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Wine Time at Penn's Colony to showcase regional wines

| Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Wine labels contain a substantial amount of legal content that is regulated by the federal government, under the auspices of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Greenhouse Winery
Wine labels contain a substantial amount of legal content that is regulated by the federal government, under the auspices of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Greenhouse Winery's Red Hot Diamond
Greenhouse Winery
Greenhouse Winery's Red Hot Diamond
Nova Cellars Winery
Nova Cellars Winery
Nova Cellars Winery

Local wine producers are hoping consumers will raise their glasses in support of hometown selections made from locally grown grapes and bottled in Pennsylvania.

Beth Rush, organizer of the third annual Wine Time at the Colony at Penn's Colony in Clinton Township, Butler County, says the wine-tasting event is designed to celebrate traditional and handcrafted vintages and call attention to the regional wine industry that is growing in size and reputation. According to several government sources, Pennsylvania ranks in the top 10 in the nation for production of wines.

“For 2014, we have expanded the festival and tasting areas and redesigned the layout of winery tents,” Rush says.

This year's event will showcase 13 wineries and more than 20 artisans and specialty-food purveyors, up considerably from the first Wine Time at the Colony held in September 2012, which featured six wineries and drew 300 visitors. Last year's event attracted more than 1,500 tasting admissions and eight wineries.

Visitors will have an opportunity to sample a variety of wines from local producers such as Greg Hazuza and Cindy Helinski of Irwin, who recently opened their fourth Greenhouse Winery storefront location in Brentwood.

“We will have 10 to 12 varieties on hand, from dry reds to sweet and specialty wines,” Helinski says. “Of course, we plan on bringing our best-selling wine, Hoe 'n the Garden, and April Showers, a semi-sweet white.” Their other varieties include Harvest Moon, a spiced apple wine; Chocolate Strawberry; and Red Hot Diamond, a sweet white aged with a cayenne pepper in each bottle.

Helinski says Pennsylvania has always produced quality sweet-wine grapes, but in the past five years, grapes used for production of drier wines, especially reds, have improved with each season.

The couple's winemaking hobby turned into a business six years ago. Since then, they have increased their wine production from 1,200 gallons the first year to 8,000 gallons two years later, with more than 30 varieties. With recently purchased bottling equipment, their anticipated production for 2014 is 14,000 gallons.

Another local winery at the wine-tasting event will be Nova Cellars Winery in Pulaski, Lawrence County, and Fractured Grape Wine Cellars in New Wilmington, Lawrence County. Owner Walt Nova says their best-selling fruit wines have been blueberry and banana, which will be returning in late summer.

“I like to experiment with many different wines. Banana was an experiment, and it came out great,” Nova says. “We have also tried mango and watermelon recently, and we will see how those come out in a few months.”

Nova and his wife started their winery because they enjoy visiting wineries to relax with a glass of wine. Also, they noticed how hand-crafted wines have become increasingly popular as a social beverage.

“I think people are looking for something new, and they are realizing there are better things than light beer and boxed wines,” Nova says. For the Colony event, they plan to bring some of their drier wines, such as their chardonnay, syrah, guwerztraminer and Phoenix, in addition to blackberry wine.

One of the newest wineries in the Pittsburgh area, La Vigneta, will be at Penn's Colony, offering its specialty California and Chilean wines made locally. Francesca Howden of Brookline sells their wines exclusively at Pittsburgh-area festivals and farmers markets, including the Mt. Lebanon Uptown Farmer's Market, where they are regulars on Saturday mornings. She hopes to open a storefront and larger production facility within a year.

Howden's family began making wine in Italy and has more than 40 years of wine-making experience. She says many of the practices and lessons learned in three generations still are used in their winery today.

“We take great pride in our process and believe that our small-batch wines speak for themselves,” she says. “Each batch is carefully monitored. We keep a very close watch on temperature, and our practices keep the wine safe from oxygen while aging and processing. We believe that wine-making is something that cannot be learned in a science book but is a skill that is inherent to the winemaker. It is a labor of love, and you can taste the difference in the wine.”

Howden's goal is to provide the Pittsburgh region with a true California-style winery tasting experience. At the Penn's Colony wine event, her selections will include petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon, white zinfandel, moscato and Harvest Red.

The event will feature specialty foods by 10 purveyors and 10 artisans selling arts and crafts. Members of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Wine Society will be on hand to show visitors how to handle, taste and interpret wine.

The outdoor event will include picnic seating and entertainment by Five Guys Named Moe with Jimmy Sapienza.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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