This is the eighth in a series of weekly stories that profile Pennsylvania wineries. This article was featured on Pennlive and can be found here.
When you open the website for Dalvino Wine Company in Snydertown, the first thing you’ll see is the slogan, “The grape didn’t fall far from the tree.”
That says plenty about the roots of this Northumberland County winery, which is run by the Dalpiaz family: Linda and Charlie along with son Nicco.
As the winery bio on its website explains, the lineage of winemaking goes back to Charlie’s grandfather, Camillo Dalpiaz, who made wine in the cellar of their home in Kulpmont, in Pennsylvania’s coal country. Says Charlie, “I remember as a young boy in the ‘50s walking into my grandfather’s [Camillo’s] cellar and seeing his wine fermenting in oak barrels. At that time I fell in love with winemaking. “
That passion was transferred to Nicco, the winemaker at Dalvino. He grew up around winemaking; he was 2 when Charlie began making wine in the cellar. Eventually, Nicco went back to school and joined the group of other graduates from the now-defunct enology and viticulture program at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, who have advanced the quality of grape growing and winemaking in the state.
Dalvino makes everything in small lots, and largely produces dry wines, sourcing grapes families to regional wine drinkers such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s also looking to plant Carmine, a crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carignan that was developed in the mid-1940s. That’s a grape that has started to find a home in Pennsylvania, most notably at Wayvine Vineyard & Winery in Chester County.
Dalvino also sells balsamic vinegars and olive oils and has a wine club.
The winery is located off Route 147 on the east shore of the Susquehanna River, about 6 miles east of Sunbury and close to several other producers.
Here are the answers that Nicco returned to several questions that PennLive sent him.
Q, Just some basics. What are the visiting hours, do they change for summer, are you closed at all during the winter months? And every winery seems to have a different mission in terms of atmosphere. Some have a lot of food trucks. Others have a lot of events. What can visitors expect when they stop there?
A, We are open Friday 2-7 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 12-5 p.m. all year round. We are a limited-production winery whose niche is crafting wine with a focus on dry reds. Our tasting room doesn’t provide accommodations for concerts or weddings. Instead, it offers a quaint environment with the ability for visitors to interact with our family and learn about our wines. My mother Linda helps work the tasting room on the weekends and my father Charlie also frequents the winery on the weekends interacting with guests.
Q, When did you open, and what do you know now that you didn’t when you opened your doors?
A, While we started planning the business in 2014 we opened our doors in April of 2017; so 2022 will be our sixth year in business. One thing that I know today that I didn’t know before is that commercial winemaking is not as glamorous as one might assume. Long weeks/weekends, purple hands, and stressing about weather has grown into a labor of love for me.
Q, How much wine do you make? Has the wine list evolved much during the time you have been open? In your own words, why stick largely to dry wines?
A, My family and I operate a limited-production winery with about 500 cases produced each year. My dad and I are partners; I make the wine and my mother helps in the tasting room. While we have stayed true to dry reds over the years we have produced a few examples of wine with limited residual sugar between 1.5% to 3%. Examples of our wines with varying levels of residual sugar are Traminette, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Cayuga. Instead of using sugar to market our wine to sweet wine drinkers, I rely on sugar to help balance the acid from our cool climate while making sure the stylistic profile of the wine is not impacted.
Why dry wines? Growing up in an Italian family exposed me to the culture of wine and winemaking at a young age. I grew up watching my father and uncles make homemade wine every year in the fall, as did my father. Many acculturated Italian families in the Pennsylvania coal region prefer dry reds, so this is what I was accustomed to over the years. Admittedly as a “home winemaker” I was blinded by the notion that all Pennsylvania wines are sweet. I believe consumers across the state also hold these same beliefs and write off Pennsylvania wine even before they give it a try. It wasn’t until I had a bottle of Pennsylvania wine in 2013 that was made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Merlot & Petite Verdot that opened up my eyes to the potential of PA wine. Since then it has been my mission to learn about the commercial side of the Pennsylvania wine industry. I finished my Enology & Viticulture degree from HACC and set out to help put PA wine on the map.
The focus on dry red wine is an attempt to showcase the ability of varietals that many people wouldn’t believe are able to grow in our state. Varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Lemberger [Blaufränkisch], Chambourcin, and an up-and-coming varietal, Carmine, are a few of our crowd pleasers. My hope is to help put PA wine on the map by showcasing the ability of vinifera and hybrid grape varietals to break down the stereotype that all PA wine is sweet. Educating consumers about other Pa. wineries doing the same thing is also important as each Pa. winery is in it together.
Q, I don’t see anything about a vineyard. I assume you source all your grapes?
A, While I do have a young vineyard planted of Gruner Veltliner, Lemberger and Chambourcin. I am also planting some Carmine next spring. I have built a great working relationship with a grape grower in central Pennsylvania who is committed to farming varietals that grow well in Pennsylvania. I plan to expand my vineyard over the years but right now the focus is on winemaking and building our brand.
Q, What’s the most difficult part of running a winery and what is the most gratifying?
A, Not knowing how our local consumers would accept our mission to focus on dry wines we started in a small 1200-square-foot pole building on our property. It has been difficult to sustain the growth we have experienced over the past four years in our current building and we hope to expand when the time is right. We had plans to expand in 2020 but we decided we better wait out the pandemic. However, the growth is a testament to consumers opening their palates to Pennsylvania wine and this has been the most gratifying for me!
THE SKINNY ON DALVINO WINE COMPANY
Location: 716 Furman Rd, Snydertown
Hours: 2 to 7 p.m. Friday; noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday