Had a chance, like a number of my media peers, to take a gander at the operation about to open at The Vineyard at Hershey, in Middletown, Pa., earlier this week. It’s a member of the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail, so it’s going to open a week before (Feb. 25) the always busy Tour de Tanks gets under way.
Couple of things I liked off the bat. It’s easily accessible off the highway, just a minute or two off I-283 and Route 230. There’s plenty of parking, at least a short walk away. The tasting room and cellar is located in a home at the back end of a driveway, which curls around a large structure that houses a pet resort business. Besides one parking lot, there’s room on both sides of the driveway to park if it gets too crowded.
The plan is to clear an area on site and construct a two-story building that will house a 6,000-square-foot tasting room and a production area of a similar size. That will feature a wraparound deck that will overlook the vineyards and a nearby pond that sits off in the valley, with the highway off to the right. Quite pretty.
The present tasting room looks like it will accommodate 15 to 20 people comfortably. Tastings will be $3 for five wines, with that fee wrapped into the purchase price of any wine. Wines are selling generally in the teens (Niagara is the least expensive, at $10.99/bottle, up through the oaked Chardonnay, at $18.99). They are offering tastings of their unfinished Merlot, which is expected to be released in mid-September. That’s selling for $24.99, although pre-orders will knock $6 off the price.
Paul Vigna/The Wine Classroom
The tasting bar at The Vineyard at Hershey. Eleven wines will be for sale when it opens Feb. 25.
Jason Reimer, one of the partners, noted that this batch of Merlot should yield around 500 bottles. Obviously, they’ll ramp up production out of future vintages. The current wine list has more whites than reds, and overall it’s a mix of dry, semi-dry and sweet. Along with winemaker L. Paul Vezzetti, they have a good sense of the wines and the order to offer them for tasting.
Vezzetti grew up in western Pennsylvania and talked about making beer while in college, but then switched to winemaking, a path many regional winemakers have taken. While his vocation is video broadcasting, where he continues to work full time, his hobby is now turning into a new career. He’s currently producing 12 wines, and we talked about others that likely will make the list as the winery and vineyard grow in scope.
Reimer graduated from American University with an Economics and Communications degree and Penn State-Dickinson with a law degree, and practices law full time with Post & Schell’s business law and litigation group in Harrisburg, representing clients in a vast array of commercial and personal disputes. But ask the guy his true passion and wine’s on that list. The Vineyard at Hershey has been novel in its approach to social media, serving as a textbook for future wineries that open.
Thanks to Reimer, they have been active on Facebook and Twitter; indeed, fans named two of their wines. One is Twisted Kiss (a blend of Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin) and Crimson Fox (Fredonia grape). Indeed, reaction at work to a couple bottles I brought back was as positive to the names as to the wines.
Those two and Doug Gellatly all first met almost 11 years ago on a mountain top in Asheville, N.C., at the YMCA Youth & Government’s Conference on National Affairs. Gellaty was advising the Pennsylvania delegation, Vezzetti was a high school student in that delegation, and Reimer was leading the District of Columbia’s delegation. Today, they are  close friends and now business partners, launching The Vineyard at Hershey.
Gellatly, by the way, is The Vineyard at Hershey’s business manager. According to his bio, he started out managing a mini-warehouse business, which evolved into opening personal storage units. For the last 15 years, Doug and wife, Stephanie, have owned Londonderry Storage in Londonderry Township. Almost eight years ago they purchased a 40-acre farm along Route 283 in Londonderry Township. They used 10 of the acres to launch Greenlin Pet Resorts (today Doug and Stephanie own a location in Mechanisburg, as well). That land now serves as home to the winery and vineyard.
Reimer said he sees the winery producing 3,000 gallons this year and doubling in production next year. They’ll get a test out of the gate with the crowds from Tour de Tanks. Fourteen wineries are involved with that event. For $30/person, pass-holders can visits and taste wines at the participating wineries during the five weekends in March (and April 1).

(and April 1).10548779-large