Monday, September 30, 2013

Crossing the Border for Stop Number Ten: Mazza Vineyards

After a delicious breakfast at Buccia Vineyard, we traveled east to start day two of our trip at Mazza Vineyards in North East, Pennsylvania.
North East, PA, sounds a lot farther away from Ohio than it really is. It's near the northwest corner of the state by the city of Erie, but it's in the northeast corner of Erie county, which is likely how it got its name. So, it's north, and it's east, but not very far east. Go figure, Pennsylvania.

This was a very scenic drive because we could see the Lake Erie shoreline as we traveled and everywhere we looked, there were grapevines. Everywhere. Anyone who owns land, from a small parcel to acres of farmland, grows grapes in North East. You would think there's a city ordinance that mandates it. Fruit growing was part of the economic foundation of the borough and, as it turns out, it still is since one of the largest employers for those living in North East is Welch's. Seeing grapes for miles made the drive to the winery very enjoyable.

Mazza has a beautiful facility. The exterior has a rustic, coastal Italian feel. Just through the entrance is the gift shop which had a lot of unique items for wine lovers as well as shelves full of wines for sale. The girl at the counter, who also assisted us with our tasting, was a pleasure. She greeted us like we were old friends and she knew her stuff when it came to the wines.

Our experience was a lot of fun here. We got there early in the morning and had the whole place to ourselves, so it was easy to learn about the wines and the winery from our server. The Mazza brothers, Robert and Frank, came to the United States from Italy in 1955- a year after their father, an Italian vintner- and established Mazza Vineyards in 1973. One thing we found interesting was that the winery, built by Italian-born winemakers, makes German-style wine because the climate of the area is more supportive of the Germanic production method.

The tasting room is absolutely stunning. The large, open space is reminiscent of contemporary Tuscan style, with tiled floors and a gorgeous, wrap-around lacquered wood bar. Mazza clearly put a lot of money into developing this room but still managed to foster a comforting, relaxing atmosphere. Bravo, Mazza. The craftsmanship is truly breathtaking.

Mazza offers a six tastings for $3.00 deal, which the Bear and I split. I ordered the Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sparkling Riesling. The Chardonnay was a very crisp, lightly acidic, oaked Chard. There's a little butterscotch in the nose and some apple in the taste. The Pinot Grigio was fruity and dry, with some peach and apple notes and a smooth finish. Both of these would pair well with most foods, especially light pastas and fish.

The Sparkling Riesling had my attention immediately because his is the first winery we've been to that has a sparkling option on their tasting menu. There's usually concern about it going flat before finishing the bottle, so I don't blame other wineries for not offering it since there's a definite potential for waste. I'm not sure if Mazza somehow resealed the bottle to keep it fresh or if business is steady enough that they don't have to worry about it, but whatever they did, it worked. I am SO glad we got to try it because it was excellent. It was crisp and bubbly, with the sweet aroma of the Riesling grape in the nose. The bubbles cut the traditionally sweet Riesling taste perfectly- not too bitter, not too sugary- and made the finish light and effortless.

The Bear ordered the Chambourcin, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. The Chambourcin was pretty good- the Bear liked it more than I did. I liked the plum and cherry nose but there was a little too much smoke in the taste for me. The Cab was decent, but not exceptional. There were hints of berry in the aroma but the taste and finish were average. The Sangiovese was unique with a little bit of pepper and a little bit of tobacco in the taste. The finish is mild even though it's full of bold flavor. It would pair well with flavorful meat dishes, especially ones with a more gamey taste.

In addition to the wines we tasted, there are ice wines, fruit wines, and sweeter, traditionally domestic options like Concord, Niagara, and Pink Catawba.

We purchased the Sparkling Riesling which didn't even make it home because it turned into the mimosas that we enjoyed with our breakfast the next morning.

Mazza Vineyards is a lot bigger than just the winery we visited, which is the original establishment. They have three sister wineries: South Shore Wine Company, also in North East (our next stop), and two Mazza Chautauqua Cellars locations in New York state. Their wines are available in two retail locations in Erie, PA, one in North East, and will soon be available in a retail shop in Pittsburgh. They also ship wines throughout the state of Pennsylvania and to other states as well, depending on the state laws. Call 814-725-8695 or 1-800-796-WINE to place an order and see if they can to ship to you. Orders are not able to be placed online.

If you're looking to stock up your wine cellar before the winter weather hits, there's a 20% discount on purchases of 12 bottles or more and a 10% discount on purchases of 6-11 bottles. To the best of my knowledge, and likely due to state law restrictions, this is unheard of in the state of Ohio.

We need to cross the border more often.

I highly recommend visiting Mazza. The facility is beautiful, the wine is fantastic, and the girl who helped us (whose name I wish I remembered) was great. It's open year-round and tours are available for anyone interested. You can follow their Facebook page for information on special events. The tasting room alone is worth the drive. The craftsmanship is incredible; any description I could write couldn't possibly do it justice.

Mazza is a must-visit if you are, or ever will be, in the area. We both liked it a lot and we'll hopefully be returning shortly.

Check back soon for a review of our next stop, one of Mazza's sister wineries, South Shore Vineyards. As always, enjoy your grapes responsibly! Cheers!

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