As I sit back in my recliner enjoying a glass of 2001 Naylor Grand Reserve Seductivo I can’t help but think about the great time that Brenda and I had at Naylor Wine Cellars last Saturday. Located in Stewartstown, PA, Naylor Wine Cellars is the pride and joy of Audrey and Richard Naylor.
Mr. Naylor’s wine making adventure began way back in 1961 when he was in the packaging business. One of his customers was a home winemaking supply store in Cockeysville, MD. He had the opportunity to try some of his customer’s wine and was hooked. He started by making dandelion and strawberry wines and planted his first 100 grapevines in his backyard in 1964, four years before commerical wineries became legal in Pennsylvania. Soon he expanded to occupy 1/4 acre of a friend’s farm.
In 1974, opportunity knocked and Mr. Naylor had a chance to buy a fruit farm located at the current site of his vineyard and winery. After a short period where he leased the farm back to the prior owners, Mr. Naylor and his best friend, Bob Eisenhart planted the first 1 1/4 acres of grapes in 1975. The vineyard grew to just under five acres by 1977 when the first harvest was pressed and fermented in old milk tanks. The first sales were made out of a potato cellar in February, 1978. Tragically, Bob Eisenhart who built most of the farm equipment died of cancer in March, 1978 less than four months after complaining of severe back pain while pheasant hunting on Thanksgiving Day, 1977. To this day, Mr. Naylor is still affected by the loss of his best friend.
Mr. Naylor built the current winery building in 1982 and started selling supplies to home wine makers in 1983. During this time, Mr. Naylor was still in the packaging business and designed some unique boxes for protecting wine bottles while they were in transit. IN 1992 he sold his interest in the packaging business but kept ownership of the designs for the wine boxes. In 1993 he built a warehouse for manufacturing and storing the wine boxes. This warehouse doubles as a banquet room although plans are in the works for a new warehouse so the current one can be dedicated to entertaining guests.
In 1992, executive chef Ted Potter joined Naylor as the winemaker. Under his leadership the vineyard has grown to its current 30 acres that produces over 40 varities of grapes. In fact, 95% of the grapes that make up Naylor’s wines are grown on the family farm. Some Vidal grapes are purchased from Marty Keen who once owned the first commercial winery in Pennsylvania. Mr. Potter and Mr. Naylor have no plans to expand the vineyards any further at this time. Today, Naylor Wine Cellars produces 20,000 gallons of wine per year. All of Naylor’s red wines except the Nouveau are aged in oak as is the Chardonnay. The wine is bottled over 55-60 days per year by farm staff when the weather isn’t condusive to outdoor work. The size of the winery could justify higher capacity bottling equipment but Mr. Naylor would rather put his people to work indoors rather than cost them their pay checks.
I could go on for pages with the stories Mr. Naylor told me about his years in the wine business and his 15 or more trips to Europe to visit wineries but I think I’ll stop here. Stay tuned for part II of my report on Naylor Wine Cellars when I’ll talk about Naylor’s wines and the special events they host. In the meantime, grab your wine carrier and head out to Naylor Wine Cellars for a great education and some excellent wine. When you visit, please tell them that The Pennsylvania Wanderer sent you.