Share This Page

Greenhouse Winery in Sewickley Township plots $1M expansion

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Joe Napsha | The Times-Sun
Greg Hazuza checks the chemical composition of his grape juice that is fermenting into wine, in December 2013.

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 jnapsha@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.