On any given day at Rushland Ridge Vineyard and Winery, you can expect to see owner Ed Ullman, clad in his signature bucket hat, milling around the vineyards trimming back leaves, pruning, or checking the progress of newly planted vines.
“I’m out here hanging out every day,” Ullman says as he meanders through the vineyards on a golf cart. “I just like doing it.”
What Ullman does is grow wine. It’s something he started doing when he 14 years old, alongside his father, in 1968. For the next 12 years, Ullman and his father tended the grapes in what was called Kings Oak.
By the early 1980s he began looking for a vineyard to call his own. The search ended in 1985 when he and his wife, Lisa, purchased their Rushland property. At the time it was all cornfields. They built their house and put six acres of vineyards in around it.
Today the property is home to 18 grape varieties grown to craft 16 types of wine – an assortment of dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines. In all, the winery produces 9 white varietals, 6 reds, and a rose’.
“We’re very traditional,” Ullman said. “Just wine and port.”
Best enjoyed outside the quaint tasting room amid bucolic views of the vineyards and a silo nearby. Rushland Ridge recently expanded its outdoor seating area with several tables and umbrellas to help guests beat the heat while taking in breathtaking views.
The winery produces 2,000 gallons of wine each year. Its crown jewel is Cabernet Franc, which in 2017 beat out more than 110 contenders to win “Best Red” at the PA Sommelier Judgment Day competition organized by the Pennsylvania Winery Association.
“After 35 years of growing grapes I planted a vineyard of Cabernet,” Ullman said proudly of his more recent addition. “Cabernet Franc could be a regional identity here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Vinifera grapes just taste good.”
Initially, he chose the thin-skinned grape because it was “easiest to grow.” Receiving the top honor in 2017 “validated what we’re doing.”
Guests can taste Rushland Ridge’s Cabernet Franc, as well as off-dry table wine, Vidal, sweeter wines including Traminette, Niagara and Country Red, and flavors in between as part of the winery’s wine tasting offerings. Visitors can sample all 16 of the reasonably priced wines during a tasting.
“We’re catering to small group wine tastings,” he said, adding that 6 or fewer guests is ideal.
The winery is open Saturdays and Sundays seasonally from March through year’s end. When he is not cutting back leaves to reveal fruit, harvesting grapes, pressing grapes, or bottling wine, Ullman stays busy running Royson Engineering Company in Hatboro with his brother. His grandfather and father started the family business in 1951.
“It seems like a lot, but it’s enough,” Ullman said of the workload of running two businesses. “I’m going to keep on growing wine for a while.”