Right Place, Right Time
STORY AND PHOTOS BY SALLY SCHOLLE | LIKE MANY PENNSYLVANIA FARMS, SPRING GATE VINEYARD AND WINERY HAS A COLORFUL HISTORY. THE 60 ACRE PROPERTY OUTSIDE OF HARRISBURG TRACES ITS ROOTS TO THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN A WORKING FARM. WHEN OWNER MARTY SCHOFFSTALL PURCHASED THE FARM IN 1995, HE STARTED MAKING PLANS TO GIVE IT A NEW TWIST.
Marty started Spring Gate Vineyard in 2010 with his wife Diane, Rebecca Kline, and other business partners. Although Diane is now the Director of Operations at the winery, she was willing to get her hands dirty as the vineyard took shape.
“There were six of us digging holes and planting vines,” says Rebecca, describing the initial planting. “The first year we planted about five rows, and have been planting ever since. Now we have 15 acres. Everyone also pruned and harvested the first crop—we’ve been hands-on from the beginning.”
Since opening the tasting room in March 2014, new Spring Gate Winery has enjoyed continual growth. Rebecca says weekly tasting meetings with leadership and consultants are a critical aspect of keeping the team on task and up to date. The team plans months in advance to ensure sound purchasing decisions and collaborates on events and new releases.
In addition to offering a wide selection of beverages on site, Spring Gate Winery products are available in numerous retail establishments. “With changes in the law, our wholesale business has taken off,” says Rebecca. “We were positioned with enough wine and could start selling wholesale early. We were at the right place at the right time, with the right product and the right model.”
Rebecca says part of that model is willingness to look beyond the ordinary. “We aren’t afraid to admit mistakes, trash the idea and move on,” she says. “It’s all about taking chances. We learn from our mistakes, but we don’t dwell on them.”
Making good products isn’t the only reason Spring Gate continues to grow. An important focus of of the business is hospitality, which means attracting people who have the hospitality spirit. “We are an organization about people,” says Rebecca.
“We try to bring in people who have that hospitality spirit and the desire to be here, then train them in the tasks.”
Another factor for success is a selection of beverages to suit a variety of tastes. “We have a wide range of products,” says Rebecca. “There’s something for everyone, and having beer helps. We’re wine-forward, but we started the brewery because women usually make the decision to go out. They’re already coming with coworkers and friends, and they’ll bring their husband or boyfriend if we have beer.”
Spring Gate’s product line doesn’t stop with traditional wine. “People in central Pennsylvania tend to want sweeter wine, but they like to try new things,” says Rebecca. “We have mello wine, a fruit wine in cans, sangria, and we just came out with crafty spiked spring water.”
Another draw for Spring Gate is a busy schedule of special events, with everything from a country music festival and a raspberry festival to a summer solstice celebration. Marty has a strong commitment to the community, and invites local food trucks and musicians to the farm for events.
Rebecca believes that one of the most important reasons for success is Spring Gate’s commitment to sponsoring non-profit organizations, and says Marty is adamant about giving back to the community. “He wants to contribute to organizations that have meaning,” says Rebecca. “It’s a company-wide philosophy, and employees can suggest organizations to support. It isn’t just writing a check – it’s a partnership. For us, it’s about the people.”
After having been in the craft beverage industry and visiting others in the industry, Rebecca is optimistic about continued growth. “I think it’s a nationwide theme,” she says. “Everywhere you look, there’s a new craft brewery. Wine is a little different – it takes capital investment and time to grow grapes. We want to step outside the box and do things differently.” Rebecca added that one unique product they tried was glitter wine, a pink moscato with glitter in it. The wine sold out in less than two hours and there’s a waiting list for the next release.
As for their relationship with Farm Credit, Rebecca says, “we approached them when we got into the vineyard and farming aspect and they’ve been wonderful to work with. This is a farming business.” •
A CAREFULLY RESTORED FARMSTEAD CREATES THE IDEAL SETTING FOR SPRING GATE VINEYARD AND WINERY, WHERE THE COMPLETE LINE OF HAND- CRAFTED BEVERAGES, INCLUDING WINES, BEERS, AND TEAS, DRAWS BOTH LOYAL AND FIRST-TIME VISITORS. WITH A COMMUNITY-CENTERED FOCUS, BOTH OWNERS AND STAFF ARE DEDICATED TO ENSURING A POSITIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE THROUGH HOSPITALITY AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL. THE VENUE IS A POPULAR ATTRACTION FOR THEMED EVENTS, PRIVATE PARTIES, AND WEDDINGS. SPRING GATE STAFF REMAINS COMMITTED TO MAINTAINING THE BEST POSSIBLE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FOR EACH GUEST. VISIT SPRINGGATEVINEYARD.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION.