Commercial Meadery Category: Commercial Meaderies
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GALER ESTATE
Brad Galer, M.D.
“Blending Nature, Science, and Art.” This is Galer Estate’s philosophy, mission statement, and our tagline since 2005 when Lele and I started our venture in 2005. Back then we knew very little about this business, nothing about the intricacies of vineyard management nor the complexities of winemaking. But knew we wanted to do it right or not at all, like we have tried to do with all other aspects of our life. And from what we have experienced and learned nearly a decade later is that those five words we chose back in 2005 truly do capture the entire annual history of winemaking and also reflect what we have created here in the beautiful Brandywine Valley.
Nature: After much personal research, a two year enology course at Washington State University, and seeking out internationally renowned viticulture and winemaking consultants Lucie Morton and John Levenberg, Galer Estate was officially founded in 2005 when we purchased an eroded overgrown east facing hill behind our home in Pocopson Township. Then after several years of field work, including clearing over 100 trees, prepping the soil, and ordering thousands of vines from California, the “Home Vineyard” was born; (note that the trees’ wood we had to cut down in the vineyard was milled and used in constructing our winery). Then, in three phases from 2008-2010, we planted the “Home Vineyard” with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Vidal Blanc, and Albariño, using “high density planting” of ~1600 vines per acre. Lucie recommended such planting so as to stress the plants which would produce high quality fruit. One thing we learned was that unlike people, grape vines do better work when stressed- producing higher quality fruit when not happy and struggling to survive.
We purchased our other vineyard which is at our winery site (700 Folly Hill Road in Kennett Square) in March 2008, which we now call “Red Lion Vineyard,” which had ~4 acres that had been planted over 10 years prior with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. When purchased this vineyard we knew it needed major rehab in order to bring it up to our standards. After two years of significant efforts and cost, we made the tough decision in 2010 to pull out all of the Cabernet Sauvignon, and replant with Chardonnay. While the Chardonnay vines were producing Gold medal wines in Napa Competitions, the Cab Sauv wine was good but not great. Lele and I kept our promise of “do it right or not at all.” Thus our Red Lion Vineyard now is 100% Chardonnay, now with seven different clones, which adds to the complexity of our Red Lion Chardonnay.
Another very important element to GE’s “nature” is the several other local Pennsylvania vineyards with who we have a wonderful relationship. Historic Hopewell, Mica Ridge, Equivine, and Bella Cloiche Vineyards are all within a 30 mile radius of our winery and all share our philosophy of producing the highest quality wines from our shared terroir.
Science: March 2008 we purchased “Folly Hill Winery” in Kennett Square, thinking it would be a simple “turn key” operation- just change the sign to “Galer Estate.” Not so. Keeping to our promise of building a wine business of only the highest quality, we decided to build a state-of-the-art winery on this site. So for over 3 years, working with our winemaker consultant John Levenberg and Laurent Desfarges (Vinquip South Africa), we designed and constructed our gravity flow winery with a specialized fermentation room that feeds into our subterranean barrel room. And adjacent to the barrel room we built a chemistry lab, which is critical to make and maintain healthy wines; little did I know that my pre-med chemistry classes would ever be useful!. We bought the best equipment from around the world, such as temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks from South Africa, bladder press from Italy, bottling line from Canada, and, of course, French oak barrels. Our first full harvest with our new winery completely operational was 2010.
Art: Lele and I also have never forgotten that enjoying wine is about the total experience. We want our customers, while enjoying our wines to be immersed in the entire wine world- the nature, the science, and art. Lele is a well known artist who enjoys incorporating beautiful objects from the past and present. She designed our gorgeous wine tasting room and deck with views of the vineyard and fermentation room. Artistic elements are incorporated at every level, from the latches and knobs, stained glass, paintings, and rooftop whirligig to the unique architectural salvaged pieces of art- huge solid iron gates from a French chateau, art deco New York City bank doors, and 6 inch Constitution Hall era thick marble slabs as our wine bar. Also, we’ve discovered making wine is itself an art. Especially when blending wines, using each separate barrel or tank of fermented juice becomes the taste palate in which to explore and experiment with various blends and create a unique piece of art.
The Result: Over 60 wine competition awards and counting- winning prestigious blinded competitions against California, Oregon, Washington State, New York and yes Europe- including Best of Shows and Gold Medals from Napa, Sonoma, and Finger Lakes. And most importantly, we are proud to have created a wonderful and beautiful place to relax and enjoy the nature, science and art of wine in our home Chester County.