At Buckingham Valley Vineyards on the Bucks County Wine Trail in Buckingham, Pa., they’ve been making great wine for more than half a century. They are justifiably proud of their wine-making heritage, but don’t make too much of a fuss about it because they have wine to make, according to owner Jerry Forest, who founded the business in 1966.
“We make wine. We grow grapes and we live happily ever after,” he said simply.
Forest first helped make wine as a child, and he dreamed of owning a winery while studying (and playing music) at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1950s.
It wasn’t until 1966, however, that he and a close friend planted five acres of fertile farmland with grape vines; vines which were the genesis for the lush vineyards of today.
“It seemed like a fun thing to do,” said Forest of entering the wine-making business.
Nevertheless, he continued working in advertising sales until the late 1970s, when he retired from that career to devoted his full energy to producing the best wine possible.
Back then the Pennsylvania wine industry was still in its infancy, and Buckingham Valley Vineyards was one of only a few large-scale operations in the state. Today, there are nearly 300 wineries across the Commonwealth, and Forest said that’s a good thing.
“We get along well with all of the local wineries and distilleries,” he said, noting that while many of the newer vineyards offer a wide variety of events, host weddings, and cater to large groups of visitors, Buckingham Valley is content to keep its scope limited.
That focus has enabled the vineyard to tally wine sales into the seven-figures, but you won’t find lots of pricy labels on the shelves in their tasting room/wine shop.
Thanks to having low overhead, the price of a bottle of wine at Buckingham Valley remains relatively modest.
“We consider wine to be one of the basic food groups,” states the vineyard’s website. “To be enjoyed with meals or without. To be consumed without ceremony or snobbery. To be affordable for every day drinking. Thus our wines are very reasonably priced.”
Even the champagne produced at Buckingham Valley is comparitively low-cost, and that’s an additional source of pride for Forest, since theirs is the only winery in Bucks County to produce it according to the traditional methods used in France.
Another thing he’s proud of is his family’s commitment to the wine-making tradition he began. Today, all three of Forest’s adult children work at the vineyard in some capacity.
At 81, Forest said he no longer needs to work at the business, but he likes to stay involved.
“I love to see young people come here with their families,” he said with a smile.
And on weekends they come by the carload, in part because–except for a small outlet in Bristol–Buckingham Valley’s wines are only available for purchase at the vineyard and online.
On many weekends the winery hosts live music and occasionally other special events, and when the weather is nice there is ample open space for spreading out and enjoying a picnic lunch or supper along with a bottle of wine.
The wines available for purchase from Buckingham Valley include classic reds and whites as well as rose, sangria and various types of dessert and sparkling wines. Seasonal wines such as Holiday Spice are also sometimes available.
If you’d like to visit Buckingham Valley for a tasting, be aware that their tastings are “self-pour,” which Forest said helps to keep overhead low.
“We’re a winery for self-confident wine drinkers,” he joked.
A tasting fee of $5 per person includes samples of eight wines, plus the tasting glass to keep.
Groups of seven or more and limos are welcome but must make reservations, and the maximum size group Buckingham Valley Vineyards can comfortably host is 15 people.
Located at 1521 Rt. 413 in Buckingham, Pa., Buckingham Valley Vineyards is open year-round, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m.