In April, Waltz Vineyards will debut a wine store at Kitchen Kettle Village, taking over a small barn that housed a sign-maker’s woodworking shop.
Like any good makeover, the one Waltz Vineyards is set to unveil next month involves brushes, color and lots of inspiration. Paint-splattered floors, sawdust-covered machinery and a winding metal ventilation system will soon give way to a boutique wine shop featuring a tasting bar, retail store, private loft and outdoor patio.
The space’s transformation, in partnership with the Burnley family who own and operate Kitchen Kettle Village, is part of an even larger makeover – a plan to expand and refine the Village’s offerings, with an eye on the “foodie” customer. In addition to the wine shop, the Village will debut an olive oil store this year; plans also call for building a new retail space in 2016 to house its meat and cheese shop. Michelle Rondinelli, who is president of Kitchen Kettle Foods, says this will create some great synergies for food lovers looking to experience Lancaster County-made products.
This will be the first time wine will be available in the Village. Mike Burnley, CEO of Kitchen Kettle Foods, Inc., explains that for many years they didn’t think wine would be a “fit” among their stores – specifically because they did not want to offend their Amish and Mennonite employees and neighbors. But more recently, they decided to meet with members of those communities and discovered no one balked at the idea of including a local wine shop.
That’s when Michelle reached out to Jan and Kim Waltz. Michelle and Kim had worked together on the American Cancer Society’s Legacy Ball, and Michelle is a big fan of the Manheim-based vineyard. “The detail they put into their wine, and their knowledge and passion, is what sets them apart from what you usually taste in PA,” opines Michelle.
And what do we usually taste in PA? It’s likely Michelle is referring to the sweet, syrupy wines that are often made from native grapes. Since everyone’s tastes are different, there is a market – a very large market – for those sweet wines. How big? According to the Pennsylvania Winery Association, the state ranks fifth nationally in grapes grown, seventh in wine production and seventh in the number of licensed wineries.
Jan Waltz, Waltz’s winemaker, has carved out a niche for himself as not only an expert grape-grower (he wholesales to many in-state wineries) but also as an accomplished vinifera wine maker, growing hard-to-grow non-native grapes, including chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and semillon. Consultants from around the world have visited his Manheim-area farm, reviewed his soil and agreed that it is world-class. Pair that world-class soil with great sun exposure, an acceptable climate and second-to-none winemaking skills, and you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
For the waltzes, a store at KKV is a chance to bring their story forward and reach out to a larger customer base that includes both locals and visitors. The extra space in the private tasting loft will be used for wine club events, plus give Waltz Vineyards the opportunity to expand offerings for corporate groups, wine-education classes and industry events. Kim shares that many of the Village’s current tenants have expressed excitement about their new shop and have even started planning special events to include wine tastings. The Waltzes will also be able to accommodate bus tours at the new store.
The intention is to have the new shop renovated and up-and-running by April 1 for the historically heavy Easter weekend crowd. And, while that timeline is tight (the sign-maker’s shop was still operational in mid-January), this isn’t the Waltzes first renovation project.
To open their Manheim tasting room in 2009, Jan and Kim renovated the garage where they created their first vintages. They were intentional about creating a European-inspired tasting room to set their tasting experience apart from the PA trend of renovated barn tasting rooms. It features local artwork and windows to their production facility, so visitors can see where the wine is made.
In 2012 they opened a bottle shop in downtown Lititz taking over a space previously occupied by a bake shop. Like the Manheim tasting room, the Lititz shop features “old meets new” touches, including one of their signature design elements: tobacco lathe from the Waltz family farm’s former tobacco barn, which will also be incorporated into the Kitchen Kettle Village location.
Despite their growth, Jan has his eye on sustainability. “We don’t have aspirations to be a huge production,” he says. “We are keeping the focus on estate wine.”
And the estate is growing. The Waltzes recently purchased six acres of land that they’ll plant this spring. These new vines – all vinifera varieties – will reach maturity in three years. With the new acreage, Waltz Vineyards now farms 27 acres of grapes. “Inventory-wise, we are set to be able to meet the needs of the new shop,” Jan explains. “When you take on something like this, your planning has to be long-term – five or six years out – to ensure great production.”
Follow Waltz Vineyards on Facebook to watch the transformation unfold.