We found the perfect bottle for your holiday party

By Cara Aungst


For many years, my Thanksgivings were spent in Buckeye territory. We didn't talk football … not over dinner at least … but Penn State was represented every year by my favorite wine. If you are like me and are venturing outside of Happy Valley this fall, take a little bit of Central Pennsylvania along with you in the form of some of our delicious, inventive wines and ciders.


Seven Mountains Wine Cellars' cranberry wine is my go-to bottle to take to holiday parties. First because it's just the right seasonal nod to the cranberry mood of Thanksgiving, but secondly because it's so darn good. It's not just me and my Ohio-based family who think so; the wine has been awarded double gold at the Farm Show, and was also awarded the 2011 Governor's Cup for Best of Show. Try it, and it will become part of your family's tradition. But make a point to get a few bottles the next time you are in town – this limited edition wine sells out fast! Their spiced apple is another sweet wine that fits well for winter parties. It's fermented with apple pie spices and can be served warm for a mulled cider taste with a kick. (sevenmountainswinecellars.com; 814-808-6635


There is a bottle of Mount Nittany Winery's Tailgate Red chilling in my refrigerator. It was gifted to me recently, and even though I thought I would save it to commemorate a special occasion, I don't think it will last that long. This best seller wasn't really made to be saved forever, though. It was made to go with anything from burgers to hot dogs to barbecue. It pairs well with weekdays, old friends, and laughter. While you are picking up your Tailgate Red, make sure to try their Chardonnay Reserve. It's won the 2018 Pennsylvania Winery Association's double gold award for best dry wine in the state and overall best dry wine. Can't decide? Wine tasting is always free at their winery. It's worth the trip! (mtnittanywinery.com; 814-466-6373)


Penn State will show up in a big way with Happy Valley Winery's Happy Valley Red. Using grapes grown on their estate, this red brings cherry and spice to the table. It's great with wintery comfort food, and can be used as base for a holiday party sangria. It's also a recent Farm Show winner. Pro tip: Add their winery to your weekend schedule during the next football weekend. They have live music every Friday night this fall. (thehappyvalleywinery.com; 814-308-8756)


Bellefonte is probably already on your to-do list this fall, and if it isn't, it needs to be. The downtown is buzzing with events, new (and established favorite) restaurants and that beautiful waterfront. Just over the railroad tracks, Good Intent Cider is cranking out some of the best hard cider you'll find. With flavors coming to you from Gettysburg battlefields (yes, really) to local orchards, you can find favorites like the semi-dry Adam's Apple or bity Ginger Kid with hints of ginger root and local maple syrup. Enjoy a Friday night with live music at their cidery, or buy a refillable growler to take to your next party. (goodintentcider.com; 814-355-1654)


The first time I tried Big Spring Spirits was at Tussey Mountain's Wingfest a few years ago. You could say that it was the magical combination of the warm summer night, and the music laying down the perfect background tune, and the crowd of instant friends that made that mojito so amazing, but I beg to differ. There was something pretty great about that smooth, Bellefonte-made rum made from Big Springs water that made it stand out. Don't take my word for it – their distillery in the Old Match Factory in Bellefonte is a destination in itself, and their drink menu features their spirits in drinks that range from cheeky Cinnamon Toast Crunch to a pickled Bloody Mary and Big Spring Old Fashioneds. Or you can pick up one of their vodkas, gins, rums or whiskeys and play mixologist at your next big event.(bigspringspirits.com; 814-353-4478)


Stop by 201 Elmwood St. in State College at the former Barn at Lemont for free tastings from two wineries. KingView Mead is crafted from honey, fruits and spices for a tantalizing concoction. They feature 19 mead varieties, including a Blue White mead made from grapes and blueberries, perfect for your next tailgate. (Kingviewmead.com; 412-335-0070)


Hungry Run Wine & Spirits hails from over the Seven Mountains and offers flavors like Green Apple Riesling, Rollin' Rita and Watermelon along with small-batch spirits. (hungryrunwineandspirits; 717-543-5111)

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