Sand Castle Winery

I visited the Sand Castle winery in Erwinna, Pennsylvania. I took a tour and tasted all their wines. The employee was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions.

The winery was established by two brothers who emigrated from Slovakia in 1969. They bought the property in 1974 and produced their first bottle of wine in 1988.

The vines come from New York State. There are 62,000 vines, some of which are 30 years old. The soil is mostly clay. The vineyard is surrounded by the Delaware River. The vines grow from north to south and are 8-9 feet apart to prevent shadowing. The vineyard basically maintains itself because the wind from the Pocono Mountains kills the mold. From December through May, the winemakers prune by hand. They use a harvester from 1949 but only for white grapes because Pinot Noir would get ruined. Therefore red grapes are harvested by hand. They also use a crusher “Lucy” which transports the juice to the cellar.

There are two white and two red wine varieties grown at Sand Castle – Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir. They also make ‘cuvee’ – white wine soaked with red skins. They use French oak barrels. Wine ferments in steel for 4-6 years or barrels for 2 years. They top the barrels off every two months.

After I took a tour of the vineyard and winery, I tasted all the wines on their list. I especially enjoyed (and purchased) these unique wines:

  • Claret – the personnel call it “a breakfast wine”, they recommend mixing one bottle with one sliced orange and serve it with pancakes
  • Cuvee Blush – the color comes from Cabernet skin, it’s slightly sweet and pairs well with Thai or Mexican food
  • Johannisberg Riesling Late Harvest – select harvest from Botrytis grapes, superb balance of acidity and sweetness, pairs well with cheesecake
  • Alpine Spice – Chardonnay and Riesling with spices, can be served warm in winter or on ice in summer, tastes great with vanilla ice cream or with a touch of Bacardi


The lobby


The vineyard


The cellar


The crusher “Lucy”


The harvester


The front desk



Heights Chateau

20151014_143858 20151014_144539 - Copy 20151014_144528 - CopyI visited the Heights Chateau wine store on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights. First, I walked through to see how is the store organized. Then I spoke to the manager responsible for organizing the store. She said she had just reorganized the French and Italian wines by region. As you can see from my photos the shelves have signage of countries as well as “North” and “South”. The front bottles are standing up and the same bottles behind them are laid on top of each other (unless their shape doesn’t allow for stacking).

I asked about luxury wines. She said they store them downstairs in the cellar which is temperature-controlled. When a customer needs a luxury wine, he/she can choose from a catalog.

Out of curiosity, I asked the lady where did she learn what she knows about wine. She said she studied acting and worked at restaurants so she learned from industry professionals. I also asked if they carry one of my favorites (Mirassou Chardonnay). Unfortunately, they don’t.