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Chaddsford Winery

I have often wondered why the big wine publications pay so little attention to the many excellent small wineries located in regions around the United States. Test my theory, pick up any of the top wine magazines and almost all the articles will be about the big wine regions, California, France, Italy, Australia, you get my point. While I understand that some great wines come from these regions, hence the interest, I just feel more must be done to promote some of these less celebrated regions here in the U. S., that well deserve some attention. That leads us to report on another unique U. S. winery.

The beautiful Brandywine Valley in southeast Pennsylvania is home to the Chaddsford Winery. The setting is a small country estate in the historic town of Chadds Ford, the winery itself is housed in a renovated 17th century colonial barn once owned by William Penn. Founded in 1982 by Eric and Lee Miller, Chaddsford enjoys the title of largest winery in the state. The location was chosen on their belief the climate, soils and growing conditions would be ideal for producing premium European style wines. Their Miller Estate vineyard in nearby northern Chester County is planted with over 30 acres of grapes.

Their first release was in 1983 and they have grown from around 3000 cases to over 25000 annually. Even with the increase, Eric’s passion to create the very best wines without losing sight that they must contain the signature of the local land, soil, climate, etc. shines through in each bottle of wine he puts his name on. Eric has been a huge influence with farmers in the area with regard to grape growing and strives to inspire other local wine makers that they too can make their mark in the wine world.

Eric Miller’s interest in wine began at an early age, spending a good portion of his youth growing up in France and near many of the famous vineyards of Europe. Returning with his family to the U. S. in 1970 they settled in New York’s Hudson Valley and founded the state’s first farm winery, Benmarl Vineyards. As a grape grower and winemaker Eric used many of the European grape varieties and pioneered wine types that are still used current day in the Eastern wine making region. He spent ten years at Benmarl perfecting his skills as a vintner before starting Chaddsford along with his wife Lee who he met in 1978 and married the following year. Lee became involved in the wine business as a journalist, she was a co-founder of the magazine “Wine East” in 1981, and the following year co-authored the first book about wineries east of Mississippi, titled “Wine East of the Rockies”. Lee also has many other published works related to wine and grapes of the east. Together they share a wealth of wine knowledge, and a goal to establish the Atlantic Highlands as a top American wine district.

We had the pleasure of meeting Eric recently at the Chaddsford location. We had tried their wines on a previous trip to their tasting room in Peddler’s Village in Hope PA, and were so impressed we made plans to visit the winery location. Upon arriving at the winery, we felt as though we were visiting one of the Napa Valley’s newest tasting rooms, everything was all about wine, from the décor to the gifts for purchase to the tasting rooms… and the picnic tables outside overflowing with patrons enjoying a glass of their favorite Chaddsford wine. It was the Brandywine trail passport weekend, meaning pay one price and visit all of the local wineries with tasting included in your passport price and Chaddsford was a packed house. The winery was celebrating complete with a band that happened to be playing in the barrel room due to the occasional rain that day. However, I would like to mention that the Chaddsford staff must be well accustomed to crowds of that size as they were as professional as could be. Moving on I will highlight a few of the wines, but let me preface that by saying I will not do them all justice as I can confidently say there is a Chaddsford wine for every taste and my tastes are unique to me.

For example, Naked Chardonnay… a Chardonnay that Eric decided should not have all the additional oak flavors, just plain old “naked” Chardonnay. Check out the Chaddsford winery website for a picture of Eric in the vineyard demonstrating just how he makes naked wine. Of course Chaddsford has your traditional Chardonnay as well. While completely different, both are outstanding. There is also a Proprietors Reserve white blend that we enjoyed very much. While Eric enjoys wines made all over the county, including Napa, he stays true to the region and knows outstanding wine can be made almost anywhere and he is living proof. While we enjoy white wine, we are truly Red wine drinkers and had enjoyed some of the red wines that we had previously sampled at the Peddlers Village tasting room. Eric produces some of what I affectionately call the “traditional” reds such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Syrah, which can be called somewhat traditional these days. We loved all of the wines we sampled but our favorite was the Due Rossi blend, an Italian style red made from Sangiovese and Barbera grapes.

The Millers also produce other red blends, Merican (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc), and Rubino (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese). While I highlight the traditional reds and whites, Chaddsford truly has something for every type of wine drinker. Although I have not sampled them, there are also sweet and seasonal wines that I am sure are made to the same quality standards as the Chaddsford wines I sampled.
After our visit and talking with Eric it was apparent to me that while he has long ago surpassed his goal of making excellent, premium wines. He is not about to stop striving for perfection in his wine making. I sense his passion has not wavered and his involvement in every facet of his operation is proof Eric will not let success go to his head. I remember in conversation he said “it is after all just grape juice” yet, I know he works hard every day to make that grape juice fill bottles that will always be better than the last and bring smiles to the faces those who drink his wine.

Chaddsford Winery is open 7 days a week for tours and tasting from 12:00pm to 6:00pm. They also have a tasting room and wine shop in Peddler’s Village located in New Hope PA.
For information and directions visit their web site:
http://www.chaddsford.com/

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