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Christian W. Klay Winery
Kathy Sullivan

Christian W. Klay WinerySummary: At the Christian W. Klay Winery, emphasis is on producing wines that local consumers will enjoy. The Klays created the winery as a legacy for their son Christian. After visiting the winery and enjoying a hayride to the vineyards, be sure to stop by Ridge Runner Distillery across the street.

The Christian W. Klay Winery is named for Sharon and John Klay’s son. Today Christian has established the Ridge Runner Distillery across the road from the winery.

The Christian W. Klay Winery was started almost by accident. After living in New York City, John convinced Sharon that they should move to the countryside. Eventually they ended up in Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania where they purchased a large farm of 215 acres. This included an 1880s barn that the Klays renovated. The large white barn with a red roof has an attached silo.

During the first year John purchased and planted 1,000 grapevines. The couple discovered they had too many grapes for grape jelly and not enough for wine. As a result, Sharon ordered many more grapevines. Currently they have 15,000 grapevines on the farm property. With a smile, Sharon commented, “After you plant a stick and it grows, you’re hooked.” The winery opened for business in 1997. Today Sharon is in charge of the winery and vineyards while John continues in his career as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Christian W. Klay Winery

Sharon wants the winery and vineyard to be a destination for people. She “encourages people to be adventurous; find your own palate.” Thus, the winery offers hay wagon rides to the vineyards and winery production building where Ray Matthews, the vineyard manager, describes the vineyards and winemaking process. The vineyards are located at a high elevation and a short distance from the winery.

Christian W. Klay WineryWagon Ride to the Vineyards

We embarked on our wagon ride to the vineyards taking a seat on a bale of straw. When the ride stopped at the vineyards, Ray talked about the vineyards, the Pennsylvania countryside and answered questions. The views were picturesque.

Today the vineyards consist of 15 acres. At one time the vineyard had 100 grape varieties; this has been narrowed down to 60 varieties. Ray noted several of the challenges of growing grapes. Deer discovered the vineyards and Ray built a fence to keep the deer out. Now deer are no longer a problem; black bears are now the issue he needs to deal with. The vineyards are located at a high elevation. This helps with the airflow down the ridge. The gravel/clay soil helps to hold heat in the soil. For the first five years after planting, grapes are not harvested. Ray noted that this helps the grapevines to develop a root mass.

Christian W. Klay WineryOn the return trip from the vineyard to the tasting room, we stopped at the winery building where Ray described the winemaking process including the description of the destemmer, basket press and bottling line. He demonstrated adding CO2 to wine to produce a sparkling wine.

Tasting Room

The tasting room is in an old renovated barn. The room is filled with an eclectic assortment of gift items to browse. Adjacent to the tasting room is a large covered pavilion where people can enjoy tasting wines outdoors.

Private and public events take place at the winery. The barn has a dedicated event space and the area outside the tasting room is ideal for planning a summer outdoor event.

Christian W. Klay Wines

Blanc de Lafayette was a blend of Muscat Ottonel and Vidal. This wine was a light yellow color with notes of orange blossoms and citrus. The finish was crisp with a long aftertaste. Washington Tavern White was produced with Cayuga grapes. This light yellow colored wine offered floral with some yellow stone fruit notes. It was crisp. White Swan Tavern was a Vignoles wine with a light yellow color. The wine offered notes of floral, apple, pear, and yellow stone fruit similar to a fruit salad.

Christian W. Klay WineryStone House Red was a translucent red color with a dark pink hue. The wine offered notes of cherries and was sweet. This is one of the popular wines at the winery. This wine pairs well with a barbecue. Washington Tavern Red was a blend of Marechal Foch, Chambourcin, Merlot and Cascade. This red wine was slightly sweet with notes of cranberries. Jumonville, a red wine, was produced with Cabernet Franc and St. Croix. This red wine offered notes of spices and dark fruits.

Raspberry Frost was produced with grape wine and raspberry flavor. The wine was an orange color with a red hue. It was very smooth with notes of raspberries.

Lavender Mist was produced by using a white wine base and infusing it with lavender buds. The lavender is grown on the property near the vineyards. This was a sparkling wine with notes of floral and sweetness.

Summit Mist was produced with Fredonia grapes. This sparkling wine was red with a dark pink hue. The wine offered notes of foxiness. For a special treat on a hot day, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the wine. Yum!

When visiting the Southwestern area of Pennsylvania, be sure to check out the Christian W. Klay Winery and ask about the hayride to the vineyards. Also include in your itinerary a stop at the Ridge Runner Distillery, just across the road.

Read the Wine Trail Traveler article about Ridge Runner Distillery.

Christian W. Klay
412 Fayette Springs Road
Chalk Hill, PA 15421

GPS: N39º 50.526’ W79º 37.150’


Article written June 2016





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