|Trio of White Wines from the Mount Nittany Winery Credit: Bill Rockwelldd|
Ironically, a few days after a friend who's a professional in the wine business with an experienced palate told me that a Gewurtztraminer he tasted from the Casa Narcisi Winery near Gibsonia north of Pittsburgh was the best he ever had, I discovered another Pennsylvania wine worth touting.
I stumbled across Mount Nittany Vineyards and Winery while driving along Brush Valley Road, a tree-shaded, scenic byway that goes through some gorgeous countryside, on my way to Centre Hall near State College. A sign announcing the entrance to the vineyards caught my attention, and I turned up the driveway to the winery started by Joe and Betty Carroll in 1990.
Six acres of grapes are planted on their 65 acre tract that extends all the way up to the top of the mountain that lends the winery its name. Mr. Carroll, a former Peen State professor, had been a hobby winemaker for years before he started to grow grapes (Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga) to supply local winemakers.
When he discovered there was little money in the venture, he decided to open a commercial winery of his own at a time when Pennsylvania had only 30 in the entire state. Fortunate to get his product into the state store system early on, he now has several of his 26 varieties of wine available in many state stores across Pennsylvania.
At the winery, I tasted three of Mount Nittany’s whites - a Pinot Grigio, an unoaked Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel tanks and a Reserve Chardonnay, aged in American oak for six months.
Tasting room manager Linda Carroll Weaver told me the winemaker supplements the juice pressed from grapes grown on the property with juice purchased from a supplier in the Erie area. This holds true for the Chardonnays I tasted as well as the Pinot Grigio, entirely made from juice purchased from the supplier.
Of the three whites I tasted, I preferred the Pinot Grigio, whose allures start in the glass with a bright golden color and a bouquet rich with tropical fruit. In the mouth, the wine has an excellent fruit to acid balance that ends with a smooth finish and with just enough sweetness to make it a drink-by-itself beverage yet dry enough to pair with food.
Overall, the Pinot Grigio has to be one of the best I ever tasted, edging out some of the ones I’ve had from both California and Italy. The wine comes with an alcohol content of 12% and a $14.99 price tag.
The Mount Nittany Chardonnay has a lighter pale yellow color, a subtle peach and apricot bouquet and a citrus flavor profile that starts and finishes dry. The retail price is also $14.99. For those who like their Chardonnay oaked, the Reserve spends six months in American oak and comes with an $18.99 price tag. Both Chardonnays come in with a 12% alcohol content.
Mount Nittany Winery is part of the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail, a group of 13 wineries that extends from Williamsport in the north to State College and to just north of Harrisburg in the east. For more information, visit website www pawinetrail.com.
Mount Nittany Winery is also part of the Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail, a string of 12 wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries. For more information, go to www.centralpatasting trail.com.
Mount Nittany Vineyards and Winery was recently voted "Best of the Best Winery" by readers of the "Bargain Sheet" of Centre County. The winery is located at 300 Houser Road, just a mile off Brush Valley Road in Centre Hall, six miles west of State College. Phone 814-466-6373 or visit website www.mtnittanywinery.com.