Pennsylvania Wine Overview

There are more than 120 wineries in Pennsylvania according to the state’s official wine site, Pennsylvania Wine. Pennsylvania wine sales continue to grow despite the state’s antiquated retail liquor sales laws. Wineries can sell their products at their own location as well as up to five specific retail locations (tasting rooms) and at festivals. But, all other wine sales are through state controlled stores. Pennsylvania is one of the top five grape-growing states in America and consistently ranks in the top 10 for wine production. Almost $200 million in wine tourism dollars are pumped into the state annually from wine lovers visiting Pennsylvania wineries.

Pennsylvania has such varied terrain that wine from different regions in the state are quite distinct, assuming Pennsylvania-grown grapes are used to make the wine. To give you an idea, some of Pennsylvania’s vineyards are the highest elevation east of the Rocky Mountains, while others are awash in the rich river valleys in the southeast corner of the state. Catawba wines are one of the more well known styles in the Lake Erie Grape Belt near Erie and North East. Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Vidal Blanc are just a few of the white wines you’ll see from Pennsylvania vintners. Not to be outdone, reds like Cabernet Sauvingon, Pinot Noir and Chambourcin are staples of Pennsylvania wineries.

There are seven different wine regions in Pennsylvania and, as mentioned, the terrain differs enough from one to another that the end product is unique and distinct. Starting in the northwest corner of the state along the Lake Erie shore is the enjoyable port city of Erie and the Lake Erie Region. Going clockwise through the state, there’s the Groundhog Region, Upper Susquehanna, Lehigh Valley Region, Philadelphia Countryside and Lower Susquehanna in the south central area. Finally, in the southwest portion of Pennsylvania is the Pittsburgh Countryside Region. Each of these areas has their own wine trail or multiple wine trails.

We’ve traveled quite a bit in Pennsylvania and enjoyed quite a few Pennsylvania wines. The state is really enjoyable to explore, from great cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Erie to the Pocono Mountains, dense forests and rolling river valleys in southern Pennsylvania. There’s so much to see and do here that it would literally take weeks to get a basic sampling of the state. With eleven different wine trails to explore, Pennsylvania is an enticing destination for wine lovers.

Some of Pennsylvania’s vineyards are the highest elevation east of the Rocky Mountains, while others are awash in the rich river valleys of the southeast corner of the state.

Pennsylvania Wine Trails

There are 11 wine trails in Pennsylvania, and that number includes a unique new hybrid trail, the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail. Here’s a closer look at each:

The extreme northwest section of Pennsylvania is one of our personal favorites. Erie, a bustling Great Lakes port, is an excellent base to explore the wineries of Lake Erie Wine Country, formerly known as the Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail. There are actually almost two dozen wineries in what’s known as the Lake Erie Grape Belt, which stretches from northeast Ohio to southwest New York. Lake Erie Wine Country (the trail) is a somewhat narrower area, from North East, Pennsylvania to Silver Creek, New York. There are seven Pennsylvania wineries on this trail. A brochure/map is now available and can be picked up at LEWC wineries or at brochure stands around the region. They can also be downloaded from the new website or ordered via phone at (877) 326-6561. The mission of LEWC is to “support and to market the wine and grape industries in Chautauqua County, New York and Erie County, Pennsylvania through the promotion of excellence in wine products, in winery and associate member facilities, and in the tourism experience in the region.” Our local wine industry creates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact in the largest grape-growing region east of the Rockies. With over 30,000 acres of contiguous vineyards, we are the largest Concord grape-growing region in the world. The majority of our grapes are native varieties, but we also grow almost 3,000 acres of more than 30 varieties of wine grapes.”

In north central Pennsylvania in the Allegheny forest and mountain area is the Groundhog Region. This is Pennsylvania-less-traveled and home to the Groundhog Wine Trail, which is one of the longer wine trails in the country in terms of miles. The trail of nine wineries runs from Altoona through the forests and northwest toward Erie. The wine trail winds near St. Mary’s, a small Pennsylvania mountain community that’s home of the iconic Straub Brewery, one of the country’s oldest breweries and open for tours.

Farther to the east is the Upper Susquehanna Region, the largest geographical wine-producing area in the state. It’s also among the most rural areas in Pennsylvania, with much of the terrain mountainous. The only metropolitan areas of any size are Scranton and Wilkes-Barre to the far east. In the far northeast corner of the region (and the state) is the Endless Mountains Wine Trail, with 12 wineries extending from near the New York border to almost central Pennsylvania. Endless Mountains Wine Trail is the largest in terms of geography and Pennsylvania’s second-most wineries on a trail. Founded in 2008, it’s also the newest Pennsylvania wine trail.

Also in Upper Susquehanna but in the southeast corner of the region is the Susquehanna Heartland Wine Trail, consisting of 10 wineries north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital city. This area in the central part of the state is well known for Riesling grapes, which is well represented on most of the wineries’ tasting portfolio.

Farther south, along both the New York and New Jersey borders in eastern Pennsylvania is the Lehigh Valley Region. It’s home to two wine trails, the Berks County Wine Trail and the very well known Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. This area is renowned for excellent grape-growing conditions and its unique micro-climate earned it the distinction of Lehigh Valley American Viticultural Area. Eighteen Pennsylvania wineries are part of the two trails, both of which are among the most popular and most visited wine trails in America.

The far southeast corner of Pennsylvania is known as the Philadelphia Countryside Region. It stretches from Philadelphia to the north, west and slightly southwest. Once outside the city, the scenery is filled with rich, lush farmland and river valleys. Three wine trails are located in this region, all within an hours drive from Philadelphia.

The smallest wine trail in Pennsylvania is the Montgomery County Wine Trail which has three wineries located between Philadelphia and Allentown to the north. The trail practically intersects with the Bucks County Wine Trail and its nine wineries. West of Philadelphia toward Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Lancaster is one of the best known and highly popular wine trails in the United States, the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail. The eight member wineries are clustered together within an easy drive from Philadelphia, earning it the unofficial monikor of “Philadelphia’s Wine Country.”

The south central portion of Pennsylvania is known by the Pennsylvania wine industry as the Lower Susquehanna Region. Here you’ll find the capital, Harrisburg, as well as iconic destinations like Hershey and Gettysburg. With 14 member wineries, the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail is actually a two-state trail, as some wineries are located in northern Maryland. This trail was formerly known as the UnCork York Wine Trail.

This area is also home to the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail, a collection of wineries, farms, nurseries and vineyards. All are within a short drive of the iconic battlefield at Gettysburg and provide an enjoyable family attraction for those visiting the area.

Finally, in the southwest portion of Pennsylvania you’ll find the Pittsburgh Countryside Region. This is a large area, bordering West Virginia to the south and Ohio to the west, and stretching an hour north of Pittsburgh and about two hours east. Southeast of Pittsburgh, in the popular area known as Laurel Highlands, is the Southwest Passage Wine Trail. This trail consists of seven Pennsylvania wineries, all within a 60-90 minute drive from Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania is one of our favorite states, not just for wine but also the diversity of terrain, scenery and attractions.

Travelogue: Pennsylvania: Erie and the Chautauqua Wine Trail

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