Here’s to a new wine tasting room

By on May 24, 2017

Rebecca Gallagher of Smithton Inn and Richard Woolley of Weathered Vineyards celebrate the opening of the wine tasting room Saturday.

In the mood to sample a buttery Chardonnay with peach and citrus notes or a luscious Cabernet Franc with blackberry, black cherry and hints of plum?

Ephrata’s newest wine tasting room is located in place you might not expect: A bed and breakfast.

Weathered Vineyards wine tasting room officially opened at the Historic Smithton Inn on Saturday to rave reviews. Now wine-lovers have a delightful spot to savor a variety of wines from the Weathered Vineyards in New Tripoli in near Allentown.

So what brought a historic Ephrata bed and breakfast inn together with a Lehigh County vineyard for a wine tasting room?

It call goes back to high school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. of all places. That’s where innkeeper Rebecca Gallagher graduated from high school in 1985, long before she and her husband, David, bought the Smithton Inn in 2009. It just so happens that one of Rebecca’s classmates was Richard Woolley, a meteorologist who worked for the U.S. government, and ended up developing a passion for wine-making.

Rebecca Gallagher and Richard Woolley had reconnected on Facebook, so she was aware he was in the wine-making business. When liquor laws changed in Pennsylvania allowing bed and breakfasts to serve wine, Gallagher decided to serve wines from Weathered Vineyards winery, owned by Woolley and his wife, Dana.

The wines were popular with guests and Gallagher had an inspiration. Why not transform the front room of the gorgeous stone inn into a wine tasting room? She suggested it to her husband, and then asked Woolley and his wife if they would consider it. Everyone was quite enthusiastic.

Pat Schell and Todd Spare enjoy the Smithton atmosphere.

The Woolleys loved the idea of having their wines served at the 1763 inn located at 900 W. Main St. in Ephrata. The Gallaghers were thrilled to have something extra-special at their inn. Many people in Ephrata admire the lovely inn, but never had the opportunity or need to “stay” there since it was so close to home. Now they can stop in to enjoy a glass of wine and relax in the beautifully decorated wine tasting room.

The wines are also sold by the bottle, so wine-lovers can take home a few bottles of their favorites to enjoy at home. The new wine tasting room at the Smithton Inn is open from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

“We think this is the perfect marriage of hospitality and wine,” said Rebecca Gallagher, who has admired some of the other tasting rooms that are cropping up in the area. “We are looking forward to welcoming guests to our wine tasting room.”

The Gallaghers held a grand opening on Saturday, with acoustic music, food provided by The Hill and a selection of wines by Woolley. There were even wine-infused cupcakes to savor, using the floral rose-like Traminette wine from Weathered Vineyards.

The weather was a bit chilly, so the event was shifted indoors to the wine tasting room. Weatherman Woolley explained it was a cold front coming through, which was expected to linger a few days, by the way.

In fact, the name of his vineyard being “Weathered” has more to do with his background as a meteorologist than literally weathered wines. His experience with weather has been a big help in the wine-making business, with him being able to know when to plant and harvest, and when the weather might affect his precious grape harvest of Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

“We just love Rich’s wines. They are exceptional and we are so happy to serve them here at the Smithton Inn,” says Gallagher.

Woolley got started making wine as a hobby after his wife gave him a wine-making kit. He moved around a lot back then with his career, crisscrossing between Pennsylvania and the western U.S. Each time he moved, he had to leave his bottled wines with friends, since he wasn’t allowed to transport them. Each time, when the wines had aged for a year or so, he got a call.

“This is the best wine we ever had,” they would tell him.

When the Woolleys moved to the Allentown area several years ago, they got serious about actually getting licensed to have their own vineyard and sell their wines. With the help of the Blairs of Blair Vineyards in Kutztown, they managed to find a property to start their own Weathered Vineyards.

“These are wonderful wines,” noted Pat Schell, who was enjoying the wine tasting for the grand opening at Smithton Inn. She liked the Pinot Grigio, while Todd Spare was savoring the Pinot Noir.

The wine list has something for everyone, whether you prefer a Naked un-oaked Chardonnay or a classic red Burgundy Pinot Noir with hints of black cherry, raspberry and strawberry. There is a dry Riesling with citrus and apple, a fruity Pinot Gris with pear and nectarine, a sweet Riesling that tastes like apple and pear. The Traminette is like a bouquet of roses with a touch of Granny Smith apples. Red lovers also can try the well-balanced Merlot with cherry, raspberry and plum, with a touch of oak or the delicate Sunset rose Chamburcin-style wine with a floral nose.

“We are so happy to have a wine tasting room here at the Smithton Inn and we invite everyone to join us,” says Gallagher, lifting her glass in a toast.

The tasting room has seating for 10, with overflow in the dining room, along with outside seating in the garden. They offer 10 varieties of wine, as well as craft beers and craft sodas.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer. She can be reached for comments and questions at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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