“Hello, my name is the Drunken Cyclist and I am a wine snob.”
I have known this for some time, of course, but rarely do I make that pronouncement ‘aloud’. When people call me a wine snob I take it as a complement, even though it was certainly not intended as such. They usually go a bit farther and characterize me as a ‘French Wine Snob’. While it is true that I do like the wines of France, and my cellar is 48% French (thanks Cellar Tracker), almost 43% of the cellar is American wines. Still, I make no apologies for liking French wine (or American for that matter).
When I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) this year, there were many wine regions represented, many of them about which I knew little to nothing. One such example was Virginia. Last year the WBC was held in Virginia (although I did not partake—my blog had not yet been ‘born’) and there were again representatives in Portland from the Commonwealth of VA promoting their wines. I tried quite a few and many were rather good, which got me to thinking about taking a trip down to the region for a little wine exploration. I figured it was close to Philly, and the wine has been receiving a lot of attention both in the mainstream press and on several blogs that I follow. For many of the same reasons, I have also considered a trip to the Finger Lakes region and have already ventured up to the North Fork of Long Island in New York. I will never grow tired of spending time in Sonoma, the Willamette Valley or the Santa Rita Hills, but I figured I should make a trip or two closer to home. If nothing else, it would provide some fodder for my writing here (the chances of something going wrong are pretty high just about any time I venture outside of my zip code).
Around the time I got back from the conference, I was sent a link about Pennsylvania wines that was entitled “New York and Virginia Move Over! Pennsylvania Wine Has Arrived!!”. Despite the predominance of exclamation points, I read the piece and I was impressed, but, well, I mean, this is Pennsylvania after all. I spend a rather significant amount of time both on this blog and in daily conversation complaining about the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), so part of me certainly believes that a state that apparently holds such contempt for the wine consumer could never really be a serious producer of fine wines.
Many years ago, I tasted a bunch of PA wines–most of them made from Chambourcin (a variety that is commonly found in the mid-Atlantic region, mostly because of its relatively high resistance to mildew–a common problem here–but not really something I would hang my hat on–”try our wines because they are less susceptible to skanky mold!”). Now, I am a (French) wine snob, but even so, most of those PA wines really were not very good–many giving of the odor of ‘bottom’ (it was really hard for me not to use a rather vulgar three letter word there). I do not remember all the producers, but Chaddsford certainly was one of them. Since Chaddsford has been (one of) the largest producers of wine in PA for many years, I figured there was just no reason to revisit the wines from my own backyard.
Nonetheless, I bookmarked the article (and all those exclamation points) and looked it over a couple of times. A few days later, I received an email from the Brandywine Bike Tour, advertising their annual fund raising bike tour through the Brandywine Valley where several PA wineries are located. I do not race all that much any more, and somehow I got on a lot of these bike tour mailing lists. It makes me feel old, since a lot of these ‘tours’ are popular among the blue-ish hair, really bad fashion crowd (I am no fashionista by any means, but come on—at least look at yourself in the mirror before heading out—perhaps that is a future post). Alright, clearly I have issues, even a lot of issues, but no one asked you to keep track.
After a few moments, it hit me: there must be some sort of bike route that goes through the valley, with stops at wineries along the way. So I googled. And googled. Then I googled bad bike fashion (Yikes), saw another wine blog I should follow, and checked on a dinner reservation. And then I refocused and googled Brandywine Wine Bike Trail again.
I did find the site for the Brandywine Wine Trail, but there was no mention of biking the ‘trail’. Having led bike tours in France for all those years, it just seemed like a natural fit–cycling and wine (pretty much the theme of this site, at least in theory). I contacted a buddy of mine who is into both cycling and wine as well (and is fast approaching ‘snob’ status himself, but don’t tell him I said so) and he was all gung-ho about the idea.
Within what seemed like only a few hours, he had emailed me back with a potential route all mapped out and wanted to know when we were going. I was a little shocked by this for a couple of reasons. First, I share a bunch of off the wall ideas with him, but rarely do they ever happen. In fact, I am rather sure he is still a bit surprised that I started and am still maintaining this blog (I just won’t show him all the posts I have started and not finished). Second, it would be really hard to back out at this point since he put all this work into the actual route and would be badgering me to go and making me look like a total putz if I didn’t.
That means I am going to be drinking some PA wines. But at least I will also be getting a good ride in, so it won’t be all that bad.
“Hello, my name is the Drunken Cyclist, and I am a wine snob.”