By Steve Kopfinger
The Vineyard at Hershey
Call it a case of four guys planting the seeds of a dream – a dream that’s coming true.
And how lucky that is for local wine lovers.
Just over a year ago, Jason Reimer, Doug Gellatly, L. Paul Vezzetti and Michael Wilson launched The Vineyard at Hershey on a sloping tract of land in Middletown. It’s hard by busy Route 283, but it’s a peaceful oasis where grapes grow by a pond and where, in warm months, music floats through the air in the form of fair-weather concerts.
There is an old farmhouse that serves as a tasting room and a newly built sheltered deck where you can sip and sample and enjoy the view. You’ll actually be grateful that the highway is nearby, as it will quickly get you to this peaceful spot, which is a bit Napa Valley-esque.
That’s the idea. Pennsylvania has enjoyed a growing reputation as a wine-making place over the last several decades, but the Keystone State is often overshadowed by California and even neighboring New York State when it comes to the fruit of the vine.
The guys at The Vineyard at Hershey are working to change that impression.
“I said ‘Pennsylvania winery?’ ” recalls Reimer, who credits partner Vezzetti as an inspiration for the founding of The Vineyard at Hershey.
“We’re building something,” sums up Reimer, during a rainy-day interview that was made cheerful by a big event: the February debut of the vineyard’s Moscato, a sparkling wine that’s often associated with a sweet taste.
The Vineyard at Hershey puts its own tweak on that.
The Moscato, unveiled Feb. 23, delights with hints of orange blossom and peach. Despite the chilly weather, the vineyard was packed with people eager to enjoy a little taste of summer. It was welcomed.
Fashionably attired women – many in heels – mingled with those dressed up and dressed down, or, in the case of Wilson, a guy attired in a lavender suit. Wilson, the vineyard’s vice president of marketing and outreach, leans on social media, not social snobbery, to get the word out about wine.
That’s a long way from the image of wineries as places presided over by fussy patriarchs and matriarchs, as seen in the movies and old television shows such as Falcon Crest.
The results of that laid-back approach to the grape are having an effect. In its first year, some 15,000 wine fans have visited the tasting room at The Vineyard at Hershey.
“We believe in our vision,” says Reimer.
The Vineyard at Hershey is very much a team effort. Reimer is a lawyer; Gellatly, who serves as the vineyard’s chief financial officer, has an accounting degree, and he and his wife, Stephanie, played an instrumental role in acquiring the land that makes up The Vineyard at Hershey.
Vineyard manager Vezzetti was the vineyard manager behind everything – he comes from an Italian family from the western part of the state – and then there’s Wilson, who, if you check out the winery’s website (vineyardathershey.com), you might catch him wearing a golden crown.
Again, there’s no nose-in-the-air wine attitude at this vineyard.
That also holds true for the labels. In addition to the new Moscato, check out such standards as Twisted Kiss, a sweet blend of white and red wines that salutes America’s chocolate city, Hershey, just up the road. It’s the town where the Hershey Kiss was invented, after all.
Or, if dry red wine is your thing, don’t miss Trilogy, a mix of Boudreaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Serve it with a steak, and you can’t miss.
If you visit the The Vineyard at Hershey, expect a friendly welcome. It is, as Reimer sums up, “a winery where people are going to gather.”
The Vineyard at Hershey is located at 598 Schoolhouse Road, Middletown. Call (717) 944-1569 or visit vineyardathershey.com for information on hours and prices for wine.