Penn Live features Mazza Wines in “Aging Gracefully”

Posted: April 16, 2018

 

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Aging gracefully: A list of Pa.’s longest-produced wines
By Paul Vigna | pvigna@pennlive.com | Posted March 31, 2018 at 09:44 PM | Updated April 03, 2018 at 10:15 AM

2018 marks the 50-year anniversary of the passage of the Limited Winery Act, which allowed for the production and sale of wine in Pennsylvania. Legislatively it was called Act 272, introduced in June 1968 and passed after midnight on the final day of that session when the Senate approved the bill by a 36-9 vote. Gov. Raymond P. Shafer made it official with his signature on July 31 and created an industry that today exceeds 250 wineries. This list counts down the wines in the state that have been made the longest, with all of them at least 30 years old. Much of the historical referencing came from “Pennsylvania Wine: A History,” by Hudson Cattrell and Linda Jones McKee, and “Pennsylvania Wineries,” by Linda Jones McKee and Richard Carey.

Age 30: Adams County Winery Tears of Gettysburg
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Age 30: Adams County Winery Tears of Gettysburg
Adams County Winery, Orrtanna, Adams County

Vaughn Crouse, the business development coordinator at Adams County Winery, noted in a March 9 email that Tears of Gettysburg was celebrating its 30th birthday this year. He wondered where that stood among Pa. wines for longevity, the question that led to this slideshow. The winery will celebrate its 43rd birthday this summer. Ron Cooper opened the winery in 1975; it was the 12th winery in the state to be approved for a license. Tears of Gettysburg is its most recognized wine, a sweet blend of Seyval, Vidal and Niagara.

Age 30: Franklin Hill Vineyards Country White
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Age 30: Franklin Hill Vineyards Country White
One of the Lehigh Valley’s first wineries was Franklin Hill Vineyards, in Bangor, Northampton County. Elaine Pivinski, still the owner, and her then first husband Charles Flatt bought a 35-acre farm outside Bangor in 1975 and over the next few years planted Foch, Seyval, DeChaunac, Cayuga white and Vidal. The winery opened in 1982. Country Red was first produced in 1985 and is now called Sir Walter’s Red. That honors Elaine’s father, Walter, who could often be seen smoking a pipe and Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco. Country White was created in 1988 and renamed Katie’s Creek, in honor of Elaine’s son, Adam, taking a bride named Kate. Country Kiss came along in 1990 and at some point lost the prefix, according to Cheryl Paynter of Franklin Hill, who provided a photo of how the current bottles look.

Age 33: Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery Vidal Blanc
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Age 33: Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery Vidal Blanc
John and Pat Skrip both had a passion for wine as they launched their careers, John as a civil engineer and Pat as a school teacher. In the early 1970s they began planting grapes as a hobby at their home in Breinigsville, Lehigh County. You might say the idea of changing careers grew on them, and in September of 1985 they opened Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery. Today it’s one of the state’s biggest wine operations and one of the original members of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. Daughter Kari and son John III have each year taken more control of the reins. The Vidal Blanc is an off-dry white wine. it was previously called Clover Hill White.

Age 33: Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery Turtle Rock Red
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Age 33: Clover Hill Vineyards & Winery Turtle Rock Red
Turtle Rock Red is an off-dry red made out of Chambourcin grapes. It’s one of the winery’s most popular wines. Both wines were on the list that first day in 1985.

Age 34: Brookmere Winery Shawnee Red
Cheryl Glick / Facebook
Age 34: Brookmere Winery Shawnee Red
Brookmere Winery & Vineyard in Belleville, Mifflin County, opened in 1984. Don and Susan Chapman opened the place on a 136-acre farm they purchased in the mid-1960s. The Chapmans planted 3 acres of vineyard in 1982 and added another couple acres over the next few years, putting in Vidal, Seyval, Chelois, Chardonel, Chambourcin and some Cabernet Sauvignon. Longtime customers Ed and Cheryl Glick bought the winery from the Chapmans a few years ago and have done renovations on the bank barn that contains the tasting and winery. The property also includes a Victorian-style house that’s used as a bed and breakfast. Among the wines on Brookmere’s early list that’s still being made today are Tears of the Goose (Chelois, Seyval, Vidal and Chardonel), Valley Mist (Vidal, Seyval and Chardonel) and Shawnee Red (DeChaunac and Concord).

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Age 36: Chaddsford Niagara, Chambourcin
Winemaker Jim Osborn got to Chaddsford Winery, in suburban Philly’s Brandywine Valley, in 1987. That was five years after it opened. For years it was one of the state’s best-known wineries, with Lee and Eric Miller directing the operation and building its reputation on its dry wines. They have left and the production on the sweet end has definitely increased, but one thing that remains the same is Osborn. “When I came on board it was just to convince people that we were able to grow wine grapes in Pennsylvania was one of our first hurdles,” he said last year. “But over the years we’re definitely been getting greater acceptance to the fact, especially the younger, the new wine drinkers that are coming into play right now.” Two of the wines from 1982 are still around, including the Niagara, which won the first Pa. Wine Cup in 2011, and the Chambourcin. Osborn provided a then-and-now shot of the latter.

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Age 36: Conneaut Cellars Chardonnay, among others
Conneaut Cellars Winery was founded by Dr. Alan Wolf in 1982. Per the website, Wolf was exposed to winemaking when working for the U.S. State Department in Germany in the 1950s, where he placed political refugees as winery workers. Some of these émigrés were biochemists. Later, he learned basic winemaking at several schools in Germany, then in the 1960s experimented with more than 100 grape varieties at Cornell and Penn State i addition to teaching winemaking. After he died in 1995, his son, Joal, bought the winery and continues to run it. Five of the original wines continues to be made.

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A Conneaut Cellars wine list, circa 1983
Joal Wolf said the original wines that Conneaut Cellars, in Conneaut Lake, Crawford County, still make include Princess Snowater (Catawba), Riesling, Chardonnay, Hazel Park Red (Concord), and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Here’s the bottom of the Conneaut Cellars wine list from 1983.

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Age 36: Naylor Wine Cellars York White Rose & First Capital
Dick Naylor began the story of his namesake winery in Stewartstown, York County, by making dandelion wine in the 1960s. His interest in winemaking increased to where he planted a vineyard in his backyard at his home in York. He grew Concord, Niagara and Catawba grapes, the beginnings of what would become his vineyard. In 1972 he entered an amateur wine competition at the York Fair and won best in show three years in a row. A few years later, in 1978, Dick and wife Audrey founded Naylor Wine Cellars.

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Per the website, he produced the first 1,600 gallons of wine in the original winery, which was a potato cellar underneath the chicken house that still stands on the property today. He would lug all of his grapes down the road to Blevins Fruit Farm and use their apple press to crush his grapes. Some of the first wines produced were York White Rose — a Chablis style dry white wine — First Capital — an Italian style red wine, and Niagara — a sweet and fruity wine that tastes like eating grapes right off the vine. Amanda Brimfield, who handles marketing and other duties as a “next generation” taking over operation of the winery, said she thought the York White Rose and First Capitol, a a blend of Chancellor & Chambourcin, have been made since 1982. That First Capitol recently won a silver medal in the Pa. Wine Association competition.

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Age 37: Calvaresi Winery Niagara, Concord
Calvaresi Winery, Bernville, Berks County

Tom Calvaresi started the business in the basement of his row home in Reading before moving it to Bernville. He retired in 2014 and sold it to Shannon Birosik, a Delaware Valley College grad and home winemaker. She said to her knowledge that the two basic hybrids, Niagara and Concord, were among the original wines that Calvaresi made when it opened in 1981.

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Age 38: Allegro Winery Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon
Bill Radomsky owned the property that Allegro Winery now sits on in Brogue, York County, and began planting vines in 1973. He planted some more in 1974, in all planting 17 acres. Some of the original vines, including Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, still grow on the property more than 40 years later. Musician brothers John and Tim Crouch purchased the property in 1978 and constructed the winery building in 1980, opening its tasting room for business in 1981. Two of the original wines were Chardonnay and Cab Sauv. Another worth mentioning was Opus One, a name that the Mondavi-Rothschild partnership on the West Coast unveiled, only to find out that Allegro was already using the name for its best-selling blend of Seyval and peach wine. That ultimately was renamed Celeste and the owners at the time, John and Tim Crouch, used the settlement money to buy a semi-automatic corker and improve the driveway and bridge into the winery, according to “Pennsylvania Wine, A History.” The “dispute” hasn’t been forgotten, as visitors will note via a sign they’ll see as they enter the winery’s driveway.

Paul Vigna | pvigna@pennlive.com
Allegro library
The bottles in the photo were pulled out during the past couple weekends for two library tastings. Winemaker and co-owner Carl Helrich shared, among other things, a 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1987 Chardonnay, both certainly drinkable and prompting a fair amount of discussion.

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Age 40: Nissley Wine Cellars Naughty Marietta, Seyval Blanc
J. Richard Nissley was in the bridge construction business in Pennsylvania for 32 years before retiring, with an eye on hobbies such as fishing and hunting. But that’s not the way it turned out. With his son, John, using his agronomy degree to tend to almost 30 acres of largely French hybrids in the mid-1970s, Dick became a winemaker and winery owner, first opening in 1978 as Conoy Winery, for the township the farm is located in, and a year later taking the family name of Nissley Wine Cellars. Jonas Nissley, bringing in the energy and ideas of a “next generation,” wrote in an email that this year will mark the 40th vintage for Nissley Vineyards and for Naughty Marietta, a semi-dry wine and its most popular red.

Jonas: “It is one of two wines that have remained on the list since the winery opened in ’78. We will give an ‘old vine’ designation to our Seyval Blanc this year, as the vines are now over 40 years old — they were planted in 1974. This varietal has also been on the list since we opened in 1978.”

By the way, Dick became the first president of the Pa. Wine Association and in addition to John, two of his daughters Judy and Joyce, took an active role in the growth of the winery.

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Age 44: Buckingham Valley Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc
Jerry Forest and his friend Vladimir Guerrero talked in the 1950s about making wine while attending the University of Pennsylvania, according to the book “Pennsylvania Wineries.” In 1966 they planted 5 acres outside Philadelphia. Four years later, Jerry and wife Kathy bought control of the vineyards and in 1974 opened Buckingham Valley Vineyards and Winery, in Bucks County. At the time, Jerry was the advertising manager for the Bucks County Courier Times. Two wines made back then are still made today: Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc. Forest wrote in an email that prior to that his wines were simply named Red, White and Rose, all blends. “Life was simple back then,” he said. Now he called his place The winery at Buckingham Valley Vineyards.

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Age 44: Mazza Vineyards Riesling, Chardonnay
Mazza Vineyards is one of three Lake Erie wineries that have contributed heavily to Pa.’s wine industry. An area that for years was largely used by Welch’s to grow Concord grapes for its juice, the opening of Presque Isle Wine Cellars and Penn Shore Vineyards influenced brothers Bob and Frank Mazza to open a winery. At the time, they already were managing their father’s 20-acre grape farm. According to “Pennsylvania Wineries,” they built their Mediterranean-style winery in 1973 and opened in 1974. One of the biggest, if not the biggest operation now in the state, it grows grapes for a number of wineries in addition to feeding a lengthy wine list and operating Five & 20 Spirits & Brewing in Westfield, New York. Thanks to Vanessa Mazza for putting this photo together of vintages bottles: The Riesling is from 1974, Ice Wine of Vidal Blanc is from 1984 (likely the first vintage), Traminer is from 1973 and Chardonnay from 1974.

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Another vintage shot, featuring the following Mazza wines from the early days: (from left) Chardonnay, Chancellor, White Riesling and Baco Noir.

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One final vintage photo, from left in the box: Dutchess, Catawba and Chelois.the latter a red hybrid grape.

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Age 48: Presque Isle Pink Catawba, Riesling, Chardonnay
Per the book “Pennsylvania Wineries,” Doug Moorhead returned home from serving in the U.S. Army in Germany in the 1950s and met Bill Konnerth, a home winemaker who suggested that Moorhead plant wine grapes. He sought out the advice of Dr. Konstantin Frank in New York and Philip Wagner in Maryland; the three of them would have a significant role in the foundation of a what’s now an emerging East Coast wine industry. Moorhead and Konnerth started the Lake Erie Wine Club in 1960 and four years later opened Presque Isle Wine Cellars as a source of winery supplies and juice for home winemakers. Four years after that, the Limited Winery Act passed, and by Oct. 30, 1970, the place was making and selling wine. Among those early wines still being made today are Chardonnay, Riesling and Catawba.

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Age 48: Penn Shore Pink Catawba, others
Penn Shore Vineyards along with Presque Isle Wine Cellars obtained the first two licenses after the Limited Winery Act was passed. Three growers — Blair McCord, George Luke and George Sceiford — set up their corporation and became the first winery in Pa. to open under the new law, on April 30, 1970. Wines were sold at the winery and at Pennsylvania state stores. For a time, Mazza Vineyards took control, but current owners Jeff and Cheryl Ore purchased the operation from the Mazzas in May 2004.

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Penn Shore was the first Pennsylvania winery to sell champagne, in August 1971.

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Here’s a shot of what that first bottle looked like. Today, Penns Woods makes champagne, sparkling Catawba and sparkling Niagara. One of the current trends across Pa. and other mid-Atlantic wineries is an increasing production of various styles of sparkling wines, and that figures to continues for the foreseeable future.

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Pa.’s early years for wine
Pennsylvania got a head start on making wine with the passage of the Limited Winery Act in 1968, but those next 20 years offered modest growth, at best.

By the end of 1976, there were 11 limited wineries in Pennsylvania.

Here’s who had licenses:

Penn Shore, North East, Erie County

Presque Isle Wine Cellars, North East

Mazza Vineyards, North East

Harbook Winery, Titusville, closed

Conestoga Vineyards, closed

Bucks County Vineyards, New Hope, closed

Doerflinger Wine Cellars, Bloomsburg, closed

Chateau Piatt, Allentown, closed

Adams County Winery, Orrtanna

Merlino’s Winery, Morton, Delaware County, never opened

Dutch County Wine Cellars, Lenhartsville, Berks County, closed

Today. there are around 250 wineries located in Pennsylvania, a majority in the southcentral, eastern and northwestern parts of the state.

Provided, Penn Shore Winery