Wineries in Berks County got into the holiday spirit Saturday and Sunday pairing cookies and wine with Christmas gifts and charitable donations. Wine enthusiasts took advantage of the event to sample prized wines paired with select cookies for a sweet experience and for each bottle of featured wine purchased, the wineries donated $1 to a charity of its choice.
Tom Calvaresi, owner of Calvaresi Winery, Bernville, chose Iron Horse Helpers for the winery’s designated charity. He said it’s a motorcycle group who gives direct financial aid to families of military people in need. He also said that no one from the organization draws a salary.
For the Christmas cookie and wine tour, Calvaresi paired holiday sandtarts with his award-winning Riesling white wine and chocolate biscotti with port wine.
“The Riesling is a semi-dry white German wine, one of his award-winning wines, and the port is more of a dessert wine. It has a little more of an alcohol content so it is more of a sipping wine, but we’re pairing it with the chocolate so you can see why it makes it such a good dessert wine,” said Pam Spatz, server.
“We wanted something a little crunchy because ports are higher in alcohol and we wanted something to kind of help soften that up,” said Calvaresi.
According to Calvaresi, the pairing of chocolate cookie with port was like the liquor-filled cherries you get around the holidays. The first taste in your mouth would be the chocolate and then when you bite into it, you would get the liquid and the cherry. That’s why it was recommended to bite the cookie first before tasting the wine. It went the same for the sandtart and Riesling. He wanted the character of the cinnamon and sugar up front because Riesling could sometimes take on a spiciness of its own. He said theirs takes on a peachy, honey, apricot character.
Long-time customers at Calvaresi Winery, Walter and Helen Shirey, Bernville, stopped in to pick up a case of Baco Noir to give as gifts and so Helen Shirey could use it for cooking.
“It’s not real sweet and it’s not real sour,” said Helen Shirey. “The kids like it; I give it to them for Christmas and then we like it too.”
Shirey said she always puts the wine into her mince pies. She also adds sugar and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Walter Shirey said the meat soaks up the wine without getting slushy.
“It’s a meat pie and I get the meat at Peters Brothers; it’s a mixture of pork and beef. They grind it up like they do in sausage. So I put the meat in a bowl and I put the wine on till it covers the meat. It usually takes quite a bit of wine; we love it,” said Shirey.
“She makes the best mince pie around,” said Walter Shirey.
Along the trail in the same section of Berks County as Calvaresi Winery is Bashore and Stoudt Country Winery.
Dean Stoudt, selected his shiro plum and Appalachian spice as the featured wines.
“The Appalachian spice is basically an apple wine with a mulling spice to it. The shiro plum we actually grow the plums back in the orchard,” said Stoudt.
Stoudt said the shiro plum is a Japanese plum and one of his best sellers. The wines were paired with sandtart cookies made by Dutch Maid Bakery, Hamburg.
“A lot of people referred to the Appalachian spice as Christmas in a cup because it has that cinamonny, clovey kind of sense to it,” said Jaime Noll, server.
Bashore and Stoudt chose Smile Train as its designated charity. Smile Train is an organization that gives kids who are born with a cleft palate the opportunity to be able to smile.
The Christmas Wine Tour was an opportunity for more people to discover the different wineries and to help charities in the process. Although it got off to a slow start, Calvaresi said it was the first time the Berks County Wine Trail did a Christmas tour. According to Stoudt, the Valentine’s Day tour had customers lined up out the door.
To learn more about the Berks County Wine Trail, go to http://www.berkscountywinetrail.com.