Yesterday my almost-husband (AH) looked over at me and said “what happened, did you get lost on the Southwest Passage?” I rolled my watery eyes, blew my nose, and said “no, I have so much more I want to write about but I feel like total crap!” Today, I woke up feeling much revived and decided that I should devote some time to one of our favorite stops, the Christian W. Klay Winery.
If you remember, when I last wrote we had just left the Lone Star Restaurant after filling up on their delicious coconut cream and lemon meringue pies. Our itinerary showed that we were scheduled to meet with Christian W. Klay’s owner, Sharon. Apparently in some kind of pie coma, we pulled in to the offsite tasting room and wine cellar and wandered around until the helpful staff pointed us to the top of the road where the vinyard was.
There had been a consistent downpour ever since we had hunkered down at Lone Star with our burgers and coffee. It was still coming down as we sprinted across the Christian Klay parking lot to the wine tasting room. Moments later we were greeted warmly by owner Sharon Klay. I was worried our vineyard tour would be cancelled but Sharon planned to drive us around the place in her SUV. We piled in and headed off. We quickly gained elevation on the bumpy dirt road and headed off across the grass to a beautiful outlook where Sharon told us you could see into 4 states. The rain had abated, and despite some fogginess the view was still spectacular – we pulled out some umbrellas and got out of the car to look around. Sharon said that they commonly held wedding ceremonies and had a developed a package where couples could get married on the ridge and hold their reception at the Summit Inn, just up the hill.
We got back in the car and Sharon, an artist transplanted here from New York City, told us about the history of the vineyard, likening their first few years there back in 1981 to an episode of Green Acres. Well, Green Acres no more, we passed by rolling hills covered in vines with lush bunches of grapes. It was picking season, but the crew was taking the day off due to the rain.
We headed back down to the tasting room where Sharon led us into a back room where a boisterous group of Pittsburgh musicians was holding their annual ad hoc picnic. A fiddler was going strong and a guitarist strummed away. Sharon said that this was a group who had been coming out to the winery for hears and holding a big picnic. They would buy wine and bring in their own food. Because of the rain she had offered up the fermentation room and it set quite a scene. Between huge stainless steel drums the group was munching on cheese and olives and downing plenty of Klay’s wine. Sharon had set up our private tasting in this room as well. Like most of the winemakers and purveryors we encountered on our trip, Sharon was not put off by my and the AH’s lack of sophisticated palette. She quickly asked for a Wine Aroma Wheel (developed at UC Davis) to help us articulate ourselves during the tasting. She also had assembled a platter of crackers, pepperoni and cheese and gave us recommendations about trying certain wines with them. (For example the Stone House Red was a semi-sweet that paired well with spicy foods like the pepperoni with a nice sangria like flavor). It should be noted that Sharon’s wines are named after local historical sites, events, and points of interest, like her award winning Chesnut Ridge Sunset and the excellent semi-dry Nemacolin Castle (similar to a Gewurtztraminer).
I was particularly drawn to the Blanc de Lafayette which lived up to its promise of leaving a pleasant hint of grapefruit. We purchased a bottle of this as well as a few other stand-outs (remember, I prefer the dry whites). Sharon even slipped in a bottle of Blanc de Lafayette with a special label celebrating our wedding day! We left the winery with our bellies warmed with a surprising array of delicious wines and a smile on our faces from the convivial atmosphere and Sharon’s warmth and generosity. Christian W. Klay holds events such as Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and a Clam and Lobster Bake and we are looking forward to going back to attend one of these. Christian W. Klay wines are available locally at Pennsylvania Wine Cellars at the Freight House Shops in Station Square.