the speed of light. He does not ship his wines or use retail outlets (however, per the recent article in the Wine Enthusiast, “Top sommeliers from Philadelphia will even drive to his Chester County vineyard to carry back wines for their lists”). Sales are at the winery tasting room only with prices ranging from $32.00 – $52.00 per bottle. If you’re a serious oenophile, or just a wine lover in search of a delightfully unique and rewarding experience, be sure to make Va La Vineyards your next port of call.

Tasting Hours: Fridays: 12:00 noon – 5:30 p.m. (Last service @ 5:00 p.m.); Saturdays & Sundays: 12:00 noon – 6:00 p.m. (Last service @ 5:30 p.m.) In order to preserve the intimacy of the small farm, please be aware that the winery is unable to accommodate buses, limousines, or groups of over 6 persons.



{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anthony January 9, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Dear Artful Diner,
Thank you greatly for taking the time and effort to post such a wonderfully thorough and thoughtful piece. It is truly an honor for our small farm to be a part of it. Thank you for sharing your afternoon with us, and until we meet again, all our best to you and your family.
Anthony and family,
Va La.

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