Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kreutz Creek East thriving 'downstream'

Carole and Jim Fitzpatrick remember living in York and heading out to the few wineries in the area back in the 1980s, such as Naylor and Fox Ridge. Then Carole bought her husband a wine-making kit and “he started winning amateur competitions.” They bought a three-acre plot across the Susquehanna River in Wrightsville, and began their passion. Years later Jim was "being transferred to a job in New Jersey and this [West Grove, Pa.] was central to where we were going, so that’s how we kind of picked it.”

The desire to open a winery weren’t the only thing they brought with them. They also carried along the name of a creek running close to their home in Wrightsville that they took as the name for their
winery. A member of the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, the Kirkpatricks planted grapes at their present site in 1998. Today, they sell out of their winery and at a satellite site in West Chester, Pa. And it’s obvious from the sales that both draw their own distinct clienetele.

“We’re known for a couple of wines,” Carole said recently from their West Chester tasting room. “One is our ice wine. But it’s funny, our popular wines are different in both locations. Up here in West Chester our Cabernet Franc is the most popular, and then in West Grove it’s more the sweeter things. So like our rose, [called] Steuben; we even had a fruit wine for awhile, a red raspberry, that was popular. Our port is very popular.”

Why the difference? “I wish I knew,” she said. “We actually pride ourselves in having something for everyone so we have always had a range, from sweeter wines to dry wines. We’ve always had a variety and we want to keep the variety.”

Their list currently features 16 wines, including what they call a Kordeaux, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Carole said they have eight acres of grapes planted and sell about half of what they harvest. Her husband still works his day job; the winery and tasting room remain in the basement of their home. One of their plans for later this fall is to remodel that room, but not move anything out of there. “Actually, people like to see everything when they come down there,” she said.

Outside of that, the only other item on their “to do” list is tear out some of their Niagara grapes and plant Pinot Grgio or Sauvignon Blanc grapes. “We’ll have to talk to a couple people . . . and see what grows well in the area.”

Asked what advice she gives to people who ask about going into the business, she said, “don’t do it, don’t do it” before breaking into a laugh. “I actually do. People will come into the winery and the husband will look around and say, ’Oh, this will be good. This will be fun.’ I’m like, don’t do it.’

“It really consumes your every minute, but owning [any] business does.” Suggestions? “I would just say to research grapes that grow well in the area, and have your soil checked before you purchase the property; make sure it’s going to be conducive to good grape growing. And use the resources that are out there.”

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