The countryside of France and Napa Valley, California may be the leading global destinations when it comes to wine, with roughly 10 million and 4 million wine-lovers visiting each location, respectively, on an annual basis.
But, according to the Pennsylvania Winery Association, the state is giving these industry giants a run for their money. Pennsylvania has more than 270 wineries and is the fifth-largest grower of grapes nationwide. More than 1 million gallons of wine, many of them award-winning, are produced in PA each year, with a hearty portion of that amount created right in Bucks County.
In order to showcase local wine offerings, the Bucks County Wine Trail — comprised of Bishop Estate Vineyard and Winery, Buckingham Valley Vineyards, Crossing Vineyards and Winery, Rose Bank Winery, Rushland Ridge Vineyards, Sand Castle Winery and Wycombe Vineyards — is once again offering its popular Passport to Bucks initiative.
Beginning Nov. 1 and continuing through March 31, 2020, wine enthusiasts can embark on a leisurely, self-guided tour. Bucks County residents and tourists alike are invited to purchase a VIP wine-tasting card for $30 and enjoy a world-class tasting at each of the seven spots.
Instead of receiving a stamp, which occurs when passport-holders visit foreign countries, the Passport to Bucks bearer, with each winery visit, will have his or her card punched. Once all seven wineries have been visited, the card will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win two cases of locally made wine.
Chad Sletten, owner of Sand Castle Winery and newly elected president of the Bucks County Wine Trail, said all of the businesses work together as one unit. Basically, there’s no competition.
“As a collaborative group, we really try to focus on wine-making and producing the best product that we can. We have this theory that the weakest link is not to be, so we all work hand in hand,” Sletten said. “It’s a funny business because we encourage people to go to others in the same business. That’s the uniqueness of the business in that we’re not trying to hoard all of the customers ourselves.”
Passport-goers are able to make stops at their own pace over the course of a weekend, a few weekends, or seasonally. Sletten explained how Bucks County’s climate and growing conditions are like those of France’s Bordeaux region, which help winemakers create a robust selection of Chardonnay, Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon, among dozens of other special, dessert and seasonal favorites.
In addition to wine tasting, he said visitors can take in the scenic views and rolling hills of Bucks County.
“We are a major draw for people that come into this county, 8 million people a year. We like to say that we’re one of their main catalysts for coming in,” Sletten said. “Outside of the casino, we’re one of the primary drivers for people to come out for a day.”
Passport to Bucks cards are available for purchase at each of the wineries as well as at VisitBucksCounty.com and the Bucks County Visitor Center, 3207 Street Road, Bensalem. For more information on the Bucks County Wine Trail, visit buckscountywinetrail.com. To learn more about the Passport to Bucks program, visit buckscountywinetrail.com/event/passport-to-bucks. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org