Sunday, January 25, 2009

Home winemaker Patone about to take plunge

If you haven’t heard of Mario Patone and you’re at all into regional wineries, you will soon. Off the conversation with Roger Morris last week I got ahold of Patone, a longtime home winemaker, late last week. With his roots in the Abruzzo region of Italy, Patone followed in the footsteps of a number of family members. Only now he has some grander ideas.

By fall, he hopes to have his winery operating in Chester County, no more than a comfortable walk on a pretty day between the Kreutz Creek and Paradocx wineries that will bookend his operation. So close, I joked with him, that visitors attending that Brandywine Valley Wine Trail’s Barrels on the Brandywine could walk to the three wineries rather than drive. “I’m in the middle of them by a mile each,” he said. “They could walk between them; they’d probably burn off a little wine during the walk.”

At the same time, he’ll look to build a combo boutique winery and house on Route 841 in Lancaster County, capping off these past few years in which he decided to become more serious about what has been a hobby up until now.

“I always wanted to be in an entrepreneurial business, “said Patone, a CPA, “and food and wine are an absolute passion of mine. I’ve been with big firms, traveled all over. At this point [I] turned 40 last year, and we’re just trying to head for something a little more simplistic, a little more back to basics. So we decided to try to take the plunge and try to head that way with the food and the wine.”

For now, Patone will continue to source grapes from wineries such as
Paradocz, Penns Woods and Waltz Vineyards in Manheim, Lancaster County, until he can begin pulling them out of his own vineyards. He sees the glass half full in terms of whether this is a good time to open a new business.

“Quite honesty, we’re in some interesting economic times and I’m not sure what the recovery is going to b,e but I think regardless there’s going to be a stronger focus on local economies and local tourism,” he said. “I think people will kind of look a little more inward and enjoy the region where they live." And taste a quality of wine that will continue to improve.

"I belong to the [Brandywine Valley] wine trail and I spend time with all the other winemakers. Everybody is very, very motivated to really improve the quality, to really hit the books, so to speak, and crack down and really trying to study and understand what’s going on and really trying to make the region come alive," he said. "As we both know, California was laughed at when it came on line, Washington was laughed at, and people 10 years ago said, ‘Wine from Pennsylvania, you’re nuts.’ But I think that, I know Penns Woods is doing a real nice job and Va La
is doing a nice job . . . and they’re making some wines that are starting to turn people’s heads, and they saying ‘Wow, they’re coming from Pennsylvania.’”

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