NORTH EAST, Pa. - More wineries could be coming to Erie County.
Zoning changes have cleared the way for the construction of a wine cooperative that will include six wineries, tasting rooms, a restaurant, and retail space for wine-related goods in North East Township, developer Randy Graham said.
"North East has not yet reached the threshold to become a wine-country destination," said Graham, who runs South Shore Farms in North East. "This will get us much closer to that threshold, and we'll start to create a tourism business focused on wineries."
Graham's proposal for the Courtyard Wineries includes six tenant wineries that would lease space from him and have access to some of the same equipment, including inspection and sorting machines and presses. The wineries would schedule production time through the facility's production manager, and facility employees, not the workers at the individual wineries, would operate the equipment.
"You get economies of scale, and it allows [the tenant wineries] to focus on high-quality processing," Graham said.
Some are skeptical, saying the area might not be large enough to support six more wineries.
"The only concern is, who is going to patronize it?" Arrowhead Wineries owner Nick Mobilia said.
The North East Chamber of Commerce welcomes the development. "The more wineries we have, the better the economy is going to be for everyone," said Sue Spacht, the chamber's community coordinator.
And Doug Moorehead, who owns Presque Isle Wine Cellars, said: "I don't see any bad sides to it. They'll be within a half-mile of us so, selfishly, we're very likely to get more traffic coming here than with people just driving by on the street."
Graham said he had had "overwhelming interest" for tenants for the wineries and the restaurant, and would begin picking them within a month. Construction at the 11-acre site could begin in the spring, and retail sales could begin in late spring 2009, he said.