by Ed Williams
“We shouldn’t compare the wines of our West Coast and South America with those in the Pennsylvania region,” says Gabriel Rubilar intently when prodded. “They have totally different profiles. It's like comparing apples to oranges. It's about educating first-time Pennsylvania wine tasters. The wines of this region tend to be more fruit-forward and light—and that's okay.”
Currently the four-year winemaster at Paradocx Vineyard and Winery—located in Landenberg in rural southern Chester County—the oenologist has a definite knack for understanding the chemistry involved in tending the fickle Pennsylvania grape. “Everything in life is based from chemistry,” he notes with a slight accent while illustrating a complex formula for calculating sugar and alcohol content in his notebook.
Born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Rubilar was always fascinated with living things. He enjoyed discovering animals, working in gardens and understanding the circles of life. He began exploring his interests in high school by studying chemistry and agronomy (the science and technology of producing and using plants for food, fuel, fiber and land irrigation). On a fast track to the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (he notes that continued education in his native country is free), he earned degrees in winemaking, food and beverage preparation and oenology (the chemistry and biology of wine).
Always striving to gain more experience, Rubilar took an educational leap by embracing a position with a wine co-op called FeCoVitA in Mendoza, where the focus was on the microbiology and analysis of the chemistry involved in creating the product prior to bottling. Continuing on in 2010, he took part in an exchange program and was involved in the grape harvest at Lynmar Estate Winery in Santa Rosa, California.
Once again returning to Mendoza as an assistant winemaker at Trivento Winery, he met some wine producers from Paradocx Vineyard. Wanting to expand his knowledge of wine, he could not resist the opportunity to relocate to the expansive Pennsylvania vineyard, where he eventually met and married his wife and began his family of two daughters.
The 30-something viticulturalist remains focused as he explains that mastering the growing techniques and comprehending the chemistry of fermentation, including French oak barrel aging, are key in producing the wine profiles for which Paradocx is famous.
Keeping the vines strong makes for a premium grape. Comparing viticulture with raising his own two young daughters, the winemaster’s eyes light up as he explains, “If we stay focused on the vine (as the parent), the grapes will follow with positive results for a very long time. As long as we continue to follow this philosophy—as well as providing information to our customers as to what they’re tasting and enjoying—we will continue to succeed in producing quality Pennsylvania wines.”
Personally, Rubilar favors drinking Cabernet Sauvignon, but he is also drawn to the winery’s 2012 Traminette varietal. “I remember the first time I inhaled the bouquet with the hints of jasmine in this wine,” he reminisces. “It reminded me of the garden of my sister in Argentina when I was younger.”
When questioned about the future of Pennsylvania wines, Rubilar reveals, “The beauty of creating quality local wines is what brings wine lovers to beautiful Pennsylvania. In other words, if we continue to focus on only the premium crops for our vintages, we will bottle only the best.” Not only is the vineyard producing wine that tastes good; several vintages have walked away with awards. Most recently, Haywagon Chardonnay 2015 garnered gold at this year's Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in New York state, and the 2012 Leverage and Chambourcin both pulled gold from Vineyard & Winery Management magazine’s 2014 East Meets West - Eastern Division competition.
The name of the winery, owned and operated by the Hoffman and Harris families, is a quirky play on words, as the four principals are practicing physicians (Pair of Docs). With 100 acres (30 of them vined) in bucolic Landenberg, Paradocx boasts 27 acres of Vinifera vines and 3 acres of Chambourcin and Vidal vines.
Presently, Paradocx continues to embrace the “artisan wine movement” (since its first release in 2004) and remains determined to make hand-crafted wines in small quantities—creating complex yet balanced wines including varietals Barbera, Grenache, Merlot, Syrah and unique Rhone-style blends.
Smartly designed signature 3-liter paint can containers (think refillable growler) work well in making the Paradocx product recognizable at retail and farmers’ market locations throughout the state. Easy online ordering and a great price point make the wines of this Pennsylvania winery accessible to everyone.
Recently incorporating local craft brews onto the tasting menus of its retail locations “allows Paradocx to introduce couples or friends of our followers who may not be familiar with our wines to give our wine products a try,” says Trish Brown, marketing and events director, with confidence. And that works purposefully with the always-growing award-winning 10,000-case winery.