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New Pa. wines to hit state-store shelves

| Tuesday, May 28, 2013, 12:24 a.m.

Nearly 40 new Pennsylvania-made wines will make their state-store debut this summer as a result of a new program by the Liquor Control Board.

With hints of peach, cherry, chocolate and jalapeno, the offerings from 11 wineries across the state were approved by the LCB and will likely hit store shelves in about a month. The wines range in price from $8.99 to $29.99.

The program allows wineries with a PA Preferred designation from the state Department of Agriculture to submit as many of 10 varieties to the LCB for placement in up to 10 stores surrounding the winery. PA Preferred products are grown and/or made in Pennsylvania.

“We really see this as a first step and a first effort,” said Jennifer Eckinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association, which partnered with the LCB on the program. “In this exciting time of people being more interested in consuming local, it's nice to be able to show we do have local wines here in Pennsylvania.”

Paul Difuccia, chief executive officer of Courtyard Wineries in Erie County, said his winery sold about 7,300 gallons of wine last year and isn't big enough to supply stores statewide.

“We're a small winery and only 4 years old, so people outside our general area didn't know who we were,” Difuccia said. “This (program) allows us to start with a microcosm of 10 key locations. If we see movement, we can expand in a logical fashion.”

Four of the winery's Barjo Bons (or “crazy friends”) wines were accepted: Rouge, Dazzle, First Kiss and Chocopelli, a red wine infused with dark chocolate.

Customers will find Carnegie-based Michael Stephen Kavic Winery's Riesling in state stores for $14.99. The winery did not return a call or email seeking comment.

The LCB offers nearly 100 Pennsylvania wines in state stores. The agency has not yet identified where PA Preferred wines will be displayed in stores, but there will likely be signs identifying them, said Stacy Kriedeman, spokeswoman for the LCB.

After six months, the agency will evaluate how well the wines are selling and decide how to proceed with the program. At least one case of each wine must be sold each month to remain part of the program, Kriedeman said.

Of the 84 PA Preferred wineries statewide, only 11 applied for the program. Four of the wineries that applied have wines selling in state stores, Kriedeman said.

Susan Lynn, a partner at Greendance, The Winery at Sand Hill, said it didn't make financial sense for the small Mt. Pleasant Township winery, which produces about 12,000 gallons of wine annually, to participate in the program.

Lynn said she'd have to sell to the LCB at below cost so that when the LCB applied its markups and taxes, the wine's retail price would be the same in state stores as it is at the winery.

Though she could raise her prices, she worries that that would drive customers away.

“They should value the Pennsylvania label because we are a local company and we are supporting the local economy, but I don't think when it comes to dollars and cents the consumer would value it as much as they should,” Lynn said.

Janet Miller, owner of C.T. Miller Vineyards in Avella in Washington County, said that her winery, which produces 2,000 to 4,000 gallons of wine a year, is too small to supply the volume needed to sell in state stores.

Jamie Williams, vice president of The Winery At Wilcox, about two hours north of Indiana, said the “sweet spot” is probably wineries producing 15,000 to 25,000 gallons annually because they can handle the volume of supplying 10 state stores and can sell to the LCB and still make money.

Williams said he chose not to participate in the program because his strong-selling wines are in state stores, in addition to satellite locations in the Settlers Ridge shopping center in Robinson and in State College and DuBois.

“I wanted to take a wait-and-see approach,” Williams said. “If it's successful with these ... wineries that submitted wines, I sure would think about it again.”

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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