There’s no chance of missing Folino Estate Vineyard & Winery. Its bold 17,000-square-foot Tuscan style fieldstone villa dominates the hillside along Old Route 22 north of Kutztown, standing out among the neighboring barns and farmsteads in Greenwich Township.
We’ve passed Folinos many times on our travels through Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, intimidated, just a bit, by its imposing largesse, but we made a point to pay a visit on a recent Saturday afternoon.
Drawn in by the hospitality and knowledgeable staff and the energy from a wedding reception being held in the banquet room, we picked up the wine lists and headed toward the sweeping tasting bar and Jason Kirkpatrick, tasting room manager.
The $10 tasting from the general list gets you pours from any six of the 20 reds and whites and specialty wines on the list. Prices per bottles range from $15 to $26, with a 10 percent case discount. On the day of our visit, Folino was also offering tastings for $15 from its limited release of six handcrafted wines from its Black Label collection.
Folino, opened in November 2015, has 10 acres of vines planted on its 54-acre estate, including Sangiovese, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Teroldego. Until they mature, Folino gets most of its grapes from Beekman Orchards in Boyertown and the rest from California.
As we got comfortable at the marble tasting counter, Kirkpatrick regaled us not only with his abiding interest in quality wine but also with the history of the winery and the background of Folino’s winemaker, Michael Vorauer, who moved to Pennsylvania from Texas because it reminded of the Rhine River in Germany where he trained to be a winemaker.
There might never have been a Folino Estate Winery had the property become homes, as originally intended, but owners Andrea and Marco Folino, whose family members already had experience operating restaurants in Berks County, switched gears and decided to open a winery with a restaurant. If you spend any amount of quality time here, you’ll come to appreciate that decision.
Berks County shale provides just the right drainage and mineral content to produce grapes for wine, Kirkpatrick noted.
He poured and described each wine characteristic in ever-deepening detail—the Viognier, golden raisins and dried fruit; Traminette, food friendly and delicate; Moscato di Folino, tropical and delicate; Luca Forte, a full-bodied white blend of Chardonnay and Viognier.
Among our favorite wines was the Cabernet Franc, dark, rich and earthy. Kirkpatrick said it’s a fruit that responds well with a longer growing season. His pours from the Black Label collection included a lovely plate of sharp, aged pecorino and introduction to some new-to-us grapes for us (always a bonus) including an unfiltered Tannat, originally grown in France and now thriving in Puglia, Italy.
It was busy at the tasting bar and the gift shop and market, where you can buy imported Italian cheeses to enjoy with a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the young vines. But not for a moment did you feel rushed through the tastings.
“We call our servers wine educators,” Kirkpatrick said. “We all love wine and the backgrounds that our guests bring when they taste our wine. We’re raising the bar in wine and service.”
At one point, maybe after a few or more sips, and I cupped my hand and whispered to my wife if it would be possible to adopt Kirkpatrick.
It’s a good thing the appeal of the adjoining restaurant was tugging at us, or we might have lingered for another round of tastings.
We didn’t have a reservation in the booked 117-seat restaurant, but the staff seated us at the bar, where we ordered two glasses of the Cabernet Franc and a plate of cured Italian meats and cheese, including wine-infused goat cheese; it came with olives, almonds, fresh tomatoes and greens and marinated artichoke hearts. We finished off with the “The Lorenzo,” one of the wood-fired pizzas with house-made red sauce topped with prosciutto, arugula and roasted garlic and sprinkled with shaved pecorino Romano cheese.
Folino is a welcome addition to the Kutztown area wine family, which includes neighboring Pinnacle Ridge, a destination for those who love wine and food in a relaxed, welcoming setting.
Next time we’re in this part of Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, we may skip the ring bologna and birch beer and go straight to Folino Estate for some Prosciutto di Parma and Sangiovese.
For more information about Folino Estate Vineyard & Winery and its services and events, visit http://www.folinoestate.com.
Blog by Bryan Hay