Spoonfuls of Germany

Riesling from around the corner

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Not long after I moved from New York City to rural northeast Pennsylvania, I picked up a high school friend from Germany late at night from the bus in Allentown. The next morning I found her looking out our guestroom window laughing, “You moved four thousand miles to get away, and here you are in an area that looks just like Germany!”

Just like Germany… that is also what Sarah and Galen Troxell thought, owners of the Galen Glen Winery less than three miles from us. Almost twenty years ago, Galen’s parents brought up the question of the future of their 83-acre farm that had been in their family for two centuries. At that time Sarah accompanied Galen on several business trips to Germany, where they fell in love with German food and wine. On one occasion, a vineyard worker gave them a spontaneous tour of a local winery in Markelsheim, a winegrowing town south of Würzburg. It clicked: they decided to start a winery on Galen’s family farm.

The vineyard consultant whom they hired to assess the land concluded the farm was suitable for winegrowing, and provided Sarah and Galen with valuable information and contacts for turning farmland into a vineyard. They left Philadelphia and started learning all about wine and winemaking. Their background – Sarah is a chemist and Galen an engineer – came in handy.

On Mother’s Day in 1995, they planted the first vines. This is where the Galen Glen logo, a crooked stick, originated: a cherry sapling that served as a measuring instrument to space the first vines. Initially the tasting room was located in the basement of their home. From these modest beginnings, the Winery has flourished. When I interviewed Sarah in 2003 for the first edition of Spoonfuls of Germany, the vineyard comprised 11 acres and produced 27,000 bottles per year, and Galen had just left his day job the year before.

Today the Winery produces more than 50,000 bottles per year of white, rosé, red, dessert and sparkling wines from 20 acres, and they both work full time at the Winery. They have since added a tasting room overlooking the vineyard where they hold a quarterly Winemaker’s Dinner and many other events. But no matter how full the parking lot and how packed the tasting room is when I stop by, it still has the homey feel of a family-owned vineyard in Germany’s Rhine Gorge.

A shelf in the tasting room displays the long row of wines that have won awards. They include the Best White Wine by a Woman Winemaker for the 2010 Stone Cellar Gewurztraminer at the Women’s International Wine Competition in California, and the Double Gold (Chairman’s Award & Unanimous Gold) for the Stone Cellar Riesling 2010 at the Riverside International Wine Competition, which makes a point of including less-known wine regions.

At Galen Glen, past, present, and future blend together smoothly. Sarah and Galen converted two old stone cellars on the main farm into wine cellars where the red wines age. Erin, their daughter, discovered her love for viticulture when she was just six years old, following Sarah along the rows of vines and learning to spot signs of disease in grapevines. As a teenager, Erin moved from being an observer to a full hands-on participant in the winemaking process. In 2010 Erin received a dual degree in enology and viticulture from Cornell University. She is currently in Germany pursuing a Master’s degree. It looks like the future of the vineyard will be in excellent hands.

For me the Winery is American entrepreneurial spirit at its best: trading in conventional desk jobs and taking one’s chances delving into something entirely new. Surely their educational background helped Sarah and Galen a great deal, and the family farm was there for them to use. Yet it takes a lot of courage to do something like this. When I am out and around on my bike on our rural roads it often happens that a car stops me to ask for directions to the Winery. It always fills me with pride that we have a winery around here – especially because this area, despite its beauty, is lacking attractions and tourism infrastructure. The Winery is a landmark in an otherwise underdeveloped area.

Yes, the rolling hills, the forest alternating with farm fields, the landscape dotted with impeccably kept farms, do look like Germany. However, in Germany I would not be able to drink award-winning Riesling that is made around the corner.

Chicken in Riesling with Grapes (Woihinkelche)

In 2005, Galen Glen Winery, which is one of the eight wineries on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail, featured four recipes from Spoonfuls of Germany at the food and wine pairings of the yearly March Madness.

For this chicken dish from the Rhinegau winegrowing area, Sarah recommends their Mosel-style Riesling.

1 chicken (3 to 3½ pounds), cleaned and most of the skin removed

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Generous pinch of dried tarragon

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 cup Riesling, or other dry white wine

½ cup light cream

½ tablespoon unsalted butter

12 medium white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced

¾ cup (¼ pound) halved seedless white grapes

1. Cut the chicken into 8 parts and rub it with salt, pepper, and tarragon. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the onion, garlic, and wine and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Take the chicken out of the pan and keep warm. Whisk the cream into the sauce and let it thicken.

3. Heat the butter in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms until they start to soften. Add the mushrooms to the sauce, together with the chicken. Stir carefully and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the grapes and reheat them briefly in the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with plain white rice.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

© Spoonfuls of Germany, 2004

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