|Who We Are|
The company began operations in 1964 as a supplier of grapes and equipment for local amateur winemakers. It began with two founding partners, Douglas P Moorhead and W Michael (Bill) Konnerth. From its inception there was the goal of it also becoming a winery should the laws of Pennsylvania be changed to make such a venture practical.
Bill had been purchasing grapes for winemaking purposes from from Doug's father in the mid 50's, usually from varieties such as Delaware (which was regarded as the best wine grape from the region in that era) and from Catawba, Isabella and Gladwin. Sharing an interest in wine, they started a group known as the Erie County Wine Club. The original group was primarily interested in making wines. Doug and Bill did most of the work finding vendors to supply the needs of the club and it was immediately obvious that there were business opportunities in servicing winemakers. Others such as Semplex, in Minneapolis and Aetna bottle in Portland, Oregon and others originated at about the same time. We hit the rising tide and grew rapidly until the mid 70's when our industry was hit with the recession, a rise in prohibition sentiment and the gasoline shortages. In addition, much of the winemaking growth was fueled by inferior grape concentrates which did much to discourage many of the fledgling winemakers. At the height of the fad, we were aware of over 2,000 vendors dealing with amateur winemakers. A couple of years later we found fewer than 300!
The business continues along its original paths of supplying amateur and commercial winemakers with supplies and equipment used in the production of wine as well as supplying quality fruit and pressed juice for the production of wine. We are proud to have customers in all 50 states and the majority of Canadian provinces. We also have customers from many states and provinces east of the Mississippi visit us during our harvest for juice and grape purchases. Our intent is also to be regarded as one of the top producers of quality wines in the Lake Erie Viticultural Appellation and to raise the level of recognition that high quality wines are produced here. Our wine production has¬†grown in recent years to meet this increased awareness and demand for our wines.
Presque Isle Wine Cellars and nearby Penn Shore Vineyards were the first two wineries to open under the Limited Winery Act of 1968. Both opened on the same day in September 1969. From that small beginning the industry has grown to 173 wineries in 2010. It is one of the few areas of Pennsylvania agriculture which is growing and is a positive factor in stabilizing agricultural production and in supporting tourism in Pennsylvania. Our wine production remained below 3,000 gallons for our first 30 years, but has increased dramatically beginning in 1998 and is now at about 27,000 to 30,000 gallons annual production.
Our reds are all made by fairly traditional methods using oak barrel aging and malo-lactic fermentations. We have stressed using Vitis vinifera grapes, which we introduced to the Lake Erie area in 1959 (at least if you don't count unsuccessful pre-prohibition efforts). Our main varieties include Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Viognier for whites and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Blaufrankisch, Syrah and Pinot Noir for reds.¬† We have also had success with some promising high quality new french hybrids such as Noiret.
We are trying to remain at or near the front edge in our business and so we are now working on updating and improving our website to become a destination of choice for the winemaking community and we expect to add a winemaking discussion forum and a formal question response service soon. We are evaluating new products and services such as a tasting evaluation service and lab testing service.
Bill Konnerth grew up in Erie, PA, and was a graduate of The University of Pittsburgh. He spent some time on the roads since jobs were not readily available when he graduated. He had a varied working background including chief electrician at a US Steel Coal Mine and later owning a cabinet making shop in Erie that specialized in restoring antiques that had suffered damage. He had relatives who had operated wineries in Erie before prohibition. The cabinet making shop began when he had arranged to purchase a country weekly newspaper in Hammondsport, NY, only to have the owner renege on the sale at the time of closing. He was the original winemaker and retired from Presque Isle Wine Cellars in 1975 and at age 94 was still writing a treatise on the economic effects of free trade, which he had come to think of as being a very bad thing for the USA. Bill died in 2005 at age 95. He was the last surviving vice president of the group headed by Dr Konstantin Frank and Albert W Laubengayer who started the American Wine Society.
Doug Moorhead grew up on a fruit farm in Harborcreek Township in Erie County and at 76 still farms on his 170 acre family owned vineyard in addition to his activities with Presque Isle Wine Cellars. He graduated from Penn State in 1956 with a degree in Pomology. Doug's father, Douglas McCord Moorhead, to help survive during the great depression, had brokered what few wine varieties there were in the area with several small ethnic wineries in or near Cleveland, Ohio and with Gold Seal Vineyards and Widmer Vineyards in the Finger Lakes Region. He was also very active in cooperatives in the Lake Erie area and was President of National Grape Cooperative when it was able to purchase Welch Foods and vastly improve the economic prospects of Concord growers. He was later President of Welch Foods in the late 1950's. Douglas P Moorhead grew up in that environment and became interested in the economics of growing wine grapes to replace the acreage of other fruits such as sweet and sour cherries, peaches, plums and apples which had become less and less profitable in the Lake Erie area.¬†¬† He was the first chairman of a State Grape Marketing Council which developed the legislative proposal that became the Pennsylvania Limited Winery Act in 1968. He was a long time director and a past president of The Pennsylvania Wine Association, was a long time director in the National Grape Cooperative, which owns Welch Foods, was an adjunct professor in the culinary department at Mercyhurst College in North East, PA, and is currently a director of Wine America and The Pennsylvania Grape Marketing Board. He is also currently Vice President of Presque Isle Wine Cellars.
Doug had also experimented with nearly 200 French Hybrid varieties and had introduced the growing of European grapes (Vitis vinifera) into the Lake Erie area in the late 1950's. One of his main interests has been to produce quality wines from traditional European grapes grown in Pennsylvania, a goal which several other wineries in the state are now also accomplishing.
Douglas P Moorhead is currently PIWC Vice President and a company Director.
Marlene B Moorhead is currently PIWC Secretary and a company Director. With a background in child development and a masters degree in School Psychology from Edinboro State University, Marlene joined Doug in the business when Bill Konnerth retired in early 1975. She acted as winemaker when she started and retired after 34 years at the end of 2007. She became a lifetime member of The American Wine Society in 1984.
John Machuga is currently PIWC Business Manager with¬†responsibility for managing daily operations and sales for all aspects of the business except wine and fresh product production and processing.¬† John brings a wealth of business experience to the position and a proven record of success in improving the performance of enterprises he has managed.¬† John has extensive background in the food and beverage industry, most recently being employed as Business and Sales Manager with McCormick Coffee Company in Erie.¬† John has also had key management positions with Clover Hill Foods, SYSCO Food Services, and Ponderosa Steak Houses as well as being the one-time Owner of City Beer Company in Erie.
John is a North East native whose family were proprietors of the South Shore Inn during its heyday.¬† He is a graduate of North East High School and Gannon University.¬† He and his family currently reside in North East and he has spent most of his professional career in the North East and Erie area and has strong connections in the community.¬† John is an avid skier.
Erik I Moorhead, son of Douglas and Marlene, is currently Chairman of The Board and PIWC President and Treasurer. He graduated from Penn State in 1984 with degrees in civil engineering and humanities and received a Masters Degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. After spending summers and a year after college working with PIWC, he ventured off to pursue a career in architectural engineering but has kept close ties to PIWC. Erik resides with his architect wife, Lorrie Adair, and daughters, Tully and Ava, in Grapevine, Texas. When he is not helping PIWC and attending to our Texas customers, Erik is involved in managing large projects such as Terminals D and E at DFW Internatrional Airport and the Ritz-Carlton Dallas and JW Marriott Austin for HKS Inc. a noted architectural firm. At his current stage of "maturity", Erik is happy to still be playing fly half for his local rugby club.
Kristopher (Kris) Kane has been the Winemaker at Presque Isle Wine Cellars since 2005. Before working at Presque Isle Wine Cellars, Kris was employed on his family's three hundred acre grape farm in western New York. It was while working in the fields that Kris discovered his true passion, winemaking. Kris has a B.S. in Biology from Canisius College, in Buffalo, and he puts that training and discipline in life sciences to good use supporting his winemaking with strong laboratory and testing skills. In February 2008, Kris traveled to Australia where he participated in harvest season 'down under.' During his months in Australia, he assisted with various aspects of the winemaking process, including crushing and pressing over one thousand tons of grapes while learning and working with new varieties of vinifera. Kris has brought back many new techniques from his experiences that he is currently implementing and using at Presque Isle Wine Cellars. In his precious free time, Kris enjoys water skiing, golfing, snow skiing during the winter months, and experimenting with different wines..
Sue Bauer is currently our Accounting Manager.