Pennsylvania Wines: Adding the Numbers at Winfield Winery

Pennsylvania doesn’t spring to mind when you think of wine, and yet there are 140 wineries in the state. Equally important is that William Penn, for whom the state was named, planted the very first vinifera vines in America in 1683, and that the very first commercial vineyard in the U.S. was planted by the Pennsylvania Wine Company in 1793. Therefore, it all begins to add up.

On a recent trip to the big city of Pittsburgh I went in search of a small winery. Just outside of the Steel City the agricultural land begins to unfold. Being this was Thanksgiving, the dormant trees dotting the landscape looked like skeletons, their empty branches reaching towards a grey sky. Small brick houses dot the low rolling hills as you enter Butler County.

view counter

Heading towards the little town of Cabot, the winery, aptly named Winfield Winery, is on Winfield Road. And here’s the thing, this was a residential area and there was no commercial building, only a house fronting the road. Pulling down the driveway, fearing an angry homeowner would shout for me to get off the property, I saw the winery sign. As I greeted owner and winemaker John Ricchuito, I had the same look most people do, wondering if you’ve pulled onto private property.

“I did that on purpose in case the winery failed,” John tells me with a laugh. “I’ve got a five bedroom home with a built in wine cellar and party room!” But it appears he won’t have to worry about failure. He’s already estimating he’ll run out of space within two years and his winery is performing better than expected. Maybe it’s the 20 different wines he makes, maybe it’s the relaxed feel, or maybe it’s the award he is winning.

When his Winfield Country Red (a blend of native American grapes) won the Best American Variety Award at the Pennsylvania Farm Show his first year out of the gate, he was stunned. But it was also a vindication. “I’ve been making wine for ten years (as an amateur) and my friends were trying to make me a bootlegger, so I decided to go legit,” he jokes. “I’m full blooded Italian and I’d always wanted to make wine.”

John worked for PPG Industries (originally called Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, a fixture in Pittsburgh since its inception in 1883) for thirty years in air conditioning maintenance. “I still have ten fingers and ten toes,” he says, a wry smile on his face. And now, after a lifetime of monitoring warm and cold, he’s getting hot with his new endeavor. He’s one of only three wineries currently operating in Cabot.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.