Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery
Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery
700 Folly Hill Rd
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Contact: Jan Grimes
As a wine-lover passionate about traveling to winegrowing areas around the world, I started thinking about establishing a vineyard and winery in 2005. I had recently purchased 20+ acres of sloped land adjacent to my own home, which had been untouched for several decades- home to deer, fox, wild scrub trees, thorn bushes, and the other “natural” inhabitants. It was then that I began thinking more about becoming a steward of my own land and that this site may indeed be the site for a premiere Pennsylvania estate vineyard.
Realizing that I knew absolutely nothing about grape growing and winemaking, I knew I had to do my research first. So the first thing I did was take a full -day course in Maryland, where I luckily met our Pennsylvania State University Extension Agent and “Wine Educator” Mark Chien. Throughout the day, Mark repeatedly tried to dissuade his class: (paraphrasing) “You better be sure you want to do this….it is NOT as romantic as you think.”
Not deterred, always up for the challenge and excited about the possibility, I ordered about a dozen books on Amazon related to viticulture and winemaking. I also invited Mark Chien to evaluate the newly acquired plot in Pocopson Township. Bushwacking through the briars and brambles, my wife Lele, Mark and I struggled to cut a path up the hill and explore the potential vineyard property. To our surprise, Mark was impressed with the altitude and slope of the property and urged us to move to the next step (if we really truly were interested). He suggested the next move was to hire a viticulture consultant. The first name uttered out of his mouth was “Lucie Morton” which was accompanied by “if you can get her….She trained in France, is world renowned, consults mostly for France and Sonoma and has just started consulting in this area.” I knew she was our gal….if we could get her.
The next morning I called this infamous “Lucie Morton” not knowing what to expect; actually I knew what I was expecting– a snotty wineperson with an academic attitude (I should know, I was an academic once!). Well, to my happy surprise, Lucie was and continues to be the most down to earth, sweetest, fun person. And, as Mark opined- she knows vines! Lucie has been and continues to be Galer Estate’s Chief Viticulture Consultant.
We arranged for Lucie to visit the jungle and she arrived with gusto. We had an introductory dinner at The Orchard Restaurant in Kennett Square. Lele and Brad were all dressed up and anxiously drank their favorite Napa Meritage, The Prisoner. Lucie got lost driving from her home in Virginia but eventually found her way. I waited outside the restaurant. Suddenly a large maroon Dodge Ram pick-up truck rolled in among the BMWs, Lexus, and Mercs. The license plate read “Vitivan.” It had to be my gal. Out she popped, hair astray and in overalls….my gal indeed!
We had a lovely dinner and learned more in those few hours than we had learned from all my attempts of reading those texts I received from Amazon. She again reiterated Mark’s words almost verbatim: “You better love this work….be ready to spend much money up front” and “only hire me if you are serious about growing A+ quality grapes.”
The next morning we brought Lucie up to our site. This time, as per her orders ahead of time, we brought Tim (you’ll hear more about him later) and his Kubota tractor. We were going into unexplored territory up on the hill and that tractor was needed to cut a path for us among those wild rose thorn “bushes” the size of trees. Lucie had Tim dig several pits to examine the soil and take soil samples. She joyously jumped into the newly dug holes and reminded me of my kids when they were young playing in their sandbox. We’ll always remember her first pit-jump, grabbing some soil in her hand, and then smelling the earth. She smiled and we knew the jungle had potential. We then sent the “soil samples” out to a Virginia lab for analysis.
Like a patient waiting for a biopsy, I waited nervously for the soil report. Several weeks later the results were in….Lucie’s interpretation and final recommendation: “A great site for a vineyard.”
Winemaker: Catrina North
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