Ridge Runner Distillery

     When I promised Sharon Klay that I would visit her son Christian’s newly opened Ridge Runner Distillery I had no idea that it would take me more than a year to keep that promise. Christian Klay built his distillery directly across the road from the Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill, Pa with the idea of not only providing the Laurel Highlands with a top-notch attraction but also to take advantage of a great synergy with the family winery.

     My wife and I made our drive to Fayette County under brilliant blue Western Pennsylvania skies. As we topped the Summit on Route 40 near Uniontown I was reminded of the comments of first-time visitors to the Laurel Highland about the deep verdant color of the landscape. I was also reminded of the lyrics from a classic bluegrass song which I sang out with my best “Grand Ole Opry” twang “On the sunny side of the mountain where the ripplin waters fall.” It seemed appropriate for the time and place 🙂

Ridge Runner Distillery offers free tastings of all their products. I would suggest starting with their menu of moonshine which is composed of two flavored 50 proof spirits, Apple Pie Moonshine and Peach Pie Moonshine and the 100 proof straight corn mash  Ridge Runner Moonshine. These moonshine are easy to drink and polished making them a far cry from the backwoods “Shine” of folklore that was of unknown origin and made its rounds in old plastic milk jugs. {Or so I have heard :-)} While you are there you shouldn’t pass up the chance to taste their own 80 proof Vodka and Rum.

Thanks to Ridge Runner Distillery for the quality product and the friendly and knowledgeable staff that made our trip over the mountain well worth it!

RRD sign2

 

 

Our tasting guides Tia & Melissa.

Our tasting guides Tia & Melissa.

Bottles of Moonshine, Rum and Vodka for sale @ Ridge Runner Distillery

Bottles of Moonshine, Rum and Vodka for sale @ Ridge Runner Distillery

Life’s a Bed of Roses

rose wine

With the official start of Summer just a few days away thoughts of picnics under brilliant blue skies and sunsets enjoyed with friends while sipping Rosé start to fill the minds of winter-weary romantics everywhere. Pennsylvania wine makers have produced a variety of easy drinking wines that will offer the perfect accent to any of your summertime activities.

     Briar Valley Winery Proprietor’s Rosé is a dry Rosé made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Lemberger. A great easy drinking wine that displays  soft cherry and berry notes with subtle tannins and nice acid. You can enjoy this Rosé along with all the Briar Valley offerings, plus the added bonus of live music when you visit the B.V. tasting room on Pitt St. in the metropolis of Bedford, Pa. on the first Friday of each month.  

     Fero Winery owner/winemaker Chuck Zaletski shows the wide range of his winemaking skills with his Sweet Blush. Sweet Blush is a rose-colored semi-sweet, not dry wine with smooth flavors of fruit. Chuck calls it his “Party Wine” and it would be great over ice, especially after running the Wine-N-Mile through the Fero Vineyards in Lewisburg, Pa. on May 29th. 

     If it is a blush made from a blend of four grapes that you are looking for, then Arrowhead Winery has the wine for you. Four Winds Blush has a light body with a smooth semi-sweet fruit finish but don’t take my word for it. Arrowhead Winery has just opened its newest wine shop inside Schramm Farm Market in Harrison City, Pa. Connie and Joanne will be happy to lead you through a free tasting of the wines of your choice.

Valley Sunrise is a fresh and sweet blend from Rich Ripepi at the Ripepi Winery. Rich has struck a balance with Valley Sunrise that produces a very drinkable wine perfect for any casual gathering. Stop by the Ripepi Winery in Monongahela, Pa. for the “Summer Sip Series” to experience live music and great food plus group vineyard tours + tastings.

The Vineyard at Hershey winemaker L. Paul Vezzetti has produced a spot-on wine for a summer evening of music in the open air of their vineyard. Twisted Kiss is a blend of white Vidal and red Chamboursin. This wine has hints of tropical fruit and subtle strawberry flavors. There is no excuse for having a boring weekend when you can go to The Vineyard at Hershey Middletown, Pa and dance to live music and drink fun wines under the stars at their “Decked Out Live” concerts.

     No trip into the Laurel Highlands would be complete without a stop at the C.W. Klay Winery Chalk Hill, Pa. The “Pavilion Music Series” at C. W. Klay fills the air with the sound of free live music. You can relax and listen to a concert under the pavilion by the lake with a bottle of Chestnut Ridge Sunset. This wine is a delicate semi-sweet crimson blush with a hint of cherry aroma in a Zinfandel style.  

These are just a few of the possibilities that you have available to you in Western & Central Pa. A complete directory of winery and brewery events can be found on the website: West Pa Winery & Brewery

     

Lavender Festival at C.W.Klay Winery

 

Sharon Klay's "Gator" sits outside the tasting room

Sharon Klay’s “Gator” sits outside the tasting room

     The 3rd Annual Lavender Festival at the C.W.Klay Winery in Farmington, Pa was held on one of the most beautiful days of the year.  Blue skies and warm breezes greeted guests as they arrived to stunning views of the winery and the surrounding Laurel Highlands.  C.W.Klay owner and winemaker Sharon Klay was on hand, as well as her friendly and knowledgable staff, to welcome visitors to the tasting room where they were served plentiful and free samples of the C.W.Klay wines that were available for purchase. The tasting room also has a collection of wine themed merchandise so you can find the perfect gift for the wine lover on your list.  The cool jazz sounds of Harold Betters filled the air on the lawn along with the scent of lavender coming from the vendor tents.  Most of the offerings included lavender in them and ranged from hair care produces, soaps, chocolate, lavender plants and of course C.W.Klay’s very own speciality lavender wine.  The Klay Winery has a list of events that varies from their weekly “Pavilion Music Series” to a Lobster Clambake and Murder Mystery Dinner Theaters that can be found on their website http://www. cwklaywinery.com.  C.W.Klay wines will be at the Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival in Twin Lakes Park  Greensburg, Pa from Thursday, July 3rd through Sunday, July 6th, 2014. 

Wine Weekend at Renfest

     It was picture perfect weather for the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival Wine Weekend in West Newton, Pa.  We decided to attend this event not only because of the wine tasting but to also enjoy the whimsical atmosphere that surrounds these gatherings.  During our visit to the 16th century we saw kings, queens, red knights, black knights, fairy princesses, wenches, belly dancers, elves, trolls and court jesters just to name a few of my fellow festival goers alter egos that were on display.  Christian W. Klay Winery and Glades Pike Winery offered free wine tasting and on site sales.  The lines were long and the wines were well received.  We tasted several selections at the Glades Pike Winery tent and purchased a bottle of Summer Breeze, a semi-sweet white table wine that I think will pair well with a fruit & cheese plate.  I was happy to see the interest these two wineries were creating in the emerging Pennsylvania wine industry

Jousting at Renfest

Jousting at Renfest

C. W. Klay Winery at Renfest

C. W. Klay Winery at Renfest

by bringing their products to a potentially new segment of the market. More information is available at www.cwklaywinery.com, www.gladespikewinery.com and pittsburghrenfest.com.