— One of the newer highlights at the 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show is the Pennsylvania Wine display, with wineries from all over the state. One of the wineries present is Courtyard Wineries, located in Erie County.
"We weren't sure what to expect when we came to the show," said CEO Paul DiFuccia. "It's been wonderful. There's a lot of interest in the wines and we've been getting great business."
DiFuccia was approached by his friend, Randy Graham, president/winemaker, about forming a winery. They did research on the industry and decided to go for it. Graham has 120 acres of his own vineyards and the Phillips Farm has 240 acres of vineyards. It is a 100 year old farm and is in its third generation of owners. These are all part of Courtyard Wineries.
"We wanted our wines to be differentiated in terms of quality," DiFuccia stated. "We make high quality wine made from local grapes. We have a two brand strategy to appeal to different palette tastes. The first is Barjo Bons, which is French for crazy friends. These are our sweet wines and they are a blend of different grapes.
"They range from 4 percent to 7 percent residual sugar. The other brand is La Courette, French for the courtyard. Those wines are our dry palette pleasers. They range from .1 percent to .2 percent residual sugar."
He added that at their winery they also designed tasting rooms, one for each brand. He said they tried to design them to fit with different palettes.
"It's worked out well for us," he stated. "More and more Americans are drinking wine and we try to make it an easy and comfortable experience for all."
Courtyard Wineries has been in business for six years and were making wine for a little before opening its doors in 2009. They have two locations, one in North East and the other in Gerard. DiFuccia said they are expanding their locations as they grow and he expects they will have one in Pittsburgh next. He said that about 40 percent of their business comes from there.
The winery is part of Lake Erie Wine Country (LEWC), which encompasses Erie County as well as Chautauqua County in New York. It consists of 22 wineries, nine of which are in Pennsylvania. There are over 10,000 acres of vineyards, the largest block of grapes outside of the west coast.
Page 2 of 2 - You can order wines on their website, www.Courtyardwineries.com. DiFuccia said you can order by the case, bottle or whatever you like. He said they are best shipped in groups of threes, but you can order in any amount you want. They can also ship outside of Pennsylvania.
"We do our processing completely different than most wineries," DiFuccia said. "We squeeze the essence of the grape without crushing anything on the inside, so you get pure sweet grape juice."
Courtyard Wineries currently has 12 wine varieties and close to 20 varieties of grapes.
"We've been very lucky," DiFuccia stated. "It's a blessing to have great workers and business has been up 48 percent from last year. As we continue to grow I would love to branch out to other parts of the state as well."
They entered nine different wines into a competition at the farm show, and came out with seven medals.
"Randy's done a remarkable job," DiFuccia said. "We have fun making wine and people enjoy it. Our motto is we're one unique winery with two extraordinary brands. Our customers have come back on a regular basis and some have even become friends."