2016 Columbia County Wine Tour

"What’s more romantic than discovering a new favorite red or white paired with rich chocolates? Each of our wineries will offer special pairings during Wine and Chocolate Week, February 7 – 14. Visit all seven wineries with your sweetheart and get entered to win a wine basket. Just pick up a punch card at the first location and sip away. Please visit each winery website for their hours of operation. www.itourwinetrail.com"
Because we enjoy geocaching, and because our schedule is always pretty full, we split this into two trips.  Friday night we headed to Benton, Saturday we traveled to Berwick and Danville.  While this probably all could have been done in one day, I would have ideally split this into three days, rather than two.  Benton/Berwick/Danville.  By the time we go to Danville on Saturday evening, we were both just a little tired, and tired of wines.  I think we would have enjoyed the Danville wineries so much more if we had done them on a separate day.

Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider Winery

126 South Third Street Benton, PA 17814
When we first pulled up, we thought we were in the wrong place.  Do NOT let the outside of this building deter you.  This was my husbands favorite stop.  It's unique, and wonderful.  The owner gave us a tour, and seeing all of those jack daniels barrels stacked up is pretty cool. And the taste from the barrels? Also unique.  AND he makes a birch  that I cannot wait to try - it wasn't ready yet.  The smell was amazing.  This is the father of the owner of the new Cider House in Lewisburg, which we loved when we did the Lewisburg Chocolate tour.  

Elk Mountain Winery at Stoney Acres
4378 Red Rock Road
Benton, PA 17814

This was the big disappointment of our trip. Not because they don't have good wine - we have visited their St Mary's location when going to see the Elk.  But on this trip, we traveled all the way there only to find that the hours posted on their website are not correct.  They had new hours posted on  poster board on the door.  When you are traveling close to an hour for something, it's really pretty frustrating to find their website is not up to date.
But to make up for our disappointment, we found the BEST restaurant, in Benton!  If you love good Texas Barbecue, you cannot beat Smokehouse Barbeque.  The brisket was the most tender I have ever had.  The potatoes are put in the smoker with the meat.  It is worth the drive to Benton just to eat here.
While in Benton, we found a few caches, enjoying the view from the Overlook, the dam, and some of the art on the corner:

Freas Farm Winery
130 Twin Church Road
Berwick, PA 18603
This winery is an old farmhouse, which can be a bit confusing when you pull in.  But inside, they by far put the most effort into this event.  Live music, the BEST chocolates, the best wine and chocolate pairings..  and all of their wines have a story, they were all named for something.  We loved this place.
They suggest you make brownies with their port - substitute it for the water.  

O'Donnell Winery, LLC
25 Hayes Road
Berwick, PA 18603

The winery is behind the house. This location has wine and paint events, the canvases from past events are on the wall.

Pickering Winery 
1549 State Route 487
Orangeville, PA 17859

Our favorite wines were here.  Pickering also put some extra effort into this event, with wine pairings, special commemorative glasses you could buy, and a few light snacks. Of all the wineries, this was also the easiest to get information on.  One of their customers volunteered to keep up with all inquiries on the facebook event, and this was the only winery that answered questions about when they were open.

Red Shale Ridge Vineyards
234 Mill Street
Danville, PA 17821

This was our last stop, and by then we were a bit cold, a lot tired, and just ready to be done. Which was a shame, the owners were really nice. They offered two kinds of cookies.

Shade Mountain Winery & Vineyard
1 North D&H Ave
Danville, PA 17821
Shade Mountain is a favorite for us, and the winery we are the most familiar with.  They had some great brownies here, including brownies made with their mint wine.  I love the Danville location - love that they are making use of this wonderful historic building!

While in Berwick, we had lunch at the Berwick Brewery.  I know, I know, a beer stop on a wine tour?  But I had read they had the best pizza, and we were not disappointed.  The pizza here is amazing!  And they had Big Bens sodas - including birch.  It's a pretty unique place, a huge warehouse. There was bar seating, but also huge long tables with benches.  It's all pretty industrial rustic, and I loved it.
Overall, we really enjoyed this tour.  I do think it would have helped to have had all the wineries post their hours, and tasting charges, in the facebook event. It was time consuming,and frustrating, to try to find that information each website -  and then to find that the websites were not always even accurate.  And perhaps if it is to be called Wine And Chocolate Week, there are local bakeries or places in Columbia County that could supply nice chocolates to all of the wineries?  And it would have also have been nice to have a few more details on where to enter some of the wineries. Overall, it made a really nice Valentines Week-end for us.