For Denise and John Wilkerson, owning a vineyard had always been a shared dream, but not one they thought would ever be realized. Wandering through the French regions of Dijon and Bordeaux on their honeymoon, the two sampled myriad wines and mustards, refining their palates and developing an appreciation for wine-dipped mustard sandwiches. Back in the states, the two tried their hand at cattle farming before making a dramatic decision: they'd sell the cattle, work on beautifying their 20 acres of land, and find a sunny patch of earth to plant those first few rows of wine grapes.
Today, the two curate tastings of their award-winning wines in a renovated barn, where barrels have been re-purposed into tables, and grapes have been re-purposed as alcohol. Through open doors, the rustic tasting room looks out over the Wilkersons' 20 acres, which are populated by rows of grapes and the lush undergrowth of native plants.
Armed with 20 years of experience, the brewmasters at Mr. Steve's Homebrew and Wine Supplies help amateur boozesmiths notch the proper equipment and wisdom to craft homemade beer and wine. Bring beer dreams to foamy fruition with the Brewer Best kit (a $75 value), which includes the containers, tubes, and other necessary gewgaws, but excludes bottles and patience. A variety of ingredient kits (a $40 value) can facilitate the production of about 50 bottles of beer in a wide range of flavors and species, including standbys such as irish stout and brown ale or seasonals such as Summer Delight. Alternately, find a way to fill up empty water balloons with a winemaking equipment kit (a $115 value) and ingredient kit (a $100 value). The kit enables budding vintners to produce about 30 bottles of riesling, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon, or myriad other varieties.
Flickerwood Wine Cellars is a family-built, family-owned-and-operated winery that was named Best Wine Shop by the Philly HotList. Their vine-harvested, lovingly crushed fruits create seasonal vino for the tasting—choose from more than 20 varieties of reds, whites, and blushes from sweet to dry and then back to sweet again. White-wine connoisseurs can opt to bathe the buds in Chardonnay Gold, a dry white with a citrusy honey-olive flavor and a touch of oak, while the Cabernet Franc's dry, peppery red hits rouge rogues with a hint of berry and boysenberry. Or, try the Ruby Z, a rose-colored fruity wine blended from native North American grapes. Bring your own foodstuffs to bolster your tasting experience and take home a bottle of your favorite wine to continue the tasting at home.
Eric and Lee Miller started their own winery in 1982. They found a stretch of land in the appropriately named Brandywine Valley, collected vines and grapes, and opened the doors of Chaddsford Winery for business. Today, winemaker Jim Osborn continues to run the business in their stead, growing some of his own grapes in the winery's private vineyards, maintaining lots on promising soil as far away as Washington, and sourcing grapes from growers around the country. He puts his own spin on familiar varietals like chardonnay, and also produces an artisan series including a noiret, a relatively new hybrid grape developed by Cornell University. He, of course, continues to make many of the winery's easy-drinking favorites, such as the spiced apple wine.
Osborn and the rest of the winery staff host tastings in a rustic room abutting a patio and beautifully landscaped gardens, where visitors can enjoy drinks in the shade of a table's umbrella or a tree's branches. They're open for such tastings often, giving samples of 8 to 10 wines that range in flavor from grape to different grape.