Courtyard Wineries opened in 2010 and has two separate brands: La Courette, which has Courtyard's dry to semi-dry wines and Barjo Bons, which is comprised of their sweet selections. While having two different brands from one winery isn't a first, the way they were presented was impressive- each brand has it's own tasting bar. The Barjo Bons bar will definitely be the first thing to catch your eye, and not just because it's close to the entrance. It's mostly glass block and lit by color changing neon lights! I couldn't resist taking a video.
The gentleman that we met while we were tasting at Courtyard was such a pleasure to talk with. He was so knowledgable about the wines he was serving, I almost felt like I was in a wine master class. It was clear that he enjoyed talking to us, he could tell how much we appreciate good wine and the hard work that goes into making it.
We felt welcome and comfortable here, and our host was the kind of person that you can meet for the first time and feel like you've know them for life. He even allowed us into the Barrel Room, which he is building by hand- it is remarkable. The handcrafted wooden wine storage area was still under construction while we were there, but it spans more than a full wall of the room. True to it's name, the Barrel Room has large oak barrels full of wine, and getting to see these up close was a first for me so I was pretty thrilled.
|The stunning wine storage display in the Barrel Room
Courtyard's wines were some of the more impressive ones we had on our trip. Generally we prefer the dry wines, so we spent our visit at the La Courette tasting bar. Overall, the most outstanding aspect of our tasting was that this was the first time the description of the wines matched the taste. Many times we try a wine and we get some of what the notes say it's supposed to taste like, but Courtyard's were spot on.
The Chardonnay was delicious. It's oaked for fourteen months and has the robust flavor an oaked Chard should have, and has a toasted buttery caramel flavor in the finish. This would be a good wine to pair with bold flavored seafood dishes. The Cabernet Sauvignon was another notable selection. There's a vanilla-cherry burst of taste at first, a smooth body, and a rich, velvety finish. If you're having a hearty meat dish, this is the wine for you.
The Noiret really wowed us, me especially. I haven't had a lot of experience with Noirets, but I'm quickly coming to like them. It's a perfect fit for the climate of North East, PA; I really enjoy tasting wines that are made from grapes the vineyard actually grows themselves rather than imports. Courtyard's has a full-but-subtle body and a slightly peppery finish. It would pair well with just about any meal but could also easily hold its own.
We tried the Chardonel, which is a newer grape and isn't very popular in the Ohio/Pennsylvania area yet. Chardonel is very similar to Chardonnay and is another delicious creation out of Cornell University. It's not oaked but the natural acidity of the grape gives the wine a little bit of a bite. It has a apricot-tangerine flavor and a bright finish. This is a little more versatile for food pairings than the Chardonnay since it's more mild and wouldn't overpower more delicately flavored meals. We ended up taking the Noiret and the Chardonel home with us.
We didn't taste the sweet wines, but it should be noted that the shiny, glowing Barjo Bons bar shares the same whimsical air as the names of the wines it serves. With names like Radiance, Dazzle, and First Kiss, I cannot think of a better stage for presenting these vintages.
If you're looking to visit Courtyard, they're open year-round, seven days a week and offer standard and group tastings as well as a Reserved VIP tasting in the Barrel Room. You can find various upcoming events on their website and Facebook page. Courtyard also can help you host a private event at their location or accommodate a group if you're interested in having a party with some good friends.
If you can't make the trip to North East, Courtyard's wines (and some gifts!) can be ordered online. You may also be able to find some of their wines in a store near you. I was pretty jazzed to see a few La Courettes and Barjo Bons in a Pennsylvania wine and spirits store when we were shopping yesterday (October 19)!
Courtyard was far and away one of the more memorable wineries we visited on our trip. Not only was the wine excellent, but it was nice to be able to have a good conversation with someone so knowledgable and enthusiastic. This is another must-go if you're in the area or looking to try something new on a weekend getaway. We both really liked the fact that they separate the sweet and dry varieties by brand and have completely separate tasting bars. Make a reservation for the Barrel Room for your visit, it's worth it just to see the beautiful craftsmanship. You won't be disappointed at Courtyard Wineries and it is well worth the trip.
Next up, we head over to Presque Isle Wine Cellars, so check back soon for another update. Thank you for visiting and enjoy your wine responsibly!