What comes to mind when you think of Pennsylvania? If you're anything like me, you see Ben Franklin in an Eagles jersey signing The Declaration of Independence with one hand and scarfing a sloppy cheesesteak with the other. Anyone else? But take a closer look, my friend and you'll see there a lot more to Pennsylvania than Philadelphia. If you drive just 150 miles north of the city, you'll find yourself in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, a heavily forested area that stretches across 2,394-square-miles. There are 150 lakes around here, so it feels very appropriate that the word Pocono means "stream between two mountains" in the native Lenape language.
I'm pretty familiar with the area because I spent eleven summers up here at Camp Oneka, an all-girls camp in a neighborly lakeside community called Tafton. To give you an idea of how obsessed I was with this place, you should know that I often fantasized about getting a tattoo of this unincorporated town's zip code, 18464, when I was all grown up. I never did get that tattoo, but I did get to spend a really fun weekend up here for my friend, Jillian's bachelorette party. Friends came from near and far to celebrate this awesome bride-to-be.
In addition to snacking at our lake house and cruising on her future mother-in-law's pontoon boat, we went out on the town to a few restaurants like Cocoon Coffee House & Bakery and Glass, which is part of the Ledges Hotel.
For me, however, the highlight of the bachelorette party, was our trip to Three Hammers Winery, which was founded in May 2018 by husband and wife team, Rob Kobrzynski and Christine Pucciarello who left their corporate gigs to fulfill a shared dream of bringing quality winemaking to the Poconos. Pennsylvania is not usually a state associated with world-class wines, but Rob and Christine want to change that perception one glass at a time. Since the climate isn't ideal for growing grapes, they don't maintain a vineyard or actually grow the grapes on their property. Instead, they partner with grape merchants in California, Washington State, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia who ship their juices up to the Pocono Mountains for processing into wine.
We booked a 90 minute private tasting (~$50 per person) in their cozy farmhouse, which included a dedicated server, tasting of six wines and charcuterie board pairing. We were warmly greeted with a sparkling wine toast and enjoyed a brief tour of the home, which included a working fireplace from the 1820s. As you can imagine, there was significant structural damage when Rob and Christine purchased the property in 2016, but they painstakingly reconstructed the home using only recycled wood. The name, Three Hammers Winery, is a sweet homage to the three brothers who were the original owners of the property, Abel, Israel and Ira Hammer.
This was one of the most intimate and unique tasting rooms I've visited. The Rathauskeller is a beautifully appointed basement cellar with many wooden furnishings that Rob crafted himself, including the bespoke wine barrel table that is the room's centerpiece. Supporting local artists and craftsmen is especially important to Three Hammers Winery, which is why they also opened up an art gallery off of Route 507 called Lake Art that celebrates the local mountain culture. My brother Michael of Kevin Michael Designs even crafted a custom Lake Wallenpaupack cheese board that he sent up to Rob as a gift!
Event though I don't drink anymore (it'll be 10 years in 2020!), I still really love winery experiences. I even spent my recent birthday up at Chateau Montelena and Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley! Sureeee, I can't actually taste the wines, but I love learning about their unique flavors and the environment where they were grown. And you know what?
Wine tastings actually happen to have the best cheese boards on the planet and Three Hammers Winery easily has the most fantastic charcuterie spread I've ever seen at a wine tasting. It's a cornucopia of locally made crackers, wine-inspired cheese spreads, fresh fruits, fig jam, olives, cornichons, dried fruits, nuts, cheese and meats. A little something for everyone...even me, the vegan/non-drinker!
Of all their wine varieties, each type requires different aging periods and are aged in an oak barrel or stainless steel container (for whites) for nine to 12 months. By being in the barrels for so long, there's a nice oaky flavor to the red wines. It's a long process, but it pays off. I realize it's a little unusual that I can't actually describe the wines from the tasting, but all of the girls really liked them and took a few bottles home! Jillian's favorites were the rosé and chardonnay. I guess you'll just have to get over there and see for yourself.
After the tasting experience, we moved to the field area and visited the amazing gift shop (locally made t-shirts!!), played corn hole, listened to live music and lounged in the Adirondack chairs. It's the kind of place you could easily plan an entire weekend getaway around and if you're looking for a suuuuuper luxurious mountain getaway, you could even pair a trip to Three Hammers Winery with a stay at the high-end destination spa around the corner, The Lodge at Woodloch. This beautiful resort will set you back about $600 per night (or the cost of 85 cheesesteaks at Pat's King of Steaks) so don't say I didn't warn you!
So, next time you're in Pennsylvania...consider taking a road trip into the Pocono Mountains and visiting the amazing people over at Three Hammers Winery!
ADVENTURE UNABASHEDLY RECOMMENDS
Three Hammers Winery
877 Welcome Lake Road
Hawley, PA 18428
Hawley, PA 18428
119 Falls Avenue
Hawley, PA 18428
Cocoon Coffee House & Bakery
8 Old Route 6
Hawley, PA 18428
Tafton, PA 18464