Death of a Winery

A few weeks ago, I posted a couple of pieces about my recent ‘bike’ trip to the Brandywine Valley–it was not really a bike trip since we only rode about 100 meters before it started to rain buckets. So much for which had stated there was only a 30% chance of rain (does anyone out there have a weather site that is accurate at least half of the time?).

I digress.

I wrote a couple of posts that can be found HERE and HERE about the trip.  One of the more interesting visits, however, was at Chaddsford Winery, the long time ‘leader’ in PA wines.  I wrote a piece about the visit which has been posted over at The Pennsylvania Vine Company site (click HERE). Many of you here visit the Drunken Cyclist site to see what kind of buffoonery I have encountered (or created), but this piece is an attempt at being more serious.  Let me know what you think….

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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12 Responses to Death of a Winery

  1. talkavino says:

    Nice article – it is your traditional style, just a bit softer : ) It is a very sad phenomena which I can’t really understand – I’m told that there is a significantly increased interest from the consumer side to the sweet wines – this is what my friend who owns the wine shop tells me. I hope this is only a passing vogue, as I can’t imagine myself drinking sweet wines as a mainstream…


    • Thanks! Yeah the sweet wine thing is more than a bit scary. I did not include it in the piece (but likely should have) that I did try one of the four sweet wines: the Niagra. They told me that it was the least sweet of the four and it was actually sweeter (although otherwise tasting exactly the same) than Welch’s white grape juice.


  2. A well written, sad story…I agree with Anatoli, you still shine through. Well done.


  3. Great article, well done. In a twisted way I’m kinda happy that sweet wines are becoming popular. I see it as a sign that the rubes who became experts after seeing “Sideways” are fading away. Now, hopefully, Pinot Noir prices will start coming down. For the record – I became an “expert” before the movie. And I’m still a rube.

    btw – just saw a post where someone did a tasting including Chaddsford.


  4. Enjoyed this post very much. Totally agree with the others that your personal style shows through nicely, though you’ve used it to a bit different effect in this post than you do over here at TDC. Hope you’ll be doing more such guest posts. A thoughtful piece. Cheers!


  5. Mark Cocahrd says:

    Jeff, I don’t think I was your tour guide, but I did pour for you in the cellar If I recall correctly. Correct me if I’m wrong. I wanted to point out a a few inaccuracies in your retelling of the story of the Millers departure from Chaddsford. First, the vineyard was never owned by the Millers or their partners but was leased from a landholder in the Reading Furnace area of the French Creek watershed in Northern Chester County who owns 600 to 700 acres. It was originally plated to hybrids and Eric brought the abandoned vineyard back into production in the late 80’s . He then began to plant Pinot and Chardonnay in 1990 a few acres at a time eventually the vineyard reached about 30 acres which gave us about 30 % of the grapes we used each year. In addition to pinot noir and chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah, barbera and pinot gris were planted.

    The reason for abandoning the farming operation was twofold one the increased focus on sweet wines and the financial risk associated with farming in our climate. In 2008 the entire crop was wiped out by hail, in 2009 it was a cold wet dreary growing season (we had only 4 days over 90 degrees). The old adage in the wine business is you can always buy grapes cheaper than you can grow them.

    So since the Millers did not own the vineyard they obviously could not offer it for sale. You would think that the actual owner of the land would have tried to find someone else to run the grape growing operation. But this was not the case and did not want someone else farming on his property, I guess it was the special relationship he had with Eric. To the best of my knowledge there are no plans for condos or any other construction on this beautiful piece of land on the top of a hill, but revert back to open land as it was before grapes were planted.

    I am puzzled that your piece only mentioned two wines tasted years ago and nothing about what you actually tasted that day??? Your reaction to the wines seemed very positive so I don’t kow if you were just acting or what, if so you are pretty good at it.

    I enjoyed takling to you guys that day and had been wondering when you’d write it up.

    There are some excellent wineries not that far that you should check out Galen Glen, Pinnacle Ridge, Manatawny Creek and Allegro in PA


    • Hi Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond to my post. I really appreciate you providing the history of the vineyard as well. I am a researcher by trade and I did try and find information about the ‘demise’ (for lack of a better term) of the vineyard. The only information I had was from another winery that I have visited who told me that they were offered the opportunity to purchase the vineyard, but turned it down. This person then told me that it was going to be turned into condos. I also tried to verify this, but I found nothing on the internet and the humans that I called all said they had no idea what happened or was going to happen. I found that a little hard to believe since most wine making communities are rather small and everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing, but I hit a dead end. I apologize for ‘running’ with some information that was not entirely correct (although at the time I certainly believed it was). As for the wine, I did enjoy several of the wines, including the ’07 Merican and the ’11(?) Pinot. I chose not to include them in the piece since it seemed rather clear to me that Chaddsford was moving away from (pardon my bias) ‘serious’ wine making. Some people that we met that day (all of whom, I must say were extremely nice and generous) seemed to doubt the ‘party line’ that the level of ‘varietal production’ would not be affected. (This is but a perception, that was confirmed by the friend that accompanied me, but not verified in any way) Regardless, I think you would agree that the focus is (has) shifting toward the sweet wines (I only tried one of those–the Niagra–and it was even sweeter than Welch’s grape juice, so I passed on the other three). Thus, a review of wines that it seems might no longer be produced seemed a bit unnecessary. I have mentioned on several posts that I am still trying to understand PA wines–I think they will need to compete on both price and quality in order for the general wine drinking populace to take notice. So far, I have only seen one that comes close (Galer), but now I will certainly plan a trip to the other wineries you suggest–from my brief encounter with you (and given your knowledge of wine), your ‘endorsement’ carries significant weight. Thank you again for your thoughtful and informative response–I truly am grateful. I also hope our paths cross sooner rather than later. Jeff.


  6. Pingback: Pennsylvania Wine–J. Maki | the drunken cyclist

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