Winery Manager: Pete Abvulovic (L) Owner&Winemaker: Rich Ripepi(R)
When you think of leaders in the resurgence of winemaking in Western Pennsylvania one name that should immediately come to mind is Richard Ripepi and his Ripepi Winery & Vineyard in Monongahela. Rich showed great foresight when he founded his vineyard in 1987. Those initial rows of grapes have now grown into a 10 acre vineyard containing nearly 5000 vines made up of 21 different varieties of wine grapes.
The day I visited Rich I found him to be the same welcoming and gracious host that I have come to know over the years, the kind that always makes you feel like one of the family. While sitting in his tasting room I took the opportunity to ask him how the 2014 season had played out. He told me it started out in early March with him leaving on extra buds because that was the consensus last year due to the extreme winter we had just experienced and the excepted damage it had caused to the vines. In reality his vines sustained little if any damage with the exception being his Cabernet Sauvignon that required some vines to be replaced because of winter damage. The spring brought rain and extra growth that prepared the vines for a huge volume of fruit to be set. After June 10th normally the grapes should on the vines signaling it is time for the nets to go up and the spraying program to end. It rained hard all summer and because of that the spraying had to continue to protect the crop. By late August the vines were so laden with fruit Rich had to decide whether to drop a portion of the fruit or roll the dice on perfect fall weather. Rich went with rolling the dice and he won. September had abundant sunshine and little rain making conditions favorable for all of his grape varieties to ripen within a 3 week picking window instead of the usual 6 week harvest season. Rich was both surprised and delighted with the resulting harvest that was the most bountiful and high quality of any in the history of Ripepi Vineyard. Vines that usually average 7 to 8 pounds of fruit each produced 10 to 12 pounds per plant in 2014.
Work at a winery may slow in the winter but it never stops. During my visit they were moving 800 gallons of wine outside to cold stabilize while Winery Manager Pete Abvulovic was in the lab working to find the alcohol content of various wines. Decisions were being made on which Ripepi wines would be sent to the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (F.L.I.W.C.) and which would be entered into the Pennsylvania Wine Association (P.W.A.) competition.
Rich honed his wine making skills by attending conferences and workshops sponsored by various universities and wine industry organizations. During the early days of his winery he was helped immensely by two people that he met at these gatherings. Rich made a special point to acknowledge the invaluable help given to him by his friends and viticulture experts, the late Robert Pool of Cornell University and the late Dr. Garth Cahoon of Ohio State University.
No trip to Ripepi Winery & Vineyard would be complete without tasting wine. I tasted his award-winning DeChaunac, an excellent Merlot-like Chancellor and the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cab was especially enjoyable because it contained grapes that my wife and I helped pick during the 2013 harvest that was featured in my post ” Harvest at Ripepi Winery “. For more information go to www.ripepiwine.com or follow him on twitter at @RipepiWinery Phone: 724-288-3738
Congratulations and Thank You to all the wineries that participated in this years competition. The entire palate of Pennsylvania wines that paint the portrait of this state’s evolving wine heritage were on display.
Double Gold: Best of Show Grape: Penns Woods Winery 2009 Cabernet Reserve . Double Gold: Best of Show Sweet/Dessert: Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery 2011 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine Gold: Best of Show Fruit: Starr Hill Vineyard & Winery 2013 Guilty Pleasure
Other local wineries that received medals in recognition for producing high quality wine were:
Fero Vineyards & Winery Double Gold: 2013 Grüner Veltliner Gold: 2013 Pinot Gris Silver: 2013 Pinot Noir and 2012 Riesling Bronze: 2012 Semi-Dry Riesling, NV Spiced Apple, NV Chocolate
Glades Pike Winery Gold: 2012 Petit Verdot Silver: 2013 Spiced Apple Bronze: 2014 Black & Blue, 2013 Noiret
Narcisi Winery Silver: 2013 Riesling Bronze: 2013 Rosabella, 2013 Noiret
The Vineyard at Hershey Bronze: 2013 Blackberry Portrait, 2013 Sweet Riesling, 2013 Pink Catawba, 2012 Merlot, 2013 Oaked Chardonnay
Christian W. Klay Winery Silver: 2013 Lavander Mist
For the complete list of medal winners at the largest indoor farm show in the U.S. just click the link. www.pennsylvaniawine.com/node/2372
It’s Wine Time at the Colony wine festival returns to 365 Saxonburg Blvd Saxonburg, Pa on June 21st and September 6th, 2014. The event has expanded and will feature 13 Pennsylvania wineries spanning three of the states most popular wine-producing regions. Food purveyors will provide you with a taste of Pennsylvania cuisine using fresh and wholesome ingredients to prepare creations not found on a typical festival menu. A wide range of artisans will be on hand to display their creative wares. The tasting admission is $20 gets you wine-tasting and a souvenir wine glass while the non-tasting admission is $10 and is good for admission only. Check their website for ticket specials. winetimeatthecolony.com
My wife and I made our first visit to the Greenhouse Winery a few days ago. As the name would suggest the tasting room and winery are located next to the impressive Hazuza greenhouse that is filled to overflowing with an amazing selection of flowers and vegetables. I talked with Gregg Hazuza, owner and winemaker of Greenhouse Winery, about the progress of his planned expansion. Gregg explained the project has been stalled due to problems getting all the permits approved by several different agencies. He said his contractor is ready to start construction as soon as all the permits are approved. He is planning to add ten jobs when the project is complete and is really happy about the prospect of having more space for the very popular weekly concerts that are now being restricted by the limited parking available at the current site. All the grapes used for winemaking at the Greenhouse Winery are sourced from Pennsylvania vineyards. When asked Gregg confirmed what winemaker Paul Vezzetti of The Vineyard at Hershey had told me earlier this spring about the need to have an established relationship with a grower to ensure access to wine grapes this year. Gregg said he has a good relationship with his supplier and that should guarantee that he will be able to get the grapes he needs for his winemaking operation. His producer also told him that the shortage of grapes will likely extend for two or three years because there was damage to the vines. Gregg will eventually complete his expansion and the grape crop will eventually recover to normal levels because in the wine business patience is a virtue and all good things come to those who are patient enough to wait. Greenhouse Winery 10828 Guffy-Rillton Rd Rillton, PA 724-446-9750 greenhousewinery.com