Since its opening in 2015, Martha has been lauded as a Philadelphia destination for thoughtful and inspired local food and drink.
This gem is at heart a neighborhood bar, with an ever-changing menu of local offerings that will not disappoint. We caught up with owner Jon Medlinsky to find out more about his take on Pennsylvania wines and how they’re featured at his beloved Kensington hangout.
Q: Why Pennsylvania wines?
A: “Everything we do at Martha is an effort to source locally. It’s from our friends and neighbors. Occasionally, we’ll pick out really cool beers from California, so there’s no restrictions, but we try to focus on buying things from people we know. We want to support the community we live in. The two axis of wines that we serve at Martha are local and natural. The crossover point are the wines from Va La Vineyards, which are local, natural and amazingly delicious. Since we’ve opened, we’ve found a lot of delicious Pennsylvania wine. The local portion of our wine list has grown over time and will probably continue to grow even further.”
Q: What are some of your personal favorites?
A: “Good examples of wines we’re blown away by are the Pinnacle Ridge sparkling wines from Brad Knapp. He’s been making award winning sparkling wine in Kutztown for 20 years. They’re amazing champagne-like wines. Va La Vineyards also makes great wine. We offer a flight [at Martha] for customers interested in the best of local wines.”
Q: How do you define local wine on the Martha menu?
A: “We care about wineries being close to us, with people we can interact with and talk to. We do Martha Mondays, where a maker comes in and presents one of their products to our regulars. We feature it at half-price, and work with the kitchen and bar to make food and cocktails with it. This isn’t something you can do with a winemaker who’s eight hours away. We like to engage with the products and producers.”
Q: What new things do you see happening in Pennsylvania wine?
A: “I think what’s happening in Pennsylvania is that there’s a new wave of winemakers, Galer Estate and Virginia Mitchell are a good example, who are trying to fit unusual varietals to the climate and soil that Pennsylvania provides, which is fairly unique in the world. They’re really finding the varietals that like and thrive in the soil in Pennsylvania. I think it’s really cool.”
Q: Any recommended pairings for Pennsylvania wines?
A: “In Pennsylvania we are blessed with amazing local cheeses. Cheese and wine are an obvious combination. We love the cheeses from Valley Shepherd and Sue Miller at Birchrun Hills. Our list is almost all local cheese.”
Q: If you had the opportunity to ask, what would you like to see more of from Pennsylvania wineries?
A: “Our limitations in procuring wine from wineries are either natural cork or kegs. If I had to ask anything of producers, it would be put more effort into kegging wine. It’s a really efficient delivery system. It’s not for every wine. There is a place for bottled wine. There’s an extra fermentation step in the bottle that brings a lot of complexity and nuance. Exploring and developing really good keg wines would be what I would love to see from Pennsylvania. It would make it a unique offering within the country. That’s my opinion, though. I don’t really ask of them; they ask of me.”
Martha has managed to create a local synergy that the Kensington area has been keen to pick up on. In Jon’s own words, “one of the things that makes me most proud to work here is that I’ll look down at the bar on a Sunday night and it’s filled with contributors like our bakers, brewers and others. That’s just how we do it.”
The Pennsylvania Winery Association is a trade association representing more than 100 member wineries and an advocate on behalf of the state’s growing multibillion-dollar wine industry. With some of the most fertile grape-growing land on the East Coast, Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in the amount of grapes grown, seventh in wine production, and seventh in the number of licensed wineries. To learn more about Pennsylvania wine or to plan a trip, visit PennsylvaniaWine.com.