When it comes to libations, my husband and I are now winos. Though we still enjoy a good beer or hard cider occasionally; wine has really won over our palette. I think one of the reasons we are growing to prefer it is, that Pennsylvania wines have vastly improved in recent years. From what I have read, most PA wines used to be too fruity and sweet for many wine connoisseurs. While PA wineries do still produce fruit wines; many have expanded their offerings and the quality has vastly improved. Do a Google search on PA wines getting better and you can find some great articles to read on the subject.
Where we reside, State College area, their currently are 5 wineries close in Centre County. When we are not out exploring new wineries in the state, we like to stop by some of these places for a flight. The list below is the order I would do them if I were doing a wine tour and wanted to hit all 5 in a day. I started furthest away, heading closer to town. You could also do the reverse order as well, depending on preference.
They are the newest winery in the area, located in Millheim. I like that this winery is located right in the quaint town, as you are walking distance to other nearby establishments for coffee and food (such as Elk Creek Cafe or The Meandering Mallard). There is a little stream that runs beside the property and last time we visited, we sat there and were entertained by numerous ducks floating by. The options there are more limited compared to the other wineries in the area, but they still hold their own. I think they make some decent dry reds, as those are what stands out to me here. The Nostalgic Hardware is one of my favorites.
Tucked away in Seven Mountains; they have a vast selection of wines. The location in the mountains, feels like a modern cabin retreat. You can hang inside, but in the nicer months be sure to get outside and sit on the patio, soaking in the gorgeous surroundings.
They offer a nice selection of wines. While looking over the choices, it may feel heavy sweets (its not), but they have a fair bit of delicious dry wines. My palette may be leaning a little drier these days; they do sweeter wines very well. Nothing is too sweet that you feel like you are drinking sugar. They also do some fortified wines. I am not a fan of fortified, but those who are like them here. This place is a crowd pleaser if you are doing a tour and have guests with a variety of palettes; as everyone is sure to find something to enjoy. Its hard to pick just one favorite, but I have to mention the Semi Dry Riesling. Its a good, well-rounded wine that will please most people and makes a good gift.
View of outside of building first, followed by a picture taken from their patio outside below it.
Itinerary Option. Pisano Winery is about a 35-40 minute drive from State College. Seven Mountains is about a 25 minute drive from Pisano or 30 minutes from State College. If you don't want to drive that far while drinking or want to use a service such as Lyft; skip Pisano and make that a day on its own trip. Also instead of visiting the main Seven Mountains Wine Cellar, visit their wine bar in the town of Boalsburg. They have all the same wines available and some tables you can hang out an enjoy your wine. Either do the Seven Mountains Wine Bar before or after the next winery I mention below.
I believe they are the oldest winery on this. I have to be honest, for a while, this place did not impress me much. It felt sort of pretentious and snobbish; both the wines and the storefront. However, that has changed in recent years. The staff is kind, and the indoor tasting room space has been transformed into something warm and welcoming. The scenery outside is beautiful, and I love sitting by the pond in the summer.
The biggest change though was to the wines. I thought part of it was my palette, but others have said the same. They are not a winery to skip. Though they have decent reds, I think its the dry white wines is where they really shine. Their Pinot Grigio is my favorite here, but even their Chardonnay's I enjoy(and I'm not a big Chardonnay fan). My husband says out of all the Moscato's in town, none are bad; but theirs is by far his favorite. All of their sweets smell great; but don't taste as sweet as they smell. They are a good balance.
View of the pond and surrounding area.
All of these wineries have done a good job with creating a nice tasting room; however, University Wine Company has my favorite indoor space. When you walk inside you are greeted by this nice and open space (with a loft for seating). I believe these owners got their state by first making U-Freeze Wine Slushies. They were pouches you could purchase at festivals in the area. All you had to do was freeze them and a few hours later, wine slushies. They usually have two flavors of slushies available at the winery to try. Though other wineries in the area will do the slushies, theirs are the best in this writers opinion.
The wines themselves, they offer a nice variety. Its not as expansive list, but what they have is pretty solid. The Ovation is my go to here. Its a tasty sparkling white wine, and you don't get a lot of great sparkling options in the area. They also do a U-Chill series of wines. Instead of slushies these are delicious fruit flavored wines that you can chill and enjoy. They have a cherry chocolate that sounded odd to me at first. The description says taste like a tootsie pop; so I tried it. It tasted more like a peanut butter cup to me. My favorite candy in an alcoholic drink sounds too sweet, but works surprisingly well!
Great picture taken from their Facebook profile as the one I took that day didn't do this place justice.
The one winery not too far from downtown State College. Its tucked away behind a residential neighborhood, but don't let that deter you. There is a privacy to the farm that feels like you stepped into the surrounding countryside. When you first walk in you may notice all the medals on display on the wine bottles; and you will quickly learn why. Happy Valley Winery makes some impressive wines. They have a really nice selection from dry to sweet, red to white; and it all in between. I don't tend to like Rose (or blush) wine, but like all of theirs. Its one of those places that you can give me a glass of just about anything and I can drink it no problem.
Its not far from my house, so I have wound up there alone on a Saturday afternoon before. Someone from the winery either staff or owner, usually will sit and chat with me while I partake in their wine. The tasting flights there are pre-made and not custom. They are broken into types like dry reds, dry whites, semi-dry, fruit, etc. I usually prefer custom flights. However, after being their numerous times; they do a good job of what they select for the flights. If its your first time there, just pick the flight of what you tend to gravitate towards. You will probably find you need second, as their are so many wonderful options. It's also one of those wineries good for a group, due to the range of options. I've mentioned at least one wine from every winery and really wasn't sure what to say for this one (besides the blushes). I am going to say Appalachian Red. Its a sweeter red but a crowd pleaser. My friend Rob highly recommends the Traminette.
Beautiful picture of Happy Valley Winery taken from their Facebook Page.
To start planning your trip, click on all their names to go to their websites for hours and information. I also recommend checking out all of their social media sites. That is where they will usually post special events such as live music.
Also to my knowledge all of these wineries do offer other things such as local craft beers to drink, if you are visiting with people who are not wine aficionados. Most also offer at least meat and cheese for snacks, but all allow you to bring your own food. I know University Wine Company usually has a food truck on site Thursday and Friday evenings most weeks. Reach out if you want help planning your own tasting trip and have questions!
Finally, this past year we participated on the Central PA Tasting Trail. Its a passport book you purchase, then you you can visit a bunch of local breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries to get a stamp. Most of the locations give you something free for the visit. When done visiting all locations, you get a free sweatshirt! I mention, one, because all of these wineries are on the trail. Second, it was a lot of fun and something to consider if you are planning a wine tour (or want to explore some other adult beverage offerings in the area).
Published: September 6, 2023
Unless noted, all pictures taken by me.