The Lancaster Valley AVA is located in Lancaster and Chester counties of southeastern Pennsylvania, centered on the city of Lancaster. The wine region includes 225,000 acres in a valley that is roughly 30 miles long and 12 miles wide, although only 400 acres are planted to grapevines.
Lancaster Valley's wine production suffered a century-long hiatus caused by war, wild weather, vine disease and Prohibition and has only begun re-emerge in the last few decades.
The Lancaster Valley is not a river valley, but rather a geological depression formed between the ridges of the northern Appalachian Mountains. It is bounded on the north, east and south by areas of higher elevation – ranging from 100 to 600 feet above the valley floor – and on the west by the Susquehanna river.
Underneath the valley is a large limestone basin, similar in some ways to the Paris Basin in north-western France. Because it is an easily eroded stone, porous forms of limestone draw water away from vine roots, preventing them from getting foot rot and motivating them to grow deep, strong root systems. The added value is that the limestone absorbs the moisture to a certain extent, providing a certain humidity even in periods of drought.
Blessed with a moderate climate by the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean and its Chesapeake Bay inlet, the Lancaster Valley mesoclimate is well suited to certain vine varieties, including both vinifera and native species.
Lancaster Valley wines are made from Franco-American hybrids such
as Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc; various native grapes such as Delaware; and well-known vinifera varieties, dominated by Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and the standard components of Meritage or Bordeaux Blend wines.