Many times I've started to write a post on Va La, my favorite winery in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but have aborted the mission because 1) the pictures I've taken in the past were seriously bad, and 2) while I love wine, I'm uncomfortable about confidently describing wine.
Well, I've finally taken some half-decent photos, and while I can't banter like a sommelier, all that matters with wine is that if you like it, you like it. And I like Va La's wine!As well as the wine, I enjoy visiting Va La's vineyard and tasting room in Avondale, PA, a tiny town — if you can even call it that — I somehow found myself living in for eight months (long story). Just a ten minute car ride from Kennett Square, and an hour from Philadelphia, a trip to Va La makes a nice weekend getaway.
Hit up other wineries along the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, as well, if you really want to make a day out of it. Va La is sneaky, though, and doesn't show up on the official Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, but don't miss Va La! It's the best of the bunch.
Sitting on 7 acres of land that has been in the family since 1928, Va La vineyards grows all of their grapes (save but a few from other local vineyards) for their wines. Production is small at Va La, producing on average 500 - 750 cases of wine per vintage, but some as little as 250 bottles. You must go to Va La to buy the wine; you will not find it at wine stores.
You'll find quirky mixes like the big, robust Mahogany blended with malvasia nero, barbera, charbono, sagrantino, la grein, carmine, teroldego, and petit verdot; and, if you're very lucky, a straight-up nebiolo. The wines aren't cheap (most bottles range from $25 - $45), but, remember, this is a small operation.
I admire Va La's passion for making good wine, but most of all for making wine that they want to make, how they want to make it. Fittingly, "va la," which means "go there" in proper Italian, also means "piss off" in the vernacular.I must warn you, before you even drive up the driveway lined with rows of grape vines to the picturesque stone and wood barn, you will smell Avondale's signature scent. Avondale is smack in the middle of mushroom country. Mushroom production — and the compost involved in mushroom production — smells like a loaded baby diaper.
Do not let the abominable smell discourage you. Your nose will adjust in a few minutes, and I actually find that Va La wines taste finest when sipped on premises with eau de compost swirling about. I guess it's true; a wine's terroir is best enjoyed while standing on the terrain in which it was grown.Sidle up to the tasting bar on the lower level of the barn for a $10 tasting of wines, or hit the upstairs art gallery for the $20 tasting of wines. The family and friends who man the bar are always chipper and eager to explain each wine and their food pairings. The tasting pours are healthy (no measured pour spouts here!), and the pairings with local Pennsylvania Noble Cheddar, ShellBark Hollow Farm goat cheese, and Neuchatel chocolate are fabulous.When you're done with your tasting, mosey around the barn to sample olive oils, jams, and marinated mushrooms. I cried when Sunny Dell Foods burned down in 2006, and thought I'd never have their teriyaki marinated mushrooms again, but they rebuilt, and I grab a jar every time I stop in at Va La.You're going to find Va La so cozy that you'll want to stay. Buy a glass of wine (or a bottle), grab some local cheeses from the cooler along with some crackers, and head upstairs to the gallery where there are plenty of tables.
If it's nice outside, go out back and hang on the deck or under the backyard pergola, where many weekends there's jazz music from Glenn E. Williams, Va La's official house band, or wood fired pizza for sale cooked on the back of the aptly named Wood Fired Pizza truck. Yep, you're going to want to go ahead and get a bottle and stay a while.The best part about Va La is the owner and winemaker, Anthony Vietri, and his sarcasm-filled email newsletters. I highly suggest you sign up for the newsletters (scroll down) to be in the know about weekend festivities, and, of course, new wine releases. Va La is also good about updating on Facebook, if that's your thing.
Va La Family Farmed Wines
8820 Gap Newport Pike (Rt. 41), Avondale, PA 19311