Presque Isle Wine Cellars
Presque Isle Wine Cellars
9440 West Main Rd.
North East, Pennsylvania
Phone: (814) 725-1314
Contact: Marlene Moorhead
The company began operations in 1964 as a supplier of grapes and equipment for local amateur winemakers. It began with two founding partners, Douglas P Moorhead and W Michael (Bill) Konnerth. From its inception there was the goal of it also becoming a winery should the laws of Pennsylvania be changed to make such a venture practical.
Bill had been purchasing grapes for winemaking purposes from Doug's father in the mid 50's, usually from varieties such as Delaware (which was regarded as the best wine grape from the region in that era) and from Catawba, Isabella and Gladwin. Sharing an interest in wine, they started a group known as the Erie County Wine Club. The original group was primarily interested in making wines. Doug and Bill did most of the work finding vendors to supply the needs of the club and it was immediately obvious that there were business opportunities in servicing winemakers. Others such as Semplex, in Minneapolis and Aetna bottle in Portland, Oregon and others originated at about the same time. We hit the rising tide and grew rapidly until the mid 70's when our industry was hit with the recession, a rise in prohibition sentiment and the gasoline shortages. In addition, much of the winemaking growth was fueled by inferior grape concentrates which did much to discourage many of the fledgling winemakers. At the height of the fad, we were aware of over 2,000 vendors dealing with amateur winemakers. A couple of years later we found fewer than 300!
The business continues along its original paths of supplying amateur and commercial winemakers with supplies and equipment used in the production of wine as well as supplying quality fruit and pressed juice for the production of wine. We are proud to have customers in all 50 states and the majority of Canadian provinces. We also have customers from many states and provinces east of the Mississippi visit us during our harvest for juice and grape purchases. Our intent is also to be regarded as one of the top producers of quality wines in the Lake Erie Viticultural Appellation and to raise the level of recognition that high quality wines are produced here. Our wine production has grown in recent years to meet this increased awareness and demand for our wines.
Presque Isle Wine Cellars and nearby Penn Shore Vineyards were the first two wineries to open under the Limited Winery Act of 1968. Both opened on the same day in September 1969. From that small beginning the industry has grown to 173 wineries in 2010. It is one of the few areas of Pennsylvania agriculture which is growing and is a positive factor in stabilizing agricultural production and in supporting tourism in Pennsylvania. Our wine production remained below 3,000 gallons for our first 30 years, but has increased dramatically beginning in 1998 and is now at about 27,000 to 30,000 gallons annual production.
Our reds are all made by fairly traditional methods using oak barrel aging and malo-lactic fermentations. We have stressed using Vitis vinifera grapes, which we introduced to the Lake Erie area in 1959 (at least if you don't count unsuccessful pre-prohibition efforts). Our main varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Viognier for whites and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Blaufrankisch, Syrah and Pinot Noir for reds. We have also had success with some promising high quality new french hybrids such as Noiret.
We are trying to remain at or near the front edge in our business and so we are now working on updating and improving our website to become a destination of choice for the winemaking community and we expect to add a winemaking discussion forum and a formal question response service soon. We are evaluating new products and services such as a tasting evaluation service and lab testing service.
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