Greenhouse Winery in Sewickley Township plots $1M expansion
Gregory M. Hazuza has a $1 million plan to construct a building where he can make the wine he now produces in a garage on his Sewickley Township property and another building outside Rillton where he can host parties and wedding receptions.
“We're really excited about it,” said Hazuza, who hopes to begin construction on the project in April and complete it by August.
Greenhouse Winery LLC needs the extra space because it has outgrown the tasting room at the family-owned Hazuza's Greenhouse, Hazuza said in his application to the Sewickley Township Zoning Hearing Board.
He is planning a climate-controlled facility for his winery. But first he needs a special exception to the zoning ordinance to construct the buildings on a 29.7-acre parcel that is zoned for agriculture use. A hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“It should be good for the township — bringing in jobs and tax revenue,” Hazuza said. The 50-year-old Hazuza anticipates adding between 12 and 15 jobs, from landscaping to customer service positions, with the expanded winery operation.
His operation is part of the state's $2 billion wine industry and one of the state's more than 200 wineries, according to Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association, a trade organization based in Harrisburg.
The expansion has been in the plans for about three years, said Hazuza, who is listed with Cynthia M. Helinsla as a co-owner of Greenhouse Winery on the state Corporations Bureau website.
“A lot of the clientele has been asking for this for years,” he said.
Hazuza is planning to build a 72- by 76-foot structure to house retail sales where customers can taste his wine, as well as buy it. The structure will hold a 30- by 72-foot banquet hall.
A 3,200-square-foot wine production building will allow Greenhouse to increase production, Hazuza said. He produced 11,000 gallons in 2013 and anticipates expanding production to 14,000 gallons this year.
His limited winery license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board permits him to produce no more than 200,000 gallons of wine a year — capacity that he calls an “unreachable number.”
Hazuza has been in the wine production business for six years, but he is following in the footsteps of his grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom made wine, he said.
“It's a hobby that grew into a business,” said Hazuza, who devotes about 80 percent of his working hours to the winery, with the remaining 20 percent at the family's greenhouse, where he has worked for 30 years.
It was his partner, Cynthia Helinsla, who encouraged him to turn the hobby into a business.
“I'm the wine maker, and she does all the other aspects of the business,” Hazuza said.
Greenhouse Winery sells its wine at the family's greenhouse along the Rillton-Guffey Road, at stores on Route 30 in North Huntingdon and on Route 51 in Brentwood and at a kiosk in the Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield.
Hazuza is permitted to sell his wine to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, but he said he has opted not to do that.
He has one of two limited wineries in Sewickley Township and five in Westmoreland County, according to the Liquor Control Board.
The region's late spring frosts and high humidity in the summer are not conducive to growing grapes for large-scale wine production, Hazuza said.
To produce 35 varieties of wine, he said he buys juices in bulk pressed from 15 varieties of grapes from a vineyard in North East, a community along Lake Erie that is home to several wineries.
“To try to grow grapes commercially would not be (economically) feasible,” Hazuza said.
He ferments the wine in tanks ranging in size from 200 to 1,000 gallons. It takes the juice four months to ferment into sweet wine and eight to 12 months for dry wine, he said.
“You are sitting on a lot of inventory for an extended time,” Hazuza said, referring to the wine fermentation.
His wine has been good enough to win medals at county fairs. Hazuza's Traminette wine, a semi-dry white wine, won best of show for hybrid wines at the recently concluded Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.