Galer Estate: a bit of Napa in Unionville
December 2, 2011
New local winery combines excellent vintages, artistic presentation
and surprising values By Hannah Christopher, Staff Writer, UnionvilleTimes.com
Now open on Folly Hill Road, the Galer Estate Winery is a great combination of stellar wines, cool decor and exceptional value. All-in-all, a wonderful addition to the Unionville community.
For many years now I have wanted to go visit Napa Valley and have been envious of my friends who have done so. After last Sunday and my visit to Galer Estate right here in Kennett Square, I feel now like I have a little bit of Napa Valley right here in my backyard.
Last Sunday, my friend Suzy Hughes agreed to go with me after a game of platform tennis. She and I went to the beautiful, tall wine bar on Folly Hill Road and were greeted by Brad and Lele Galer themselves and the lovely Mary Beth Tryens. We were able to look out at their vineyard of Chardonnay vines, one of two vineyards that the Galers own in Chester County. I was especially looking forward to tasting these wines knowing that my friend Jan Grimes (vineyard manager) grew mostly all of these grapes that now were sitting in front of me in the form of delightful wines.
The decor is eclectic, with all kinds of delightful details around the tasting room. It proved a wonderful environment to sample the best of Galer Estate. Artisan iron work, vintage wood and marble (some from the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia) salvaged from area buildings give the tasting room a comfortable, inviting environment.
There were eight wines to pick from and there were four different Chardonnays to taste. In between each there was cheese and crackers and water to get the palate ready for a fresh tasting. My personal favorite was the 2009 Chardonnay. It was oaky which I found out from Lele was due to fermenting in oak barrels exported to the Galers from France. This particular wine was so delicious that I bought several bottles as “gifts” for Christmas.
One of the Chardonnays available for purchase was an extremely reasonably priced 2008 Chardonnay at $10 a bottle. This wine is recommended by Galer’s winemaker Catrina North to be paired with fresh seafood, or a pasta or chicken with cream sauce.
The 2010 Chardonnay is a very light, crispy wine that Suzy picked as her favorite of the four. This one according to North, a winemaker formerly from the famous Wente Winery in Northern California, is a semi-naked Chard fermented in stainless longer so that you will taste more of the fruit flavors and less of the oak.
The 2010 Chardonnay Reserve is outstanding and is called a Reserve because it is made out of hand picked perfect grapes that are set aside just for the Reserve. The wine is aged for eight months in the French oak barrels.
The rustic look and fun design details of the tasting room makes any visit to Galer Estate memorable. After enjoying the tasting of Chardonnay we were now focusing our attention on the two types of Rose” available at Galer Estate. I consider myself solely a Chardonnay girl but I was anxious to give it a go. Mary Beth Tryens one of Lele’s friends was helping out customers that day with the tastings. Lele had an opinion on the Rose wines and Mary Beth told her to let us decide which one we liked better. She gave both Suzy and I two tastings each of the Rose 2009 and the Rose 2010. I picked the 2009 and Suzy did as well. We both liked the fruitier taste. The good news is that they were both delicious and the 2009 Rose is well priced at 12 dollars a bottle. (More Christmas gifts!)
The 2010 Rose is a pale peach colored with hints of cranberry and apricot aromas. The 2009 Rose is made similar to the 2010 Rose but is mellow and easy to drink with hints of Strawberry and bright citrus fruits. The grapes according to North were harvested in September and October of 2010.
The only wine I regretfully did not taste was the Pinot Gris 2010. Suzy did taste it and said it was light and she really enjoyed it. The grapes for the Pinot were purchased from the Historic Hopewell Vineyards from Oxford, PA. North says that 155 Cases of this wine were produced and bottled in April of 2011.
Wine on tap allows customers to enjoy a single, perfect glass of wine every time. Although there’s many vintages worthy of buying and taking home or sharing — there’s something worthwhile about spending time in the tasting bar beyond to cool decor: wine on tap!
Similar to beer tapping, it allows patrons to enjoy various kind of wine without opening a new bottle. The wine stays in a sealed environment, so it stays fresh and delicious. Plus, if you can’t decide between a rosé or chardonnay you can easily enjoy some of both.
We were having so much fun asking Lele and Brad questions about each of the wines, their vineyards and the harvesting and fermentation process of the wines. It was great to see the smiles on the faces of this extremely hardworking couple who could now sit back a little and enjoy watching the fruits of their labor on the happy faces of their customers.
Lastly, we were in for a big treat to taste the Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. This is a desert wine that comes in a startlingly blue and very tall and lean bottle. The bottle itself is a piece of art. Not surprisingly since Lele Galer is a renowned artist originally from California but firmly planted here in Chester County. Not only is the bottle gorgeous but what is inside of it is unbelievably good! It is a fun and tasty wine with hints of golden fruit and ripe pineapple aromas. North states that this wine is fermented in a stainless steel tank and flashed frozen and was processed in December of 2010. The Vidal grapes are grown at the Galer’s larger vineyard at their home property in Pocopson township. Suzy and I both bought this Ice Wine for gifts…hopefully they make it to the recipients.
Galer Estate Winery is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1:00- 5:00 p.m. If anyone needs an afternoon of total and utter enjoyment and relaxation while you buy some holiday gifts and enjoy some divine wine tasting put this on your calendar as soon as possible. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Galer Estate Vineyard & Winerydebuts at the Philadelphia Flower Show Sunday, March 6 through Sunday, March 13 Pennsylvania Convention Center
12th & Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19107-2299
Bringing French viticulture to the Brandywine Valley
Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery debuts at the Philadelphia Flower Show
Like Paris – a city built on top of a city – the University of Delaware’s student-driven exhibit, L’art recontre la science, features a two-story Parisian paradise that creatively blends flowers, water and wine. Rain harvesting is showcased in this vibrant café scene where rainwater from gutters pours into rain storage systems and regenerates itself into a renewable water resource for nearby trees, flowers and containers. The backyard takes visitors to the catacombs, ‘Paris underground’ converted into a wine cellar.
This is where Jon Cox, University of Delaware art faculty member and Dr. Jules Bruck, Plant & Soil Sciences teamed up with Brad and Lele Galer, proprietors of Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery located near Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. The Galers have been drawn to France since the inception of their local vineyards. They hired an internationally, French-trained vineyard consultant, have incorporated French viticulture practices into their boutique vineyards and are utilizing a master winemaker known for award-winning wines and extensive experience in France, California and New York. And to top it off, the logo on their wine bottles is the iconic sun king, an image imbedded in the iron gates of the Louvre.
Artist and lover of Paris, Lele Galer, states, “We have been so fortunate to lean on the French for their amazing wine and grape growing abilities, and now have the expertise of others locally including the University of Delaware and their rain harvesting techniques to make our state of the art winery sustainable.”
Just as The University of Delaware’s L’art recontre la science connects art with science, Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery’s is blending nature, science and art to create exceptional wines that reflect the local Brandywine Valley terroir.
Ever wonder what became of Folly Hill Winery, that rustic vineyard planted at the edge of Longwood Gardens along a wooded hillside
We did too. Especially now during harvest-time.
So we asked local wine writer and cookbook author Roger Morris to make a visit and fill us in on all the construction, harvesting and bustling about that’s going on at the property now.
Turns out, the former Folly Hill Estate is now Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery, so named after new owners Lele and Brad Galer. The state-of-the-art vineyard is set to open summer, 2010 with plans to host private tastings to small groups. They will also sell their seven, distinct varietals to visitors and local restaurants.
To make their dream a reality, the Galer’s hired two wine consultants and a winemaker:
• Lucie Morton, an international superstar trained in viticulture (winegrape agriculture) and famous for her knowledge, experience, and wisdom in developing the highest quality vineyards in France, California and now in Virginia/Maryland/Pennsylvania;
• Nelson Stewart, alocal vineyard consultant and perhaps one of the best vineyard managers in the mid-Atlantic; and
• John Levenberg,master winemaker with experience in California, France, New Zealand, and New York, known for his award-winning wines.
And, of course, there’s much more.
But we’ll let Roger tell you the rest.
Special thanks to guest contributor Roger Morris for filling in the details.
Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery: Opening Summer, 2010
By Roger Morris
Lele Galer is at heart a Romantic, and one senses there is also a touch about her of what was once called The Bohemian. Lele’s husband, Brad Galer, is a neurologist and entrepreneur whose specialty is pain medication and how to best get relief into the body’s systems.
The two met as students at Wesleyan University; Her side of the equation is art, both as an artist and a mentor, and one of her current projects has been helping re-launch the Unionville Art Gala.
Then there’s the winery.
“We thought about going to California to start one,” she says – both she and Brad are longtime wine lovers – but the kids nixed that idea.
They had settled into the Pocopson-Unionville milieu after having once again made new friends as the family moved about and being of that age when the grass looks greener where your feet are. So in 2005, Lele and Brad planted some grapes behind their old farmhouse off Route 52. And then last year the Folly Hill Winery property behind Longwood Gardens, and a couple of miles from the Galer residence, became available.
Voila, Galer Estate.
The couple threw themselves into building their winery – their mantra has been “Bring California to Pennsylvania” – hiring specialists to scope out the existing vineyards, manage them, make the wine and design and construct a new winery.
A few weeks ago they tore down the dilapidated old barn (salvaging what they could) at the Folly Hill property to make way for the new gravity-flow winery. That left behind the Folly Hill farmhouse, a stone former B&B unit and a building that now serves as the winery on the lower level and a function room on the upper.
The name Folly Hill is now gone. The winery is officially Galer Estate, and the vineyard site is Red Lion. Brad and Lele – with a little help from consultants and their friends, the latter becoming pickers for a day – harvested and made their first wines in 2008. They will be released next year.
Meanwhile, Lele has been in charge of label design and winery esthetics.
The Galers hired local architect Wayne Simpson to do the winery, and Lele jokes about working with Simpson through all the winery changes.
“Now we have this two-foot section around the top of the building that would make a great place for a mosaic,” she says and is now contemplating something in the California-mission style. She would also like to have the winery be a haven for art and artists.
Then there are the Galer Estate wine labels. “My sons are all into mythology,” she says of Alex, 19, Peter, 16 and Simon, 14, “and we sit around the table talking about characters that can go on the wine labels.” She has designed the first label, one for their 2008 Chardonnay, which features an Europa or Lady Liberty look-alike emblem.
There is an adage that says, “Busy people are the ones who find time to do things.” Perhaps this couple can incorporate that into the mosaic atop the winery.