Pennsylvania wine country is everywhere in the state. No matter where you are, you’re less an hours drive to a winery. Our Pennsylvania Wine Travel Guide shares a brief history of the state's wine country, terroir, where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines.
The known history of Pennsylvania wine begins with William Penn. Over 300 years ago, the state’s founder planted cuttings of Bordeaux grapevines on land that is now part of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Like most vineyards planted in the country’s early years, the vines didn’t survive the native bugs and diseases of the new world.
From colonial times until the early 1900s, most of the grapes grown for wine in Pennsylvania were native varieties or hybrid grapes that were heartier than the European varieties, known as vinifera. It’s not that winemakers didn’t try to grow vinifera, but they had very little success with grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 1920, Pennsylvania’s wine industry came to a halt because of Prohibition. When Prohibition ended, Pennsylvania made making and selling wine almost impossible until it passed the Pennsylvania Limited Winery Act is 1968. Penn Shore Winery in Erie County was the state’s first post-Prohibition licensed winery.
By 1976, Penn Shore was one of a dozen wineries open in Pennsylvania. Today, the state has almost 300 wineries that – through science, trial and error – have discovered which vinifera can grow in Pennsylvania and which native and hybrid varieties make good wine, too.
Pennsylvania is home to five designated American Viticultural Areas (AVAs – wine growing regions) and 300 wineries.
There is about 300 miles between Pennsylvania’s Eastern and Western borders and 150 miles between its Northern and Southern borders. The Southeastern part of the state has maritime influences from the Atlantic Ocean with average summer temperatures of 74°F (although humidity often makes it seem much warmer). The Northwestern part of the state is influenced by Lake Erie with average summer temperatures of 68°F and lower humidity. In between there are many mountain ranges, valleys and rivers. All of this ends end up influencing Pennsylvania’s terroir.
LAKE ERIE AVA
The Northwest region is home to the Lake Erie AVA. It’s generally cooler around the Lake Erie shoreline than in the rest of the state. Along the lake’s shore, a 20-mile long swath of vineyards benefit from the lake’s breezes and the consistent year-to-year weather conditions of the region.
CUMBERLAND VALLEY AVA | LANCASTER VALLEY AVA
The warmer climate in the state begins in the Southcentral region - home to the Cumberland Valley AVA and the Lancaster Valley AVA. Vinifera that require warmer temperatures can be grown here so expect to see more wines made from European grapes as well hybrids and native grapes.
CENTRAL DELAWARE VALLEY AVA | LEHIGH VALLEY AVA
You’ll find the longest growing season in the Southeast part of Pennsylvania. It’s hilly, so many vineyards drain well, and various vinifera, hybrids and native varieties flourish in this region. This region is home to the Central Delaware Valley AVA and the Lehigh Valley AVA.
TOP GRAPE VARIETIES
Since the climate and soil varies greatly throughout the state, Pennsylvania can grow a considerable variety of grapes in its 14,000 plus (and growing) acres of planted grapevines.
White Wine Grapes
Red Wine Grapes
WHERE TO SIP
Presque Isle Wine Cellars
Franklin Hill Vineyards
Heritage Wine Cellars
Planning Your Pennsylvania Wine Country Vacation
BEYOND THE VINES
The five distinct wine regions in Pennsylvania are home to many fun activities, so if you’re looking for things to do besides sipping in the 300 Pennsylvania wineries, we have A LOT OF IDEAS for kids, designated drivers and those enjoying the wines of the region.