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History of South Shore Wine Company

The South Shore Wine Company, originally established by William Griffith and Smith S. Hammond in 1864, was the first commercial winery in Erie County.  The original stone wine cavern, built in the 1860s and fashioned after French wine caverns, is one of very few of its kind in the United States.  After Griffith’s untimely death, the winery continued operation under various owners and winemakers for many years until the Prohibition halted production in the 1920s.  In fact, the South Shore Wine Company was one of the longest running wineries in Pennsylvania.

Though the wine cellar sat mostly unused and unvisited for many years, the upstairs building was purchased, renovated, and transformed from a barn into a popular restaurant, inn, and banquet hall, which was in operation for nearly a century.  North East natives fondly recall visiting the South Shore Inn for parties, bands, proms, and class reunions.  Though it is rumored that the building may have been part of the underground railroad, no actual evidence backing this up has been found.  However, when you visit the South Shore Wine Company and Vintage Room, it is easy to imagine how freed slaves of the past eras could have hidden out there, or even how a law-bending winemaker could have set up a bootlegging operation in a dark hidden corner of the cellar.

When the building and cellar again became vacant, it was purchased in 2007 by Robert Mazza of Mazza Vineyards in hopes of preserving the unique history of the location. The stone wine cavern was cleaned up and restored, and again opened to the public as a tasting room and wine cellar, and the “South Shore Wine Company” name was re-established. Over the years, the Mazzas have continued to restore various portions of the large building, including adding a seasonal café and year-round banquet hall.

In the wine cellar, you will be able to taste a new and unique selection of wines (different from those at nearby Mazza Vineyards) while taking in the grandeur and silent history hidden within the original stone walls. You can almost hear the echoes of past winemakers as they prepared their samples for the 1867 Paris World’s Fair.  Also in 1867, the South Shore Wine Company hosted a lunch for more than 300 grape growers and guests in the big hall above the wine cellar. This same space, newly restored with care taken to recall past days of glory, is now available as the South Shore Vintage Room for your next special occasion.  Please visit our events page for booking and contact information.

Learn more about the history of Mazza in our storybook.


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