Pisano Winery, a charming new venue in the heart of Millheim, got its start when Andy Pisano, a self-proclaimed “computer geek,” and his wife Patricia, a beautician with her own salon, developed a love for winemaking.
“It was sort of a hobby that got out of control,” Andy said. “Me and my wife took a couple classes and we really enjoyed making wine.”
He and Patricia made enough wine that they started giving it away to customers at Patricia’s beauty salon in State College, but when customers liked and wanted to buy the wine, the Pisanos were legally prohibited from selling it.
“So we thought that if people really wanted to buy the wine, we’d look into getting the licenses,” Andy said.
However, the process was not an easy nor a quick one. It took five to six years for the family to nail down their current location in Millheim, due to township and local regulations, and then another two and a half years to open. Pisano Winery held its grand opening in May, unveiling the tasting room set inside the 19th-century barn at 103 Penn St., as well as the outdoor seating alongside a millrace inhabited by a collection of ducks and trout.
The small-batch winery offers eight varieties, four red wines and four white wines. So far, Andy notes, the most popular varieties have been the Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition to wines, the winery also offers mixed drinks.
“We have five signature drinks that we do. All the drinks have wine in them, so it’s a little unique, as it’s sort of hard to (blend) wine with mixed drinks, but my son has it down to pretty much an art at this point. They seem to be pretty popular,” Andy said. The favorite is the Joe’s Mule, described as a cross between a mule and a mojito.
Beer from nearby Elk Creek Café & Aleworks is also available.
Beyond the various beverages, Pisano Winery offers a calm environment that seems to appeal to both locals and out-of-towners alike. The outdoor seating area is particularly popular and hosts live music the last Sunday of every month. Any other given day, visitors might find guests playing a round of cornhole or a match of badminton.
The winery has also hosted private events since its opening, including a few weddings and a bridal shower.
“The challenges,” Andy explains, “have been keeping up with the wine production and learning the ropes of a retail business. We’re really novices at it. We’ve been making wine for a long time, but haven’t had any experience in this kind of restaurant-bar-type of business. But it’s been fun. We’ve met a lot of really great people; that’s been the most fun. And wineries are pretty chill; it’s not like a bar atmosphere. You don’t get that type of bar crowd, just there to drink to get drunk. It’s more of a laid-back, relaxed type of (environment).”
What’s in the future for this family-run business? Andy reveals plans for a partial kitchen in the barn, which Patricia will take over, serving a menu of small plates and hors d’oeuvres. Until the partial kitchen opens, visitors can order delivery from nearby restaurants.
Pisano Winery also plans to release its first dessert wine by the end of August.
For more updates and events, follow Pisano Winery on Facebook, @Pisano Winery. Live music for this month takes place 2:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, with featured musicians are Steve Treado and William Ryan.