We are a family of four siblings whose energetic father had a vision of growing grapes and making quality wine. Within a short time, his vision became our own. It began in the early 1970’s when J. Richard Nissley and his son John planted several acres of grapes on a property near Bainbridge, Lancaster County, PA that had been purchased previously as an investment. Their research indicated that the somewhat newly developed varieties of French-hybrid grapes would grow well in this soil and climate.
The property included an 18th century stone mill with its companion miller’s house and stone arch bridge along with a more recent frame tobacco barn. The challenge was to turn the small barn into a wine production facility that would not seem out of place with the older buildings. The result was a stately winery, built with a picturesque limestone archway that is depicted on many of our wine labels.
At that time there were only a few wineries in the central Pennsylvania area. Being among the first to do anything has never been easy. However, with a great deal of charm, a pioneering spirit and the grit of a native Lancaster countian, our father persevered despite the naysayers who would accept only California or France as the proper places to grow grapes and make wine. He was instrumental in starting the Pennsylvania Winery Association and was its first President. Our mother Anna Ruth provided encouraging support and gave many of the guided winery tours and tastings in the early days.
Daughter Judith joined the enterprise full-time when the winery opened for visitors in July 1978. Daughter Joyce arrived in October and daughter Mary Lee returned home later to help with the burgeoning business. Judith’s penchant for organizing places and events led to opening our off-premise extension shops and establishing our Music in the Vineyards summer concert series. Joyce applied her mathematical and organizational skills to accounting as well as management of our personalized wine service. Mary Lee’s interest in flowers and gardening has been well applied to landscaping the beautiful grounds. John’s college studies in agriculture were a natural beginning for growing grapes and managing the vineyard.
In 1990, the need for a full time winemaker was apparent. Bill Gulvin was engaged to fill that position based on the experience and knowledge that he had gained as a winemaker in New York State. With his retirement in July 2015, Jennifer Wampler has become our new winemaker, applying her Associate Degree in Enology and Viticulture from HACC. At the same time, Steven Foreman has taken on new duties as the cellar master, in addition to managing the care of the grape vines, which he has tended since 2004.
With the team in place before 2015, we were producing an average of 46,000 gallons (19,000 cases) annually. The original seven-acre vineyard expanded to 50 acres and included native-American and vinifera varieties. Today we are scaling back a bit. Although our parents are now deceased, we continue to think of ourselves as the J. Richard Nissley Family, and his name still appears on the label of every bottle of wine that we produce. It also appears for posterity along with our mother’s name in the date stone on the façade of the winery.
We welcome you to come for a tour, a tasting or a special event and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
The J. Richard Nissley Family
J. Richard (Dick) Nissley is shown here with Nick, his dog who could "read"
Judith, Joyce, Mary Lee and John Nissley October 2014