The Birth and Growth of Black Walnut Winery

When Lance and Valerie Castle bought a quaint Kimberton home in In Chester Pennsylvania they had little idea of how valuable the purchase would turn out to be.  The couple bought the home in land covered with several dozens of black walnut trees.  Armed with fermenting business idea, they started to destem pounds of vineyard grapes by hand in the sprawling country land.

They started preparing wine at home during fall. As family and friends continued asking for “black walnut wine”, the name stuck and Black walnut winery as born. Initially, they were producing about 300 gallons of wines.  As the demand grew, they started producing the wine as full time business.

Black walnut winery was opened officially in July 2009 in a newly and thoroughly renovated bank barn. The 200 years old fantastically charming building is located on Lincoln Highway, Sadsburyille Chester County. The winery has received accolades and won awards, one after the other over the years.

Accolades

In 2010 Pennsylvania Wine competition, the winery received a bronze medal for Chardonnay 2007. At Pennsylvania wine competition in 2010, the winery received another bronze medal for Merlot 2007. The winery has established itself in the industry.

Every winery has its own style of producing wine. According to Lance, their personal preference is making dry wines. They, however, appreciate that diversification is also important.  So, while they majorly deal with dry wine, they also produce a handful of off dry sweet wines.

Tasting Room

Currently, the couple and their business partners jack and Karen Kuhn have expanded their business to include a Tasting Room in Phoenixville. Connoisseurs and wine novices can sample any of their 17 wine varieties. The tasting room was opened in 2010 at a grand party. It is located in an exquisite, renovated property in downtown Phoenixville. You can book the tasting room for private events. Sometimes they host live music and wine, and chocolate pairing.

The partners were pivotal in establishing an array of wine varieties with great taste. It has grown to be one of the most successful wineries in Chester County and extending the growth to the tasting room in Phoenixville.

Birth of the Winery Idea

Lance and Jack met while they were both working in corporate jobs.  Coincidentally, Karen and Valerie also worked in the same company at some point. Fate and love for wine connected then to start a winery.

With a land covered with over 40 mature walnut trees, they started making wine as a hobby.  The walnuts kept falling from the trees during autumn. As a result, they kept moving during the winemaking process. The couples even had to make wine in a driveway at some point. These entrepreneurs even involved a consultant before opening the gallery. He advises them to get a name that has a story behind it. Eventually, they came back to Black Walnut Winery.

The winery is located in a well-traveled rod which has significantly helped in its success. However, the first days were not a walk in the park. Trying making people know and find them was quite exacting.

The black walnut winery produces a variety of wines. One of the best performing wine is Pinot Gris. While it is hardy, it boasts of great soft flavors and does very well in the region. Similarly, apple wines are unique.

The process of making wine at Black Walnut Winery

Harvesting starts in the fall at the beginning of September. Between September and October, the company spends time destemming and crushing the grapes, separating the skin from the juice, fermentation process initiation and racking. They break from cellar activities after putting everything tanks at the beginning of November.

Black nut winery focuses its attention tasting room and winery holiday activities.  Winter activities include raking oak, filter and pampering wines waiting to bottle in summer and spring. The winery stores their wine in 28 tanks which are usually full. In fact, they have to empty some to prepare for the fall harvest.  They have to fill about 30000 bottles to loosen up space for processing new wines before crush at the start of fall. The whole process takes place in over two-decade building in Sadburyville, Pennsylvania. The building measures 10000 square feet.

Lance and Val Castle friendship with Jack and Karen Kuhn has given birth to a winery with tip-top sip. It has also created an experience where people bond, laugh, share memories, relax and enjoy music as they enjoy local wine.

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Our Recommendation: Bullfrog Brewery’s Blue Condition Sour Ale

Where: Station Taproom, 207 West Lancaster Ave., Downingtown, PA

It has been a while since I’ve stopped into the Station Taproom in Downingtown, so I texted owner Sean McGettigan to see what was recently tapped. This cozy neighborhood bar consistently carries unique ales, and it’s a delight to peruse the giant ever-changing chalkboard.  They typically carry 12 beers on tap, and one on cask. On this day, such famed small breweries as Devils Backbone (Va), Ithaca (NY), Troeg’s (PA) and Alesmith  (CA), were among those featured.

Sean recommended Bullfrog Brewery’s Blue Condition, an American Wild Ale that is brewed up in Williamsport, PA. I’d only recently heard of this brewery at the Brandywine Craft Brewers Festival, and I was interested in sampling something more from PA brewery. Sean explained why he chose to tap this. “It’s a perfectly refreshing slightly sour ale to beat the heat.” He told me Bullfrog is a recent addition to his tap list.  “It’s on the newer side. I’ve poured a couple of kegs. All recently.”

Served in a 10 ounce chalice, this sour ale poured a an orangey golden color with a small foamy head. The aroma reminded me of apples and the taste was one of an immediate tartness, with a slightly sour follow through that lingered on the tongue. This ale could be dangerous, since it could easily be quaffed quickly on a hot summer day, but at 8% ABV, one needs to pace themselves. This sour ale reportedly gets the name Blue Condition because it is steeped in blueberries.

Since I was driving, I didn’t sample Sean’s second recommendation, the De Dolle Dulle Teve, a Triple Belgian Ale that comes in at 9% ABV and runs $8 for 10 ounces.

Station Taproom celebrates Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 with $3 pints and $5 pulled pork sandwiches. Oh, and they have a Goose Island Beer Dinner scheduled for Sun., June 30th at 6 p.m.

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Diego’s Cantina And Tequila Bar Hosts Mango Ginger IPA Night with Boxcar Brewing Co.

Diego’s Cantina and Tequila Bar is getting in on the fun of Philly Beer Week with the help of Boxcar Brewing Co.!

Join Diego’s on Thursday, June 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. to sample Boxcar’s super-popular Mango Ginger IPA. The cantina recommends that you pair this golden brew, infused with hints of caramel, ginger and mango, with a special meal of grilled shrimp, mango salsa and fried plantains that Diego’s will be serving up in honor of the occasion.

A portion of the proceeds from Mango Ginger IPA will help pay the travel expenses of West Chester graduate Megan Soring, who will be teaching English and HIV/AIDS awareness to children in Africa. “Community Support Beer”—we can definitely get behind that!

Diego’s Cantina and Tequila Bar is located at 214 W. State Street in Media; phone: (484) 442-8741.

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13th Annual Brandywine Craft Brewers’ Festival Hits State Street

Cloudy skies didn’t dampen the mood at the 13th Annual Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers’ Festival held this past Saturday, May 18. Over 1,200 beer lovers gathered along State Street and the parking lot alongside Iron Hill in Media, quenching their thirst with a wide variety of beers from 35 of the best craft brewers.

Kevin Finn from Iron Hill Brewery was thrilled with the turnout. “It’s a great day. Thank God the rain has held off,” he said as he looked up to the sky. “It’s an exciting day for beer and also what we do for the Media Youth Center. Over $150,000 has been raised for the youth center over the years. It’s great to be able to do something for the community.”

One of the beloved traditions of this festival is the Pouring of the Methusalems. Iron Hill Media’s Head Brewer Bob Barrar appeared on a platform holding up a giant 6-liter bottle of their Bourbon Wee Heavy and the crowd surged forward as if at a rock show. Barrar slowly and carefully poured this amazing beer into the cups of the throngs of waiting beer fans. This year, Barrar poured the Bourbon Wee Heavy at 2:30 p.m., and a Bourbon Tripel at 4 p.m. I was lucky enough to sample the Wee Heavy, and it was a stellar full-bodied brew.

Bill Moore from Lancaster Brewing Company took a break from pouring his Strawberry Wheat Lager to chat about the fruit beer and the festival. “Ours is an American wheat lager that we add the flavor too. You get a little strawberry on the palate. It’s subtle, it’s a very drinkable beer.” Looking around at the smiling faces sipping beer, Bill proclaimed, “I love this festival. I’ve been here every year. Last year, somebody from the youth center came around and thanked everyone.” With a smile, he noted, “It’s beer season!”

Around the corner, Sam Hoff from Twin Lakes Brewing was greeting beer lovers with a big smile. “This is an amazing little festival,” he told me. “What I really like about it is, it’s intimate. Here you have some of the great breweries along the East Coast. Iron Hill has 15 different beers on tap, which is amazing! This is fun just to come out and taste them. This is the one event we try to do every year, because it is more intimate and it is for a great cause.”

Last year, Pinocchio’s Beer Garden’s tent featured Ship Bottom Brewery, a true micro brewery started in Rob Zarko’s garage in Wallingford, Pa. This year, Ship Bottom had their own tent and served up their classic Barnacle Bottom Stout. The taste of chocolate and coffee floated off my tongue on this one. Rob told me he has had a busy but productive year. “We got full licensing in January. We have about 10 beers that are legal,” and he noted several Delco bars are now serving Ship Bottom on draft.

As mentioned earlier, Iron Hill had a wide variety of beers for sampling throughout the day. I shared a Triple Sec with the Town Dish’s Amy Strauss and Photographer Allison Benford. This was another killer beer at 9% ABV, a tasty citrus ale with a spicy taste of plums and bananas.

One beer surprised me more than any other. As I stood at the Iron Hill tent, a gentleman named Mike saw I was eyeing up the kegs behind the table and asked if I wanted a sample. Sure, I replied. He poured me a sample of the Bourbon Logan, a full-bodied colonial ale that had been aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla beans. At 9.7% ABV, this beer had it all. The sweetness from the caramel malts balanced with the bourbon and vanilla. One amazing beer.

Brew festivals are about discovering new beers and breweries, and there was plenty to sample throughout the event. A few of the more interesting tastings on the day were:

  • Prism Brewing Company served up Blonde is Evil, an ale made with the strange combination of strawberries and jalapenos. It was a beer that was smooth on the first sip, but the jalapeno kick creeped up afterwards.
  • Stewart’s Brewing Company served a smoked porter that had been brewed with smoked beechwood malt. While smoked beers aren’t my thing, it was interesting to sample this.
  • Philadelphia Brewing Company served up their Newbold India Pale Ale, an intense and hoppy IPA.
  • Tired Hands Brewing Company kicked one keg quickly, but we caught a sample of their Black IPA. This is a beer where the sight of the black beer is at odds with the hoppiness within, but it is a refreshing brew.
  • Victory Brewing Company surprised us by serving up their fall classic, Moonglow Weizenbock. One of my favorite all-time beers.
  • Flying Fish Brewing Company was sampling their Red Fish Ale. This red ale was a good strong beer that is very smooth and drinkable.
  • This year, the Pinocchio’s tent served up a variety of beers from Bullfrog Brewery, a micro-brewery based out of Williamsport. Bullfrog’s Op Tight was a very satisfying Belgian-style coffee stout.

Late in the day, a light drizzle fell for a few moments before passing over. By that time, fest-goers were all in good spirits, comparing tasting notes and making new friends. The 13th Annual Brandywine Craft Brewers’ Festival was coming to a successful close and folks made their way to many of Media’s fine restaurants for a meal before heading home. We’re already looking forward to next year!

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