Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Taking Flight: Alan Tumblin has built a unique business for Pennsylvania—a private wine shop.

Screenshot 2015-07-31 09.53.03Alan Tumblin, the friendly proprietor of Castlerigg Wine Shop, greeted me from behind his tasting bar as I walked inside the Queen Anne manse in downtown Carlisle.

A couple of stone dragons were perched on the floor by the entry, and Bacchus, the god of wine, stood in a corner wearing a grape leaf as a loin cloth. Located in the borough’s historic district, Castlerigg is something rare in Pennsylvania—a non-state-owned wine shop.

Tumblin was quick to point out how he—legally—gets around the state monopoly. He sells wine on behalf of two Pennsylvania wineries, which are permitted, as part of their licenses, to operate as many as five satellite locations.

“I have a personal mission,” he said. “I want to dispel the myth that Pennsylvania can’t make good wine and provide a great atmosphere for an education.”

Tumblin—dressed in a kilt, his usual attire—and I sat at a table in the dining area. I asked him about the shop’s name.

“Originally, I wanted to call my shop ‘Standing Stone Wine Shop,’ but learned there was a similarly named winery in the Finger Lakes,” he said.

In the end, he decided to name his business Castlerigg after one of the largest and most picturesque stone circles in England. Tumblin explained that he had always been fascinated with these ancient rings and had even constructed a standing stone circle on his home’s lawn with large stones he had shipped from the Ohio farm where he grew up.

Wine Shop to Wine Bar

Upon entering the corporate world, Tumblin moved to Pennsylvania and fell in love with Carlisle, especially the downtown area, with its diversity and history. He also saw an opportunity, as there were no officially licensed wineries in Carlisle and no wine shops other than the state stores. So, he decided to open one.

To prepare, he visited 19 wineries in six months, focusing on several criteria.

First, he had to like the wine well enough to want to sell it. Secondly, the winery had to like him well enough to do business with him. And, third, he wanted to be close enough to the winery to receive product, but far enough away that people would visit his shop for the wine. He ultimately partnered with Seven Mountains Wine Cellars in Centre County and The Vineyard at Grandview in Lancaster County.

In November 2013, he opened in a Carlisle mansion known as the Batem House. Rich in history and intricate in design, it was the perfect place for a wine shop, he believed.

Upon entering, an ornate front door greets you. It’s original to the house, as are the chestnut floors, the trim work and three fireplaces. Stained glass and artwork from local artisans decorate every room. In addition to the house’s history, Tumblin was drawn to the building because it is situated in the heart of downtown near BYOB restaurants and many other attractions.

The tasting bar, embellished with Celtic knots, is where guests receive an education in tasting.

“I expected to be a wine shop, but have embraced becoming a wine bar,” said Tumblin.

More Aware

Monica, a staff member, said she likes to teach people how to understand different flavors in the wines.

Patrons are presented with a wine glass, which has a logo consisting of a diagram of Castlerigg’s stone circle. Then menus are fanned across the bar. You can choose a flight of five wines or a pairing of wines, cheeses and chocolates, or a side-by-side wine comparison. (For fun, compare Seven Mountain’s cabernet franc alongside the Vineyard at Grandview’s cabernet franc—same grape, completely different results.)

Sit in the dining area and enjoy your wine, as well as light appetizers and desserts. Two outdoor, cozy porches are available for you to sip, eat, listen to music and people-watch.

For the past two years, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated with a five-course Irish dinner, each course paired with a wine. Castlerigg also has hosted retirements, painting parties, bridal showers and colonel promotions from the nearby U.S. Army War College.

The wine bar leads directly into the shop, where you can browse the selection of 50 wines, offerings from both wineries from dry to sweet. While you can’t leave the shop with a filled glass in hand, you can leave with a corked bottle—or a case of your favorite wine. Also for sale is wine bling such as T-shirts, wine journals and bottle openers.

The shop also features complementary food products like flavored oils and vinegars made in Lititz and jams and jellies produced in Centre Hall. The cheeses and chocolates are also local (Clover Creek Cheese Cellar and Mummert Candy Co.) and available for purchase.

I asked Tumblin how business was going.

“The first couple months were exhausting, but then I got into a rhythm,” he said. “We’re halfway through our second year and are exceeding last year’s sales.”

As for the future, Tumblin expressed no immediate plans to expand, as he’s limited by space. He has given thought to a distillery, but noted that prospect would come with issues of its own. Mostly, he’d like to keep growing with more patrons and more events.

“I’ve built a relationship with the local B&Bs and the restaurants,” he said. “People are more aware of Castlerigg.”

Castlerigg Wine Shop is located at 110 S. Hanover St., Carlisle. For more information, call 717-462-4663 or visit

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