Conneaut Cellars Winery
Conneaut Cellars Winery
US 6 Scenic Hwy & Route 322
Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania
Phone: (814) 382-3999
Contact: Joal Wolf
Conneaut Cellars Winery is distinguished for its award winning wines. The winery fashions itself after a turn-of-the-century winery and performs all of the winemaking operations at the 6,400 square foot winery. Tender loving care is applied to each process, from the grapes to the bottle. The grapes are gently squeezed by small bladder presses and then aged in stainless steel tanks, French oak barrels, and American oak barrels. The winery offers a broad spectrum of tastes from the farm wines of our grandparents (native American) through the more sophisticated French-American hybrids to the noble vinifera of world fame. Some wines are labeled using proprietary names to promote the local area.
Conneaut Cellars Winery was founded by Dr. Alan Wolf in 1982. Dr. Wolf was exposed to winemaking when working for the US State Department in Germany in the 1950s, where he placed political refugees as winery workers. Some of these émigrés were biochemists. Later, he learned basic winemaking by enrolling in courses at the University of Würzburg and the German Wine Institute at Geisenheim. During the 1960's Dr. Wolf experimented with more than 130 grape varieties for Cornell University and The Pennsylvania State University, as well as teaching basic winemaking courses at several colleges. During the next decade, he saved and planned for starting his own winery. After retiring from education in 1981, Dr. Wolf and his wife, Phyllis, established Conneaut Cellars Winery with the mission to make a memorable and distinctive wine that reflects the northeastern climate of Lake Erie - the Lake Erie Wine Appellation.
In 1982, Dr. Wolf built the winery on the South end of the largest natural lake in the state-due to the rich history of the property. Delaware and Seneca Indians called the lake Conneaut, or “Snow Place,” because the surrounding forests were so dense and that the snow remained after it had melted elsewhere. The lake’s spring-fed waters attracted abundant wildlife, and in turn, prehistoric Indian hunters. Their favorite camping site was the hill next to the winery overlooking the lake’s outlet, the area’s best fishing spot. The outlet also lured the first white settler, Abner Evans, who used its water to power his grist mill. A village called Evansburg, now Conneaut Lake, grew up around Evans’ mill and log cabin. The coming of the Erie Extension Canal, operated from 1843 to 1870, gave the village access to the outside world.
The old canal ran along the winery’s entrance driveway and is still intact just southeast of the building. But it was the advent of the railroad in the late 19th century that brought prosperity to the area. The Meadville & Linesville Railroad, later the Bessemer, occupied the towpath of the abandoned canal. The railroad was a boom to the lumber industry, especially to the Stratton & Company sawmill, which stood on the winery’s property.
The ice harvesting industry was another beneficiary. Demand for the lake’s crystal-clear ice was so great that the Conneaut Lake Ice Company built enormous sheds to store the 100 ton harvest. From these buildings, on the lake shore north of the winery, trainloads of premium ice were shipped to urban markets. The railroad also fostered the development of Conneaut Lake as a summer resort. Hotels sprang up on the lake shore and a fleet of steamboats built to transport the guests to them. Visitors arriving at the train station, which stood on the winery’s property, walked to the boat landing next to the ice houses. The Conneaut Lake Exposition Park, now Conneaut Lake Park, was established in 1892 and Conneaut Lake became one of Pennsylvania’s leading resorts.
Dr. Wolf passed away in 1995 leaving the winery to Phyllis. In 1996, Joal Wolf, the son of Dr. Wolf and winemaster at Conneaut Cellars, bought the winery from his mother. As a young boy, Joal helped his father make wine during the 1960's. After graduating from college, he went to Europe for four years. While in Germany, Joal visited wineries and represented Conneaut Cellars during trade shows. Joal returned to the winery in 1988, attended graduate school, and earned his masters degree. After graduate school, Joal worked full-time at the winery as the winemaster and assisted his father in all facets of the business. As winemaster, Joal has won several international, national, and state medals for his wines. At the 1998 Wineries Unlimited show, Conneaut Cellars Winery won an International Commercial Vineyard and Winery Award as “The Most Improved Winery.” This trade show is the largest event from the rockies to the East Coast and attracts about 950 winemaking and vineyard operators from the U.S. and Canada. Joal continues the tradition of winning awards at the State, National, and International Wine Competitions.
Visitors are welcomed to spend some leisurely time sampling the award winning wines, touring the bonded premises, and browsing the gift shop. The winery is open year-round and provides tours on the hour and tastings daily, seven days a week, with sales from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The unique gift shop carries wine related items for that special occasion. The tasting room wine list describes the style and identifies the degree of sweetness of each wine with a zero to four scale that helps visitors to match the wines to their individual palates. Case discounts are offered. Special events at the winery are Open House on the last weekend in April, Jazz and Blues Festival the third Saturday in June, and the Fall Picnic on Sunday after Labor Day.
Winemaker: Joal Wolf
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