● By J. Chambless
Kristi May Wyatt, general manager of harvest Ridge Winery, at the winery's new tasting room in Toughkenamon. (Photo by Richard Gaw)
Ever since it burst onto the regional
winery scene in 2010, the Harvest Ridge Winery has become known for
its homespun, bottle-by-bottle approach to making wines, as well as
its cozy, “Welcome Home” style tasting room at its headquarters
in Marydel, Del.. Now, under the leadership of owners Chuck and Chris
Nunan, a second tasting room is scheduled to open in late April in
Toughkenamon. As the new facility was nearing completion, Landenberg
Life met with Harvest Ridge Winery General Manager Kristi May
Wyatt in early March to discuss the tasting room's plans.
Landenberg Life: Where is the
Harvest Ridge Winery Tasting Room in Toughkenamon in terms of
construction, and when can the general public begin to enjoy the
facility on Newark Road?
Wyatt: We're heading toward the end of our construction period, and over the next few weeks, we'll finish all of our flooring and plumbing. We're expecting to begin welcoming our first visitors in late April.
What can visitors to the wine tasting room expect to see, taste and experience when they visit here?
When you walk up to the building, they will see that it will closely resemble the design and functionality of the tasting room we have in Delaware. First, visitors will walk in and see a 40-foot-long bar they can meet and greet friends at. There will be comfortable chairs and couches throughout for people to enjoy over a glass or a bottle with friends. A great aesthetic touch will be seen in furniture made from old oak wine barrels and tables made from old doors. We also hope to offer our guests a regular lineup of live music.
We're definitely about the whole experience, because when you come to a winery tasting room, it's not just about the wine. It's about having a fun time and liking the people who are here. We have a great team, and they have a lot of fun.
There will be other selling points as well, right?
Absolutely. Our tasting room hosts will educate our guests about the winery, walk them through how our grapes are grown and cultivated into wine. All of us have great stories to tell, because we've been the the vineyard and we've rolled up our sleeves.
Yes, our guests can come in for a wine tasting, but with all of these comforts of home, they can also choose to accompany their wine tasting with a meal. We have already lined up food truck and local restaurants like the newly-opened Liliana's Pizza and Grill, just next door to the tasting room, who will deliver excellent food right to the tasting room.
Talk about the original seeds of the idea that enabled this tasting room to open in Toughkenamon.
Our plan was always to eventually be in Toughkenamon. When we started Harvest Ridge back in 2010, we ended up Delaware because Chuck and Chris already had the farm in Marydel, and yet, this is where we're all from. Chuck and Chris have lived in New Garden Township for over 35 years, and I graduated from Avon Grove High School, lived in West Grove, and I've worked in New Garden Township for the past 20 years. We're excited to have a place where we already know so many faces, and see many of them join new friends we're anxious to meet.
How will this tasting room help serve as an economic driver for Toughkenamon, as part of a goal to make the town a destination spot?
I have worked with the Nunan family at Servpro for over 12 years in Toughkenamon, and together, we have always believed that there is so much potential here. And it's starting to happen. Liliana's Pizza and Grill has opened up right next door. Primo's is here, and a florist has recently opened a business here. I can totally visualize this as a walking town, the way Kennett Square became several years ago.
We are partnering with New Garden Township and the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department on National Night Out this year, and we're expecting to do our annual Christmas tree lighting again in December. We'd like to think that the tasting room will become just the newest part of that incremental growth.
There's another usable space behind the main tasting room in the building, that is also being renovated. What will it be used for?
That space will serve as our event and banquet room. It can hold up to 75 people, and we'll do the normal wine-and-cheese pairings and wine dinners there, but it can also be rented for private parties or small wedding receptions.
What are your responsibilities as the general manager of the Harvest Ridge Winery?
I will be the tasting room manager for the new location as well as continuing to manage the wholesale of our wines and ciders to restaurants and stores in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. At the Toughkenamon tasting room, Laura Bienkowski is the event coordinator, so we will work very closely on all the fun things happening on and off site.
This tasting room puts Harvest Ridge Winery into a thicket of a region that is increasingly becoming known for its wineries. You're about to join a neighborhood that also includes Penns Woods, Chaddsford, Galer, Va La and Paradocx, to name a few. How will expanding to Chester County help further the branding of Harvest Ridge Winery?
I think joining that eclectic group is going to bring more to Harvest Ridge Winery, to the township, to the county and to the communities that surround us.
We're excited to continue to build a relationship with our partners in the local winery business, as well as with the breweries in the area, whom we've also gotten to build friendships with through the production of our Rebel Seed Cider.
Talk about the Harvest Ridge Winery Wine Club.
We pride ourselves on our wine club in Delaware. They are some very loyal people who support us, and it's largely done through word-of-mouth advertising. We're proud to announce that we will also have a Pennsylvania Wine Club and Cider Club at our new tasting room in Toughkenamon, where members will get to attend exclusive member events.
Picture a Saturday night this summer at the Harvest Ridge Winery tasting room in Toughkenamon. What do you see in your mind's eye? Paint that picture for the readers of Landenberg Life.
I picture groups of friends, because everyone who comes in will be our friends. They are who we are and what we will always be, because without our friends, we're nothing. I picture one group over here, getting a little loud and laughing. I see other groups sitting at the tables, and the music playing, and our team helping to serve people behind the bar.
Where is your favorite spot in Landenberg?
It's New Garden Township Park. I lived in the township for nine years, and it's where I take my children. They are able to take their shoes off and wade in the streams in the park. It is a very special place for us.
Which guests would you invite to your dinner party?
It will be my family, because they're the most important part of my life. The dinner party would also allow me to invite those in my family whom I miss, so I'd like to invite my grandparents to sit around that table with us. My mommom was an amazing cook, so she would probably be the one cooking for everyone, and we would just help and eat.
What kind of food or drink can always be found in your refrigerator?
If I had to select one item, you will always see butter in my refrigerator. It's my favorite condiment, and I put it on a lot of food. You're also likely to find a lot of bottles of Ranch dressing.
The new Harvest Ridge Winery tasting room will be located at 1140 Newark Rd., in Toughkenamon. The hours of operation are scheduled to be from Thursday to Sunday. To learn more, visit www.harvestridgewinery.com, and check out the winery on Facebook for constant postings and updates.
Richard L. Gaw