I recently visited with Jay Bell owner/winemaker at Bella Terra Vineyards in Hunker, Pennsylvania. Jay is one of the ambitious young winemakers making his mark on the
Wine rack in the Bella Terra Vineyards tastingroom
developing wine scene here in Western PA.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Bella Terra is the ample parking that is usually in short supply at other wineries. Jay and his team make the comfort and convenience of their guests a priority. The description of the winery’s atmosphere seen the most on social media is “laid back”. Bella Terra took a huge step forward in their comfort factor when they opened the event center in May 2019. With room for nearly 200 people on the covered patio and the large roll-up doors that bring the outside feel into the air-conditioned bar area and meeting room guests can enjoy live entertainment while protected from the elements. Plans are already being made to expand the production area in the rear of the building to meet
growing demand. Jay has taken the first step to realize a life long dream of growing his
Local craft beers are available in the tastingroom
own grapes and is in the process of purchasing property near Bella Terra to plant a twenty acre vineyard.
Here are a couple things to look for the next time you visit the winery. Sweet Finley, Bella Terra’s most popular wine will soon be available in a two serving size can making it easier to transport, open and have a freshly opened wine in your glass. Jay has always been excited to offer his hard cider to customers but now he plans on adding a new twist by blending it with red wine to make a Rosê cider. If you are looking for a venue that is laid back and accessible check out Bella Terra Vineyards online for their hours of operation and event calendar.
A large calendar of events and food trucks can be found at Bella Terra Vineyards
When I arrived at the farm on Deer Field Road in Mount Pleasant, PA
Beautiful & productive vines like these are the result of careful pruning. Photo courtesy of Greendance Winery
that Sand Hill Berries and Greendance – The Winery at Sand Hill both call home, the windchill was hovering near O° and a thin layer of snow covered the ground. Rick Lynn had invited me to his vineyard to show me how he uses the VPS (Vertical Shoot Pruning) technique to prune his Marquette vines. Vintners prune their grape vines every year to make them more productive and to control how the vine develops during the growing season. The trimming is done during the winter when the vines are dormant. Pruning is a cold and labor intensive job that is essential to the success of the current year’s crop but is also necessary for the training and development of the vines for the future. Rick demonstrated how last year’s growth is removed and two of the best canes are left to be bent and attached to the trellis wire. The vine shoots that grow from the cane that was tied to the lower trellis wire are then trained to grow upward by having them attach themselves to catch wires above the cordon wire (lowest wire). The vines proceed to grow upward in a vertical curtain with the fruiting zone below the canopy. On the day we were pruning a lot of old growth had to be removed because Marquette vines are known for their vigorous growth. Greendance uses the VSP method on all of their vines except the American varieties (Vitis labrusca).
VSP pruning is the most common pruning method for cool-climate wine grapes but it is by no means the only one. Rick and I discussed some new ideas for managing vines in the field. I found the practice of planting vines very close together, about two feet apart, then pruning every vine back to one cane and tying down that cane to the right one year then doing the same the next year but tying the one cane to the left and continuing to alternate direction every year.
Another intriguing idea is “Wild Tail” pruning. Wild tail pruning leaves all the buds on the lateral cane that is tied to the cordon wire so the end buds develop first and delays the budding of the lower buds to protect them from a late frost. After all danger of frost has pasted you walk the vineyard and clip off all the “Wild Tails” back to the number of buds you want on each lateral. I am extremely curious to see if these methods would be successful in a cool-climate vineyard.
The goal of my visit was two-fold and with the first part completed we now turn our attention to the second part, Greendance’s planting of Petite Pearl. If you haven’t heard of the Petite Pearl wine grape you’re not alone. This hybrid grape from renowned Minnesota grape breeder Tom Plocher is just beginning to take root in Minnesota, Wisconsin and across the Midwest where it’s cold tolerance is greatly appreciated. I will be posting about my barrel tasting of Greendance Petite Pearl soon.
Beausoleil on stage at SummerSounds in Greensburg, Pa
The legendary band Beausoleil came to Greensburg, Pennsylvania Friday night bringing with them the true spirit and sound of the Louisiana low country. Their SummerSounds performance on the Robertshaw Amphitheater in St.Clair Park conjured up the feeling of being out in the parish at a Creole festival somewhere way back in the bayou. As the band played selections that ranged from Cajun, zydeco, jazz, bluegrass and swamp pop you could almost smell the shrimp and crawdads boiling! Being north of the Mason-Dixon Line clearly confused fiddler/vocalist Michael Doucet when he said he was glad to be in Ohio, much to the amusement of the crowd. He also seemed fascinated by the small “graveyard’ as he called it that is located in the park. Beausoleil delivered a high energy show with their trademark friendly down home style that sent the crowd home with smiles on their faces and a toe tapping spring in their step. Laizzez le bon temps rouler!!!
Noviello’s Sunset Café is at 302 South Urania Ave Greensburg, Pa 15601. 724-834-9903 www.sunsetcafe.com
Snarky Puppy Performs at SummerSounds
McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Jack’s Blend South Eastern Australia 2011 is a Red Wine Blend that has a solid character and the good taste that are usually only found in a more expensive wine. Jack’s Blend exhibits a light oak aroma with a medium body and a long smooth finish full of mild tannins. This offering would pair well with grilled meat or even pizza. I had the pleasure of drinking this red while sitting with friends under a starry night sky in St Clair Park , Greensburg Pa as the band Snarky Puppy performed at SummerSounds. When you need to grab a bottle or two of red wine for a gathering of friends this wine will give you good quality at a great price. Jack’s Blend can be found at P.L.C.B. stores for only $5.99 or online for under $10.
One of the most relaxing things that I can think of doing is to take my chair to an outdoor concert and spend the evening sipping wine with my wife and friends. The festive atmosphere created by a musical performance is being used by wineries to attract new customers to their facilities. These concerts range from nationally known acts to local solo artists and they cover just about every known genre of music imaginable.
The Seattle, Washington area is extremely fortunate to have the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery within easy access because this winery presents an outstanding calendar of events each summer. Chateau Ste. Michelle has been hosting live performances since 1984 in an intimate amphitheater setting that has made the Chateau Ste. Michelle Summer Concert Series one of the Pacific Northwest great music venues. Go to www.Ste-Michelle.com for more information.
Traveling east to the Finger Lakes Region of New York you can find music at numerous wineries located around these beautiful glacial lakes. Winestock is a wine, food and music festival that will be celebrated on Saturday, June 16th at Three Brothers Winery on Seneca Lake. If you would like to make plans to attend please go to www.winestock2012.eventbrite.com/ for more detailed information.
Let’s turn south to Western Pennsylvania and the Stone Villa Winery in Acme where you can enjoy a show and a glass of wine next to a picturesque lake on the grounds of the winery. A complete calendar of events and contact information is available at www.StoneVilla.com.
Our final stop will be Greensburg, Pennsylvania where the Summer Sounds Concerts will be held 7:00 every Friday evening from June 1st through August 31st. These free shows are presented at the Robertshaw Pavillion in St. Clair Park thanks to the support of volunteers along with corporate sponsorship and donations from concert goers. Additional information and schedules can be found at www.SummerSounds.com. I sincerely urge you to attend these events and support the businesses and organizations that promote them in your area.