Bubbling Forth: Why Chester County's J. Maki Winery and Its Champagne Caused an International Stir

Ten years ago, the prestigious European wine competition, the Vinalies Internationales, put a tiny local vineyard—then known as French Creek Ridge Winery—on the map. And, there, it has stayed.

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The similarity to Bottle Shock ends with the French judging each wine the best. Bottles of the winning wines in Spurrier’s blind tasting now reside in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. J. Maki Winery’s appeal to the Smithsonian, meanwhile, was rejected.

“The California chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon in the ’70s had a big impact,” says Haldy. “It launched a whole industry. Our win has not had a national impact—though no one could ever refute the significance of our award.”

Even local impact has been limited. While Southeastern Pennsylvania boasts its fair share of wineries, in northern Chester County—where the vineyard is surrounded by horse pastures and small family farms—there’s really no danger of a wine boom.

The vineyard is located in Warwick Township, nestled right up against the borders of Lancaster and Berks counties. It’s an area that, thanks to its historic Amish and Quaker influences, has traditionally been dry. That doesn’t prevent some Amish from stopping by J. Maki in their buggies or sending a driver to buy what they refer to as “medicine.”

It’s unlikely you’ll ever see Maki and Haldy living like they do among the sun-dappled terraces of Tuscany or Bordeaux. What you will see is the two of them working—a lot. Tending a vineyard is challenging in itself; actually making the wide varieties the winery produces is a monumental task. The cinematic version of a vineyard might be all romance and Dionysian revelry, but at a two-person operation like J. Maki, it’s a job.

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