What The Boss Likes – Central PA wineries and a brewery

I finally got a Saturday off, so we went traveling for the day. Here in central PA, there are some wineries that we had never visited and a brewery that I read about for years but never visited. I don’t know if we were simply lucky or if all the wineries are good, but the two we visited were very good and well, we drank more than a few beers at the brewery.

shady signWe headed up Route 11/15 North and then took Route 104 to Shade Mountain Winery. You go through some very old little towns along the way, each around 10-15 miles apart thanks to using horses to get around when they were founded. The winery is on roads like those my husband and I grew up on, very winding and narrow if you aren’t used to country roads. My husband’s car, a newer model VW bug handled them quite well.

The public part of the winery is an old barn reclaimed to great effect. You can see the original beams in the ceiling, including some that haven’t even had the bark removed (something that my grandfather would have been horrified by). There is a nice gift shop area and a long L-shaped bar to sample at. You get seven samples at a sitting. These are currently free, unlike most wineries up in places like the Finger Lakes. There is also deck that allows you to look over the countryside, at the ridge and valley system in PA (yes, I have to insert a little geology.)

The winery does a wide range of wines, from quite dry for a Pennsylvanian wine to the usual very sweet ones that the state is known for. They do have some very odd wines too, including the mint wine that we found in a state store and which started this adventure. The mint wine is very good, built on a sweet and rich white wine. It is very refreshing on a hot day. They even have a blend of it and ice tea.

the deck at Shady Mountain
the deck at Shady Mountain

There are a selection of fruit wines and we tried the strawberry, cherry, elderberry, peach and pineapple. Of these, I liked the pineapple best, and it would make a fabulous white sangria, perhaps mixed with their Great White, a traminette. They also have a mead, which is more wine like than the mead we make, but still very good. They are *very* reasonably priced and we bought six bottles.

It was getting on to lunch, so we headed east to Selinsgrove, PA. I am a bit reluctant to tell you about the brewery we visited, since it is a very small place and I have the selfish want to keep it just for myself. But the beer is so good, I just can’t do that in good conscience.

Selin’s Grove Brewing is fantastic. It is a small restaurant and bar in the basement of a large stone building. There are a few tables outside but most are inside, in a room around the bar and in a small room off of it. The bar room is the bar that anyone who has played D&D has visited in their imagination, a large fireplace on one side (alas not working), a u-shaped bar in the center and 4 tables around it. There probably a dozen or so tables in the other room. They do not take reservations, so be prepared to wait. We didn’t have to, which was a lucky occurrence. They also don’t bottle their beers, so you are stuck with visiting or getting a growler. I do appreciate that they limit how many growlers one can get so they can serve the folks who drink in the bar.

Selin's Grove
Selin’s Grove

Their menu is limited, they obviously don’t have a fryolator, which is just as well in such a small space. Many of the menu items are vegetarian. I got a curried chicken salad in a pita (lovely soft pita!) and my husband got a “cowboy” sandwich, roast beef, pepper jack cheese, etc on a pita. Both were delicious.

The beers gotten with them started with a cream ale for my husband and the sour beer (a year in the barrel with wild yeasts) for me. The cream ale was the standard style with the smoothness from corn. We love Genny Cream Ale, so this was great. The sour beer was odd, but very good, bready with that hit of sourness. At $9 a goblet, it was quite a bit more expensive than the other beers but worth it if you like something unusual. After that, I got the two penny ale, a session ale with a good balance of malt and hops. My husband got the kriek, a riff on the Belgian cherry ale. It isn’t standard kriek, no wild yeasties but it is the very best kriek I have ever had; it tastes just like a cherry pie. We shared a second one of those as desert. It’s a bit strong, so beware.

A glass of the kriek
A glass of the kriek

After that, it being a gorgeous day and not wanting to go home, we headed further east to Spyglass Ridge Winery east of Sunbury. For a winery we never heard about, they do a lot, including having concert from bands we grew up with, like Kansas and REO Speedwagon.   When we arrived, we hadn’t realized they had a bridal shower scheduled. The owner was very gracious and gave us samples down in the basement, amongst the cases of wine. That was far niftier than being in just one more pretty tasting room.

We tried quite a few wines, from very sweet Cherry win to Spycat, a Catawba/Chambourcin blend, to a nice peppery Cabernet Franc, perfect for a steak. We got another six bottles.

After that we headed back home down Route 147, a beautiful ride with so many huge American Sycamore ( or London Plane) trees along it. All in all, a lovely day trip to discover there are a lot of good places to visit here in central PA.

Eat and drink well!

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