UNIVERSITY PARK — Sue Willis can’t tell you all the flavor notes in a bottle of Chardonnay, but she knows good wine when she tastes it.
And she found it Sunday at the fourth annual WPSU Wine Festival at The Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel.
Willis and her husband, Tim, of Lanse, discovered a favorite at Bee Kind Winery, of Clearfield, one of four local wineries at the festival.
“I’m not a wine connoisseur — that’s why I drink sweeter wines,” she said after tipping back a sample of white wine from Bee Kind. “It’s got a real light fruity taste.”
With more than 30 wineries from across the state and country in attendance, there was something for everyone Sunday.
Organizer Sue Bryant said the event was formed in part because there just wasn’t anything like it in the central part of the state.
Pennsylvania’s big wine tasting festivals take place in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, she explained.
“It started out trying to be the go-to place in central (Pennsylvania),” Bryant said. “And it’s grown into this.”
With all the wines available, Penn State Extension oenologist Denise Gardner had some advice for those who didn’t know where to start.
“There’s no right or wrong way to taste wine,” she said. “It’s fine to drink what you like.”
Gardner, who develops educational programs for the state’s wineries, was one of three local experts to present seminars Sunday.
She took her taste buds on a tour of wines that can trace their roots to Austria, France, South Africa and Australia.
But the wines had one thing in common — they all came from grapes grown right here in Pennsylvania.
Gardner said the state ranks fourth in the country in grape harvest for use in wine or juice and ranks seventh in the production of wine.
The state’s moderate climate and rolling terrain provide some of the best growing condition on the East Coast.
It’s a business that’s been steadily growing since prohibition, Gardner said. Now, more than 160 wineries operate in the state.
Because the far corners of the state had different settlers — the French in Erie, the Swedes in Philadelphia — and because of unique climates, the same types of wine can vary greatly across Pennsylvania, she said.
“Erie has a very different type of Riesling than Scranton, or the southeast,” she said. “Happy Valley winery is also very different than what they have in the four corners and they are right here in the center.”
Bee Kind and the other local wineries in attendance Sunday took the opportunity to reach out to potential new customers.
“It’s a great marketing opportunity,” said Susan Daley, of Bee Kind. “People here love the localness. And a lot of people know their wines.”
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter