Tina Weyant has a distinct childhood memory—helping her grandfather, a distiller in Germany, put labels on bottles.
Her grandparents lived on a property encompassing an old monastery with a cellar under the church. It was surrounded by vineyards.
Today, Weyant, 57, has come full circle. For the first time since childhood, she again is surrounded by vineyards. She and husband Jeff own Cumberland County’s first vineyard winery, the Winery at Long Shot Farm.
“We’ve been fermenting fruit, making wine as a hobby for a long time,” said Weyant. “With all of our kids out of the house, we decided to buy a little farm and start a vineyard on the side.”
She described their Lower Frankford Township property as “a vineyard winery” because, although it’s the county’s first winery, technically there are two other businesses operating under winery licenses—a Mechanicsburg meadery and a Carlisle cidery. Wine, mead and cider are all fermented, not brewed.
“As agriculturally rich as our county is, and the fastest-growing county in the state, it’s surprising there wasn’t a winery with a vineyard [until now],” said Aaron Jumper of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau.
But the Weyants took a shot. A long shot, you might say. Armed with a vision, they purchased the 13-acre property 10 years ago and began planting—first blackberries, then grapes.
A white hybrid grape named chardonel was one of the first varieties they planted.
“We’re trying to get good flavors from European grapes, with the humidity resistance of American grapes,” Weyant said, explaining the purpose of hybrid grape crosses.
One son owns a 30-acre farm up the road. A daughter owns 20 acres behind the winery. Collectively, the family tends more than 10 acres of grapes to support winemaking operations.
It’s a family affair—all five children (ranging in age from 21 to 36), own part of the business. All, including spouses and eight grandchildren, are involved “in one way or another,” said Weyant.
“Everyone helps with the harvest and winemaking—it gets intense,” she said. “When the grapes are ripe, you want to capture that and work quickly.”
That’s only natural for a family whose roots are in agriculture.
“I met my husband in agronomy class at Penn State,” she said.
The couple, 30-year residents of the Carlisle area, previously operated a dairy farm, and they’re lifelong gardeners.
Although Tina earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, she went on to obtain her master’s in international studies/political science, which she applies in her “day job” as executive director of the World Trade Center in Harrisburg—a position she’s held for 27 years. But her hobby turned serious a few years ago when she earned an associate’s degree in winemaking at HACC.
Meantime, Jeff focused on preparing the property.
He re-pointed all the stonework on their large, 1800s-era barn. A $74,550 grant from the visitor’s bureau provided the shot-in-the-arm needed to convert the barn into a tasting room complete with a deck overlooking the vineyards. To the left, you can see South Mountain in the distance. Dominating the vista to the right is North Mountain, or Blue Mountain. Straight ahead, through the vineyard and to the west, are exquisite sunsets during the winery’s Saturday evening hours.
“To see the winery come to fruition and be part of it, is very exciting,” said Jumper. “We started awarding grants in 2010 basically as a way to help tourism development in Cumberland County. The requirements are that projects either need to increase visitation or enhance the visitor experience.”
To date, the bureau has awarded nearly $2 million in grant money. The program is funded by occupancy (hotel) taxes.
The Winery at the Long Shot Farm is the 29th location on the visitors bureau’s growing Cumberland Valley Beer Trail. It’s the only winery among a cluster of craft breweries.
Pennsylvania ranks seventh nationwide with 270 wineries, which together produce more than 1 million gallons of wine annually. It’s also the fifth-largest grower of grapes in the nation and includes five prestigious American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) noted for specific grape-growing climates or features. The Winery at Long Shot Farm is the only Pennsylvania winery within the Cumberland Valley AVA along South Mountain, stretching from Washington County, Md., into Franklin and Cumberland counties.
Ten wines are currently available, ranging from whites and reds to rosé and fruit wines, including a sweet blackberry wine. Weyant said that the three most popular wines are the white chardonel, the off-dry rosé blend of chambourcin and vidal blanc grapes called Valley Blush, and a red wine called Fletched. In keeping with the “long shot” theme, Fletched mixes three flavors—blackberries, vidal and chambourcin grapes. In archery, an aerodynamic fletched arrow is comprised of three feathers.
Daughter Sam, an artist who also leads the winery’s paint and wine events, designed the winery’s bow-and-arrow logo.
The family’s future plans include events with food trucks, construction of a pavilion and, naturally, more wines. Tina Weyant said that she’s “playing” with Niagara grapes coming into production, as well as Austrian white and purple Concord grapes.
“There’s some science involved, but there’s so much else,” she said, “There’s so much that can happen in nature, so many variables, so much magic that can happen in a bottle.”
The Winery at the Long Shot Farm is located at 1925 McClures Gap Rd., Carlisle, with hours Friday to Sunday. For more information see the winery’s Facebook page.