If you go: York, Pa., and the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail
Using York, Pa., as our home base, my tasting companion and I made plans to spend two days visiting six wineries along the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail that surrounds the city. The wineries don’t open until noon, so we spent the morning browsing through the shops in downtown York and downing a hearty breakfast at the newly renovated Central Market.
Then we set off on the trail, where interesting wine facts poured from winemakers’ mouths: why some use barrels instead of steel tanks; why the region makes so many fruity and sweet wines; and how snacks ranging from brownies to beef jerky to ancho-chili chocolate are paired with Chambourcins, Traminettes and other wines. As one winery worker put it, you don’t just buy a ticket to taste. You pay for an education.
At each winery, we presented our Tour de Tanks ticket — a frequent-drinking card of sorts listing each participating winery — for stamping. We picked up our free wine glass at the first stop and took it with us everywhere, as directed. That meant making frequent use of “rinse stations” that consisted of everything from painted ceramic pitchers to big orange plastic buckets with spigots.
Used to simple tastings of a handful of bottled wines, I found it much more intriguing to step into dark cellars and brightly lit tank rooms to learn the backstories of the vineyards and vintners, and to taste both finished and unfinished wines.
The wineries varied from a country home to a former barn to the basement of someone’s house just off the interstate, and friendly winemakers answered questions about the grapes and the soil as well as about their businesses and themselves.
And really now, how could someone whose great-grandfathers were a cooper and a beer brewer not wind up in the business, as is the case with Jim Miller, the owner and winemaker at Moon Dancer Vineyards and Winery in Wrightsville, Pa.?
Moon Dancer was our first stop after setting out from our base in York, on roads that wound past stately houses and trailer homes, rising at one point for a view of one of the widest stretches of the Susquehanna River.