As they raised her in Kingsley, Susquehanna County, Kim Pennay Waltz’s parents knew their daughter would go into business for herself one day. They just didn’t know what it would be.
In the 1980s, they certainly did not imagine their daughter would end up at the helm of Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, one of the leading wineries in Pennsylvania.
Mom Ruth Pennay was a nurse, and dad Gerald Pennay never worked for anyone other than himself through an auction business, farm and quarry, where young Kim often helped out.
As a business major at Penn State, Kim met future husband Jan Waltz, who studied agriculture, and the two started a partnership. Back then, the Waltz family grew tobacco.
“We wanted to produce something that we personally enjoyed and were passionate about,” Kim Waltz said at a recent tasting of the Electric City Chapter of the American Wine Society. They both liked wine and looked at the success of other wineries in Pennsylvania and throughout the East. Growing grapes became a backyard hobby, but they set their sights on the wine business.
They didn’t skimp, even in the early days. The couple hired the best consultants from around the world. They pledged they would grow only delicate, high-quality vinifera grapes and use only French oak barrels. Aiming high on quality, they knew their average bottle of wine would have to be $25, which most casual wine tourists may consider steep. But with a huge wine club, three retail outlets and additions to their 30 acres almost every year, they don’t seem to have a problem moving product.
Waltz Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is a standout for being a convincing sauvignon blanc — not a variety you see much in the east when riesling is such a standout. But this easily matches excellent domestic sauvignon blanc, moderating the excess of New Zealand versions with ripe quince, lime and a clean finish. $18. ★★★★
Waltz Vineyards 2013 Reserve Chardonnay smells of wet teak and apple pie with a lot of weight, while retaining acids in a clear tilt toward Burgundy that is built to age. Chardonnay lovers will not regret checking it out. $36. ★★★★1/2
You can’t go wrong with a rosé, especially in the east. A blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, Waltz Vineyard Stiegel Rosé is a refreshing anytime wine that tastes like fresh strawberries with a zippy acidity. $18. ★★★★
Waltz has some very special reds that top $30 and $40 a bottle. Their bargain red, Waltz Vineyards 2013 Baron Red, channels the same character of their pricier bottles. The only difference is it is blended from the individual barrels that don’t make the cut for the other bottlings. Baron Red is juicy and full of dark fruits, a medium-bodied wine with an excellent acidity. $25. ★★★★
GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below Average ★★, Poor ★
David Falchek is the executive director of the American Wine Society and reviews wines each week.