a wine tasting on a lavender farm

I wrote about visiting beautiful Mt. Airy Lavender earlier this summer. The place is amazing and their products awesome. It is also a bucolic and lovely event venue.

We returned yesterday evening to the farm located in Wagontown for a wine tasting. We went to meet the lovely Gretchen Voelcker, owner and creator of Luna Hart Wines.

Our winemaker Gretchen

Founded by Gretchen Voelcker, Luna Hart Wines is a boutique wine company specializing in small batch, handcrafted wines in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Gretchen makes select wines in which she explores the techniques and nuances that continue to stoke her passion for wine.  

Nancy Saha, Gretchen’s grandmother (whom I adore)

Santa Ynez is part of the Santa Barbara wine country and home to other vineyard like Fess Parker. It is an amazing area, and as per my research each year over a million cases of wine are produced in the Santa Ynez Valley. The area features I am told well over a hundred wineries, most of them are boutique operations and family owned and operated. I prefer small businesses and have tasted many lovely wines from one of the most beautiful regions of California.

Why Luna Hart? Other than the wines are quite good? Because her proprietress and winemaker is from Chester County.

Gretchen Voelcker, the winemaker and creator of Luna Hart Wines grew up in Europe and right on the farm hosting the wine tasting event.  

While she and her family lived in Europe during her high school years and continuing with summers during her college years, she visited many different wine regions in France ultimately falling in love with the craft of winemaking and developing her own passion for wine.

When you speak with Gretchen as I did, you can see the passion for her chosen profession right of her face. She completely lights up while discussing how passion for wine began while living in Europe and visiting the many wonderful wine regions and vignobles in France.  Another passion was fueled by her love of nature and all things outdoors bringing her to California where she has had the fortune of working with gifted winemakers, mentors and role-models. 

After studying Business & French at Georgetown University and earning a degree in plant science from University of California, Santa Cruz, she moved to Santa Barbara County.

Gretchen worked at Rideau Vineyard for six years, starting as an intern and eventually became the assistant winemaker.  Now she is with Martian Ranch and Vineyard where she is the winegrower, producing minimal interference wines from biodynamically grown Estate grapes.

Gretchen has definitely produced some fabulous high quality wines and last evening we sampled four. Our favorites? A 2016 Cabernet Franc and a 2017 Grüner Veltliner.

The 2017 Grüner Veltliner was my pick because I am allergic to most red wines, and I prefer varietal whites over a bland Chardonnay. People laugh when I entertain because I don’t include Chardonnays. This wine is reminiscent of three wine styles to me: Alsatian, Austrian, and German.

My husband’s pick was the 2016 Cabernet Franc. It was a bold wine and lovely at first sip, and even better as it opened up. He is not a Merlot or Syrah guy generally, although he also said the 2018 Syrah presented was quite nice and fresh and fruity.

I also sampled the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc which was nice, but as I said the wine that hooked me was the 2017 Grüner Veltliner.

We purchased and bought home a few bottles of the 2017 Grüner Veltliner and 2016 Cabernet Franc.

You can order from Gretchen’s Website for Luna Hart and like many boutique and family vineyards, there is a wine club as well.

There is a lot of pretentious and not so enjoyable wine out there. Luna Hart is a label to watch. Gretchen is a talented winemaker and I look forward to tasting and purchasing more of her wines. Another one which interested me but sold out was the 2016 Aurora White. It uses in part a viognier grape and one of my all time favorite white varietals is a viognier.

Many thanks to beautiful Mt. Airy Lavender for hosting this event and a special note about how lovely the place looked and the food was terrific especially the salmon. A lot of times people skimp or do not truly bother with food at a wine tasting which I find to be a mistake. Wine is an experience generally paired with food so if you do a proper tasting the food should be sufficient and complementary.

If you are interested in hosting an event there, go to their website for further information.

Have a great Saturday!

visiting mt. airy lavender

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About a month ago I wrote a post called when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields.  It was about the new adaptive reuse of the Saha Farm in Valley Township (Coatesville/Wagontown). The farm is now Mt. Airy Lavender!!

I went to one of their open farm days in June, and will go back again when they have another one.  Mt. Airy Lavender is so worth the drive!  And I am hooked on their lavender based products! My big favorites are the Lavender Peppermint Body Butter  and Lavender Water and Lavender Essential Oil Roller!

You can buy their products online or when they have open farm days.  They have fun events too! (Including a wine tasting in August.)

For me, this was a special experience to finally visit the farm the Sahas fought so hard to save from eminent domain for private gain from Coatesville all those years ago.

I hope you enjoy the photos I am sharing and I hope you will visit the farm or consider it for an event.

I received nothing for writing this blog post.  I went to the farm because I wanted to see it and I buy their products and lavender plants because they are awesome.

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when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields

Long ago is what feels to be now another lifetime, I was part of the original Save Ardmore Coalition. We were ordinary people who banded together to save friends’ and neighbors’ businesses from eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore PA.

Along our journey the wonderful people at the Institute for Justice helped us and taught us and encouraged us. Through IJ we also met some amazing and inspirational people.  (and if your community is facing eminent domain check out the Castle Coalition part of the IJ website.)

Here straight from IJ (Institute for Justice’s website success stories):

Pennsylvania
Ardmore
Through the grassroots and political processes, a citizens group called the Save Ardmore Coalition (SAC) successfully defeated Lower Merion Township’s attempt to seize and bulldoze 10 thriving businesses in Ardmore’s charming historic district. When it comes to grassroots activism, the SAC did it all — rallies, protests, publicity campaigns and coordinated efforts to unseat local officials who supported eminent domain abuse. Its members testified before state and local bodies urging the reform of eminent domain laws, attended the Castle Coalition’s national and regional conferences, and worked with the media to bring attention to their battle. In March 2006, the Township took its condemnation threats off the table — no doubt in response to the public outcry generated by the SAC.

Valley Township
It cost Nancy and Dick Saha $300,000 of their retirement savings and six hard years, but they prevailed in their bout with the City of Coatesville. The couple bought their Pennsylvania farmhouse in 1971, making lifelong dreams of owning a small horse farm a reality. With their five children, the Sahas moved to Chester County and restored their charming 250-year-old residence. Truly a family farm, two of their daughters married and built their family homes on the land, giving Nancy and Dick the chance to see their five grandchildren grow up next door.

When Coatesville threatened to take their property by eminent domain to build a golf course—plans for which didn’t even include their farm in the first place—the Sahas remained fully committed to a grassroots battle. They submitted three petitions, protested at local meetings and took their fight to court. Ultimately, the city council backed off when the Sahas pushed to elect new representatives, agreeing to purchase five acres that the Sahas had offered to give the government for free at the beginning of the dispute.

It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle.  We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more.  It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.

Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational.  They created a hand off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention.  We all did. It was kind of crazy.

It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.

I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha.  They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.

But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain.  I moved to Chester County.  And since I moved to Chester County  I have thought about the Sahas once in a while.  I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird.  But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.

So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)

Two Sisters Transformed Their Family’s Chester County Farm Into a 42-Acre Lavender Oasis
Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker, the owners of Wagontown’s Mt Airy Lavender, have dedicated themselves to growing and harvesting seven different varieties of the plant.
BY LISA DUKART

In the heart of Chester County, there’s a little piece of Provençe, France, thanks to sisters Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker. On their 42-acre Wagontown farm, some 1,200 lavender plants flourish. In the warm months, those fields are abuzz with bees and butterflies. They flit from plant to plant, drunk on the heady scent the flowers release as they sway in the breeze.

Creating and maintaining such an idyll has been no small feat. Saha and Voelcker’s Mt Airy Lavender has required years of dedication and hard work. Their parents bought the farm in 1971, moving their family from Media to the homestead just outside Coatesville. With love and care, its rundown 48 acres began to thrive.

Years later, in 1991, the city of Coatesville tried to build on the property, claiming eminent domain. After a six-year legal battle, the family won, losing just six acres in the process. As their parents aged, preserving the land they fought so hard to protect became more and more important to the sisters. They couldn’t bear to see it sold.

Over the years, Saha and Voelcker built their own homes on the farm to be near their parents. The houses sit on either side of a long, shaded driveway that wends by pastures where horses can be seen cropping the grass. One lavender field is right behind Voelcker’s home. She began planting it in 2012, a year after she and her husband returned from a five-year stay in Brussels. “I worked and lived over there,” says Voelcker, the former head of client insight and marketing technology at Vanguard. “I got a chance to visit the South of France, and I just fell in love with the lavender.”

Please take the time to read the entire article. It’s so wonderful. I am so happy for the Sahas and this new success I am am all choked up with emotion.  It is so awesome to hear about nice things happening to nice people in a world that some days is truly nuts.

I can’t wait to visit the farm on open farm days.  Via their Facebook page for Mt. Airy Lavender I found their website.

They have great products they make that you can order online and they hose all sorts of events .

Events that interest me are the upcoming open farm days and I hope my husband will want to check it out:

Visit us when the lavender is expected to be in bloom – Mt Airy Lavender Open Houses – Sat. June 22, Sun. June 23, Sat. June 29, Sun. June 30
Come visit Mt Airy Lavender these weekends when we expect the lavender to be in bloom. Shop our products, bring your cameras and a picnic lunch. Fresh cut lavender and a variety of lavender products will be available for purchase. We aren’t normally open to the public, so this is a great opportunity to enjoy the farm. Please note – we lost quite a bit of lavender due to all the rain and lack of sun. We are in the process of replanting. The farm is still quite beautiful so we hope to see you at our Open Houses.

We will be open 11 am to 4pm on:

Saturday, June 22 & Sunday, June 23

Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30

Note: Bees love lavender, please be aware that bees will be attending the Open House as well. If you are allergic to them, please take special precautions!

Click here for directions to their slice of heaven.

What else makes me happy? Not just that this is still a farm and was saved, but how farmers in Chester County get creative to exist in today’s world.  See? We don’t need fields of plastic mushroom houses, we can have things like fields of lavender instead!

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Another view of the Saha Farm today courtesy of Mt. Airy Lavender