Greendance Memories Contest!

Do you have fond memories of visiting Greendance Winery?  Perhaps you were married at the winery, or you celebrated an anniversary here, or just kicked back and enjoyed a bottle of wine on a sunny, summer afternoon?  Share your story in 250-words or less as a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page – we’ll read your entry, and three winners will be selected.  Contest will run through to the end of July! Here’s what you’ll win:

First Place Winner:

  • A wine and cheese basket from Greendance Winery, featuring 3 of our award-winning wines and gourmet delights
  • Dinner for two at Nino’s Restaurant in the beautiful Laurel Highlands
  • A complimentary Thursday night stay at Holiday Inn Express in Mt. Pleasant

 Second Place Winner:

  • A wine and cheese basket from Greendance Winery, featuring 2 of our award-winning wines and gourmet delights
  • A personal tour of Greendance and Sand Hill Berries, and a complimentary fruit pie made right on our farm

 Third Place Winner:

  • A wine and cheese basket from Greendance Winery, featuring a bottle of our award-winning wine and gourmet delights

Rhubarb

A Salmon Faverolle hen at Collingwood Children...

A Salmon Faverolle hen at Collingwood Children’s Farm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are not talking about the fruit today; Rhubarb is the newest addition to the winery atmosphere here. He is a majestic Salmon Faverolle rooster who has as new home at Greendance and a flock of new Guinea friends. Rhubarb’s previous residence was a tree-lined street in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Sewickley—where his owners had to give him up after more than a few complaints. He was a bit shy upon arrival, but quickly warmed up and his crowing continues to fill the air. Rhubarb provided some entertainment for the gathering groomsmen—luckily, the rest of the wedding today did not mind his calls.

Salmon Faverolle roosters are large and magnificent, parading around with a virtual rainbow of colors—iridescent black, burnished with bronze on their backs and wings, while their hackles and saddles are the color of pale straw. These roosters are particularly calm and dignified, and make great roosters for the home flock since they are not as aggressive as some other breeds. Hens are more subdued in their colors with snowy breasts and fluffy white faces, their backs are a lovely honeyed salmon color with white lacing.

With our new rooster, it seems a fitting time to crow that Rhubarb Wine will be returning! After a long hiatus, the delicate rhubarb flavor of this great wine is currently in production with a bottling date set for the end of June.

Donegal Store Opening!

Greendance has branched out with our third satellite store now open along Route 31 in Donegal, PA! The new store is located next to Rustic Lodge Furniture and across the street from the Country Pie Shoppe. We held a private grand-opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday evening for everyone at Greendance and our friends. Out of the Fire Café catered some great platters of hummus, fruits, cheeses, and bruschetta with perfectly thin crostini; while winery partner Amy made ceviche (which we will be serving in the Café this summer on our Friday late nights!).

The sunset filled the sky with spectacular reds and orange while we all got to relax, talk, and just enjoy the warm evening with one another.  The Zinfandel paired perfectly with the night. Debbie rang up Kathy Valkovic, who made the first purchase at the store that very night. A big thank-you to all our friends who came and celebrated with us, cheers to new sales!  Store hours are Monday, Thursday-Sunday 12-8pm, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Concord 2011 is bottled in time for the holiday weekend. Be sure to stop by the Winery Saturday, Sunday and Memorial Day Monday for grilled burger platters (12-3pm), sandwiches, strawberry shortcake, and other delicious gourmet goodies. Hope everyone has a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Tank Talk

ImageOur new baby is a 2,250 gallon Italian tank named Big Bella! Coming in at 14 ft tall she is our largest single tank to date bringing our total output between 19,000 – 20,000 gallons at any one time. Thanks to winery tech Robert’s diligence and excitement, she is already filled with 2,153 gallons of the 2012 vintage of Isabella. All past vintages of Isabella were divided into numerous batches and in all sizes of tanks, just whatever was empty and available for use. Now, one single batch can be made in the large tank, thus freeing up smaller size tanks and making calculations less of a hassle for our wine techs, but the large capacity of the tank is only one benefit. Big Bella is our only tank that now features a special door near the lower front side that seals from the inside-out allowing more observation throughout the fermentation process—instead of the usual doors/valves that seal from the outside-in. She is also designed with a more advanced rope crane with a guide channel that prevents the rope from rubbing against the outside of the tank when removing the massive lid.

One drawback to using larger and larger tanks is the difficulty of fixing an anomaly that could occur during fermentation. Larger batches are thus more risky if something would go wrong. “It’s like having a large family and one of the kids gets the measles, just wait a few days and the rest will have it,” as winery tech John put it. This is why it is so important for early detection of any issues, and where the new observation door becomes crucial. For a little perspective on the range of tank sizes in the wine world, John also pointed out that Ernest & Gallo winery in California has a single tank that is able to hold more wine than the entire state of Pennsylvania produces in a year. John and Robert are content to managing their new 2,250 gallon tank.

From Big Bella to the smallest 25 gallon tanks, there is a hefty price tag for the extra effort and care that is put into the craftsmanship of each. The food-grade stainless steel shells are painstakingly welded with precision, then hand finished inside to eliminate any tiny crevasses where bacteria could grow and make them perfectly seamless. Only after all this can they be shipped to us and used to make exquisite local wines here at Greendance!

Dog Days Already

Unofficial guard dog Dandy is taking a  vacation from his ground-hog hunting to greet our guests on the front porch today.  It’s only early May and the weather in south-western PA feels like the middle of summer. Light breezes and sun rays dance through the gardens and vineyard. Our strawberries are plentiful and flaunting their victory over the frosts that barely fazed them! (although I think we really have Ramon and Bob to thank for their hard work covering and uncovering the fields day after day).

To our sweet wine drinkers, Bella Rosé is back! The 2011 vintage has a sweet floral nose and a taste that may give Isabella a run for its money. We were all a bit sleepy so bottling dragged on more than usual. Little did we know an after lunch problem was waiting to wake us up a bit. We ate and returned to the cellar to finish. Filled bottles were passed down the line only to have our corking machine start pushing corks down so far that they became stuck below the neck of the bottle. Problem! Robert, Leslie, Barb, Linda and myself, armed with cork screws, and had a few laughs opening all the mistakes. A perfect Monday to take a moment and enjoy the simple things.

This past weekend was beautiful. It was such a welcome sight to see the Tasting Room packed on Sunday and all our staff enjoying every moment of it–to us summer has begun as early as our blossoms.

Strawberries vs. The Robins

Patience has paid off, today we picked 2 overflowing flats of strawberries!! We had hoped to pick the first strawberry flat of the season on Monday, but it seems Mother Nature decided to take a break from spring, and go back to winter. Anticipating the snow, we were able to get all the strawberries covered and the garden plants inside the greenhouse. Snow actually provides good insulation for the berries so our worries were minimal at first, but the heavy wet snow today draws concerns over too much weight pushing down on the delicate blossoms.  It is still too early to judge how much the recent weather will affect the coming crop—till then we just have to sit back and enjoy a story from Ramon with a glass of strawberry wine and few (or more!) of the juicy-sweet berries.

Ramon, our chief berry picker, stopped in to share a humorous story about covering the fields the day before. If you have ever seen the rare sight that is Ramon laughing, you know it is something special. For the past few days, he was getting increasingly irritated at the Robins hopping up and down the field taking little pecks at the almost ripe strawberries. Having enough of their antics, he scared the birds away and decided to cover the berries early on Sunday afternoon. Checking on the fields a few hours later, the Robins were back, naturally, but the covered rows caught them completely off guard. They were hopping and bobbing around trying as hard as they could to figure out where the berries had gone—the wind blowing waves through the covers sending Robins tumbling. We gave the birds a little credit for determination, but could not help laughing! Ramon – 1, Robins – 0.

Picking - The First Phase of Wine

A White for Spring

A few bottles mingle in the nude on one of the cellar’s bottling tables, waiting for Jay to reload the label machine. Recognize them by their color? This sweet white has a hue of gold and a pure American white grape flavor that will bring back memories of picking grapes from your grandmother’s arbor. Still guessing? Niagara is back, the new vintage was bottled late last week—all 600 gallons! It’s on our shelves now for those that have been waiting, or try a sip in the tasting room. Either way, be sure to stop in and enjoy the sweet taste of spring.

Apricots!

About one spring in three the apricots make it through the spring frosts. This is a new variety, and supposedly cold-tolerant. If this year is successful, it would be a lot of fun to consider plantingApricot Bloom and Bee a small grove which would supply us with a tart, rich apricot wine.

Spring Pruning

What is the best way to describe spring grape pruning? With a graphic.

For those people unfamiliar with horticulture, it may come as a surprise that TONS of grapes result from vines that have essentially no growth from the previous year in the early spring of the year. Over the next few week we will be removing the spent canes from last year and any evidence of excess growth from the previous year. We will allow only one cane per spur each with two buds. (An emergency cane will be allowed to grow, however.)

First we will go though the rows with hedge trimmers removing long cumbersome growth from 2011. Then we will selectively prune the healthiest cane growing closest to the training wire down to two buds. Then following that a person armed with loppers will remove excess dead wood so that no new canes can possibly emerge. With painstaking effort we will move from the drawing at the bottom right to the drawing at the top left!

The four stages of the vine

The four stages of The Vine