Wineries in Western Pa. offer up much more than just tasty vino
Local vintages aren’t the only draw at wineries throughout the region. At sites across the countryside, people gather regularly to hear a variety of music while sipping some tasty vino.
“It’s becoming a ‘thing’ to go to wineries and breweries, and it’s not just about making a purchase,” says Roberto Smiraglio, general manager of Narcisi Winery in Gibsonia. “It’s an experience.”
Most of the wineries have plenty of room to spread out and enjoy a summer afternoon or evening.
“It’s a nice spot for people to come and enjoy the outdoors,” says Joanna Bell, of Bella Terra Vineyards in Hunker. “It’s a beautiful property. It’s a nice afternoon.”
There are plenty of locations from which to choose.
Greendance the Winery at Sandhill
306 Deer Field Road, Mt. Pleasant Township, 724-547-6500 or greendancewinery.com
Small patios holding three to five tables scattered among prairie grasses and nectar-producing flowers set the scene at Greendance the Winery at Sandhill in Mt. Pleasant Township.
Live music wafts over these intimate groupings from the nearby bandstand on Friday evenings from mid-June to mid-August, and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons through the end of October.
“We’ll have something for everyone at some point during the summer,” says co-owner Susan Lynn. That includes jazz, easy listening, covers, country, bluegrass and rock.
There’s no cover charge and no minimum purchase required to listen to the music, Lynn says, though it might be a boring trip without sampling something.
With the winery situated on the grounds of the renowned Sand Hill Berries Farm, it’s no surprise that the raspberries and black currants grown on-site produce two of the most popular vintages, along with Bella Rose, Chardonnay and blush wines.
“The lighter, less-hearty wines are the favorites in the summer,” she says.
Sandwiches, salads and signature Sand Hill desserts are available from the Cabin Café. Guests also can assemble their own picnics with foods from the winery store, such as chips, crackers, pretzels, homemade dips, olives, cold cuts, local artisan cheeses and chocolates.
1048 Pinewood Road, Sewickley Township724-446-5000 or greenhousewinery.com
One of the best-selling summertime wines at Greenhouse Winery in Sewickley Township is the appropriately named Hoe n’ the Garden, a semi-sweet red with a “grapey fruit flavor.”
Co-owner Steve Helinski says it’s a favorite with customers listening to bands playing on the back patio on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons at the Sewickley Township winery.
Surrounded by trees from which woodland creatures are wont to appear, the patio seats about 140, Helinski says. In case of inclement weather, the music moves inside to the banquet room.
Greenhouse mostly hosts small cover bands, though jazz and oldies groups are occasionally scheduled.
“Our blueberry and blackberry wines are popular in the spring and summer, and we sell a lot of wine slushies when it’s warmer,” Helinski says. “We also have beers from Full Pint Brewery for people who don’t like wine.”
Cheese trays and other snacks are available for purchase, and guests also are welcome to bring their own food to accompany their beverage purchases.
Stone Villa Wine Cellars
1085 Claypike Road, Mt. Pleasant Township724-423-5604 or stonevilla.com
Saturday and Sunday afternoons are the time to visit Stone Villa Wine Cellars in Mt. Pleasant Township for live music, with events scheduled through Oct. 8.
A minimum wine purchase of a bottle per couple is required before being seated on the spacious patio or lawn overlooking a man-made lake and woods beyond, says manager Chris Fullman.
Guests are welcome to bring their own food.
Seating is first-come, first-served, for parties of two and four. Larger parties should make reservations to insure being seated together, although there’s room for more than 400 people.
Music skews toward pop, soft rock, acoustic and oldies, though the occasional jazz or rock group also makes an appearance.
Fullman says the most popular wine is the Stonegria, “our version of sangria,” described on the website as “crisp, fruity and slightly citric.” But with more than 25 wines available, he adds, “there’s something for everyone.”
Bella Terra Vineyards
121 Sunny Lane, Hunker, 724-635-3658 or bellaterravineyards.com
What began as a winemaking hobby expanded last year to a business for Jay and Joanna Bell, who opened Bella Terra Vineyards in September.
“We like wine, so we started making small batches in our basement. We had a lot of fun and we just expanded,” Joanna Bell says.
The couple plan to open an events center within five years, she says. Right now, they host musical entertainment from 2 to 5 p.m. most Saturdays and some Sundays. Wine samples are offered and food is available for purchase. All events are held outdoors for now, but the goal is to construct a year-round facility.
There is no admission charge, and children are welcome. “We have kids. This is what we would look for if we were going out,” Bell says.
Their young vineyard is not yet producing grapes.
“Maybe next year, or the following year for sure,” Bell says.
They currently source grapes from Lake Erie and California growers, she says.
Bella Terra is a 14-acre property featuring a three-acre lake and a one-acre vineyard. Though only two miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the property is nestled among several hundred-year-old trees.
This season their wine menu includes eight different varieties, four dry, two sweet and two semi-sweet. Three more are planned for late summer or fall.
“Our most popular wine is called Sweet Finley,” Bell says.
Named after the couple’s daughter, it’s a “sassy and sweet” blush blending Concord and Niagara.
“It’s a nice, cold glass to enjoy on a hot day,” she says.
638 Turner Drive, Blairsville
724-675-8122 or ungrapefulwinery.com
When Daniel and Charmaine Lashinsky started dating, visiting wineries was something they often did for fun.
“We decided to try our hand at making wine. Most of it, over 40 types, used no grapes. The joke between us was how ‘ungrapeful’ everything was,” Daniel Lashinsky says.
Thus the name of their Blairsville site.
Using strawberries, plums, passion fruit, bananas and many other fruits, the couple made wine primarily as gifts for friends and family.
“We got invited to a lot more parties back then,” he says, laughing.
What was a small hobby changed suddenly in 2015. Charmaine Lashinky, looking for wine making equipment for her husband, happened upon a sale listing for the former Walnut Hill Winery.
“We ended up buying the place. I do not have a vineyard. I get juice from other locations,” he says.
The winery, now his full-time job, opened in 2016. He tries to stock some varieties that stand out from other sites.
“We have a wheat grass wine. To my knowledge, we are the only winery that has wheat grass wine. It has a slight, whiskeyesque taste to it. It does fairly well,” he says.
The venue has musical entertainment from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, with admission of $5; children free. Visitors may bring in their own food.
It’s open for Paint ‘N Sip classes every first Friday of the month and Wine Glass Painting every third Friday. Future plans include the possible construction of more permanent structures for entertainment purposes.
The winery offers a tasting room and space for private parties, showers and events.
Christian Klay Winery
412 Fayette Springs Road, Chalk Hill, 724-439-3424 or cwklaywinery.com
Dr. John and Sharon Klay opened Christian W. Klay Winery in Chalk Hill, Fayette County, in 1997, naming their new venture after their son.
Today, visitors can enjoy outdoor entertainment, private parties, hay wagon tours of the vineyards and numerous special events. There’s free musical entertainment 1 p.m. most Sundays; children and pets are welcome. Visitors can purchase snacks or bring in their own food.
“We have 15 acres of vineyards. The majority of our juice comes from our vineyards,” says administrative assistant and event coordinator Gypsy Blake.
Among the winery’s collection of dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet and sweet offerings are two particular crowd pleasers, Blake says.
“Our Lavender Mist has won double gold at the Pennsylvania Farm Show and best in class at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition,” she says of the sweet, sparkling white wine infused with culinary lavender.
And Washington Tavern Red, a fruity, medium bodied semi-dry, is similar to Beaujolais, Blake says.
The winery offers a tasting room and has space for private parties and events.
The annual lavender festival is scheduled for noon June 25, with lavender products, lavender-based baked goods, lavender plants, vendors, food by The Yard – A Mobile Eatery, farmers market and live entertainment by jazz legend Harold Betters.
Murder mystery dinner theaters are planned in July and August. Lobster/clam bakes are scheduled for August and September.
On Sept. 17, the winery and nearby Ridge Runner Distillery, operated by Christian Klay, will partner to present the annual Chili Cook-Off and Laurel Highlands Harvest Festival. Featured will be live entertainment by Wizdom World Beat Reggae Band, regional crafters, food vendors, farmers market, cooking demonstrations, grape stomping, wine tasting, hot pepper eating contest and children’s activities. Gate admission is $5.
The winery will hold its 16th annual Ex-PAWS-ition on Oct. 1. Visitors can take a walk with their pet through the vineyard, obtain basic grooming services for their pet and enjoy a glass of wine. A pet parade, pet bless, food and other events are planned.
Edgewood Winery & Event Center
1637 State Route 56, Spring Church, Kiski Township724-478-4373 or edgewoodwinery.com
Edgewood Winery & Event Center in Kiski Township has been renovated using wood from barns that were decades old, giving Edgewood a classic, rustic look.
There is a spacious outside covered patio that sits alongside a narrow pond and two waterfalls. Drink choices include sweet wines, dry wines and different varieties of hard ciders, as well as beer, wine slushies and sangria.
The establishment celebrated its one-year anniversary on May 13 with a performance by the Thieves and introduced a new wine to toast the evening called Sparkling Falls Bubbly Catawba. Most of the entertainment is free.
“We have all types of music from country to ‘70s and ‘80s to a single performer,” says manager Lori Shumaker. “It varies week to week and in the summer the music is outdoors. We also have food, so it’s an experience of wine, food and entertainment.”
People come in, purchase a bottle of wine, listen to music and eat while they have an opportunity to unwind, Shumaker says.
There’s entertainment starting at 6:30 p.m. most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through the end of August. On Wine Wednesdays, guests buy a bottle, and get one half off. Other promotions include Ladies Night, kick boxing, paint class and zumba.
Wooden Door Winery
101 Custer Ave., Vandergrift 4087 Greenwood Road, New Kensington, Allegheny Township724-889-7244 or woodendoorwinery.com
Wooden Door Winery, established in 2010, has locations in Vandergrift and New Kensington, Allegheny Township. The Vandergrift site, which is larger, hosts occasional live entertainment, with music ranging from acoustic to classic rock and is free.
They have 30 different wines and offer tastings at both locations, which are within five miles of each other.
“There is such great local entertainment, that you don’t have to look far to find it,” says Jeff Pollick, owner of both locations. “We have found it’s a destination. People come out for the evening.”
4578 Gibsonia Road, Gibsonia724-444-4744 or narcisiwinery.com
Founded in 2001, Narcisi Winery is a family-owned and operated winery located in Gibsonia. Nestled within the beautiful rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, the winery is “reminiscent of a Tuscan villa, where time and worries dissolve into the countryside,” according to its website.
The winery has been hosting entertainment for 10 to 12 years, says general manager Roberto Smiraglio.
“There is a creek on the property, and it’s a really nice, calming setting,” Smiraglio says.
The location has a big outdoor space that people enjoy, Smiraglio says. Two stages allow musicians the platform to perform. Most performances are free. The outside acts run mid-April through October, from 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Indoor music is year round. Entertainment ranges across the board from bluegrass to acoustic to jazz to soul.
Pop/rock performer Jess Sides is on the schedule for June 25, while the Donna Bailey Jazz Trio plays June 30.
The winery has 23 wines available.
“You can go to a liquor store to buy wine, but here you can bring your entire family and have the experience,” he says. “Wine is a fascinating, wonderful industry and it’s booming in Pennsylvania. I’ve seen a big difference since I’ve been here. People are interested in the craftsmanship of the wine.”