The Fresh Life: Local Winery is a Reason to be Thankful
December 01, 2012 3:00 PM
by Amy Debach-Confer
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Spending summers in the Finger Lakes has made me grateful for many reasons.

One of the reasons being that there is a growing number of vineyards and wineries that the region is popular for. New York and its many freshwater lakes yield great growing conditions for grapes. After moving to Centre County, my presumption was that this landlocked and wooded region couldn’t provide the natural setting for grapes to thrive and wine to flow. This presumption was quickly erased after my first visit to the Mt. Nittany Winery appropriately snuggled on a hillside in Centre Hall.

After moving to the 60 acre lot in 1983, Joe and Betty Carroll started a vineyard on their property. Joe is a professor at the College of Business at Penn State and an avid amateur winemaker. Betty is also an employee of the university. The two decided to take their love and hobby of growing grapes to the next level. While growing grapes was a passion and hobby, there wasn’t profit in the growing alone, so the couple followed their dreams and constructed a lofty tasting room and wine cellar, where the public could finally enjoy the pressed fruit of their labors. The winery officially opened in 1990 and has flourished since then, becoming iconic to Centre County.

As well as sampling the wines on any given day, Mt. Nittany Winery also offers many events throughout the year which are pleasing to any palate. Some of these events include a wine and local chocolate pairing event in February, a wine and pizza event in May, a Harvest-fest celebration in the fall, and an open house in December, where their mulled wines and gingerbread cookies will be offered.

This year's open house will be held on Dec. 15 and 16. As well as these themed events, the winery also offers private tours and testing’s for groups or individuals, wine and tapas pairings and guided wine and cheese pairings, where a wine consultant compliments local, French or Italian cheeses with Mt. Nittany wines.

The winery is situated in such a lovely location that is has been the site of an engagement and backdrop for engagement photos, and also the subject of a harvest photo contest where photos taken on the property, which is the home of Cayuga, Seyval Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, de Chaunac and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, were submitted for display at the Harvest Fest and judging afforded Paul Horn of State College the top winner with a close up of grapes form the vineyard. Photos entered can be viewed on the Mt. Nittany's Pinterest page.

Personally, I have taken advantage of many offerings at the winery. One of them being the private label service the winery offers. For a one-year anniversary gift to my husband, I purchased two bottles of the Nittany Mountain White and had private labels made for them in a delicate font stating our names, a saying, and the date of our wedding. It was the perfect gift for our one year celebration.

Another event I recently attended was the Ladies Night held at the winery. The sold out event drew 65 women who enjoyed a night out with friends. The wine was paired with delectable appetizers catered by Ecovents, a catering company based in Millheim. Ecovents also provided the recipes and ingredients for each appetizer offered.

The event began with appetizers, including baked brie topped with Tait Farm ginger chutney and wrapped in a pastry shell and stuffed mushrooms with suhey peppers. The event was held in a relaxing and dimly lit yet bustling room on the premises. After the main event, guests followed lanterns along the pond bank to the main tasting room where dessert and spiced wines were accompanied by shortbread cookies, chocolate, laughter and red cheeks.

Linda Weaver, daughter of Joe and Betty Carroll, was on hand for the event.

“Women buy a lot of wine and the Facebook following is largely women. After a really popular ladies night last year, we decided to try the event again. Holding it close to the holidays, the tasting room was stocked with wine accessories and gift boxes that could be purchased as hostess gifts for upcoming holiday gatherings,” she said.

For the pleasure of any wine enthusiast or amateur taster, the winery offers over 20 wines produced on the premise, including dry reds and whites, semi-dry and semi-sweet wines and sweet or dessert wines. It is a lovely place to enjoy during the week, as part of a local wine tour, or during one of the many events held there.

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