Beverage Production Experiential Learning Analysis: Franklin Hill Vineyards


The vineyard my classmates and I decided to visit for this project was the Franklin Hill Vineyard located in Bangor, Pennsylvania. The vineyard belongs to the Lehigh Valley AVA and features a mesoclimate similar to that of northern Europe giving way to produce French-American hybrid grapes. Their climate is mainly “influenced by the area’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake inlet” (Simon, pg. 132) that ultimately moderates the climate of the AVA. Despite the size of the AVA, only about “500 acres are used under vine despite the AVA growing steadily” (Sokolin, pg. 56). Initially however, as explained to us during our tour there, the land that Elaine Pivinski, founder of the vineyard had bought in 1976 was actually not suited for grape production. The land’s main issues were the soil of the area as well as the land being too flat and plain-like featuring no hilly features to expose the grapes to sunlight evenly. Luckily enough, she was able to discover Cornell Geneva’s vineyard experiment program which helped her with starting up her business by introducing her to their grape experiments allowing her to grow in these areas. Despite the risk behind running her business based on these newly invented grapes, she went through with her goal of producing wine in Pennsylvania successfully producing 3,500 gallons of wine in her first year. She was then hit unfortunately with a long period of lack of rainfall as well as a struggle to sustain and expand her business with no viticultural experience and virtually just working by herself. Through meeting with Bonnie Pysher and recruiting mothers at school bus stops, she was able to obtain the help she needed and pull through these times. Today the winery has expanded from where it once was producing around 55,000 gallons annually.

The “old vines” at Franklin Hill Vineyards. The trickle irrigation system in place was used in times where rainfall was lacking.

During our tour, Helen who was our tour guide showed us just how much Franklin Hill Vineyard really had grown since 1976 showing us the “old vines” which were the surviving vines from 1976, and showing us the trickle irrigation system that they had implemented in order to sustain the vines during the period that had no rainfall. She then showed us their more recent vines featuring a five-acre field of 7-8-year-old grape vines and another fifteen acres they are currently working on. She explained the importance of the shale like soil used to grow their grapes as it eliminated the competing grass and greenery from stealing their resources as well as allowing the grape vine roots to grow more openly. During our visit there we were able to observe the very beginning of the bud break stage of the vines and was told that harvest of these grapes usually occurs during the 2nd week of September. They grow a variety of grapes including Vida Blanc, Chambourcin, Cayuga, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The original vinification facility for Elaine featuring the stainless steel tanks, filtration system and destemmer.

A handmade bottling tool that they used back when the vineyard just started.

An automatic bottling tool that replaced their old handmade tool and caps their bottles with screw caps.

We were then bought to their vinification facilities where again we were able to see just how much the vineyard had grown as a whole. The facility was split into multiple rooms and were essentially in order of when they were added. The first room featured Elaine’s first processing area featuring multiple tanks and filtration systems as well her “refractometer and the more old fashioned hydrometer” (Ewing-Mulligan, 2006) they used to measure the Brix levels of their grapes. She explained that the vineyard produces red, white, fortified and rosé wines on top of their specialties and uses stainless steel tanks for their fermentation, where they found that ultimately using neutral barriques in the past wasn’t able to sustain them through the demand for their wine. Most of their wines are blends and feature an alcohol level of 10-12% except for their port wines which fall around 20% alcohol level. Before obtaining their additions to their production facility, Elaine had produced all her wine in just that one room containing a singular destemmer, multiple stainless-steel tanks and a filtration device they had obtained from Germany after finding our just how unsustainable using paper filters were. When they had initially started, they bottled everything using a handmade bottling device and corked each of them by hand until obtaining their bottling machine and switching to screw caps. We were shown pictures of Elaine and her crew punching down the cap and Elaine learning how to use cold stabilization for one of their wines called Evanswood which featured tar traits and also how they use oak staves and chips as well in their wine production.

Storage room for Franklin Hill Vineyard.

Finally, we arrived at the tasting room where we were able to taste six different wines. The wines I chose were the White Jade, Katie’s Creek, Redhead, Sir Walter’s Red, Catawba and Cake. Out of these six the one I enjoyed the most and found the most interesting was ultimately the Redhead which was a blend of Chambourcin and Merlot and was dry to the mouth with a strong vanilla and oak taste to it. Another wine that was also interesting was their vineyard’s most popular wine called Sir Walter’s Red which featured a blend of Cabernet Franc and the Concord grape producing a grapey acidic wine that tasted like strawberry jam.

Sitting in for a wine tasting at Franklin Hill Vineyard.

After visiting Franklin Hill, we also visited M&M vineyards as well afterwards which was about a 10 minute drive away. While much smaller and newer than Franklin Hill, the owner Mohinder Sidhu and his wife who were both previously microbiologists pushed themselves to achieve their dream of opening a winery prepping their land for 7 years after an initial 2 years of research. They were able to transform the corn field that they had bought into their dream winery using different soils as well as creating 15 degree slopes to provide equal sunshine as well as grafting different vines to the rootstocks they had established.

Standing in front of the vines at M&M Vineyard.

Wines sold at M&M Vineyard.

Overall, visiting the vineyard really put into perspective everything we had learned in class and learning about the of history behind Franklin Hill was definitely an experience. Being able to meet Bonnie and listening to her stories of how she and Elaine self-taught themselves how to survive in the business as well as learning all there is to know in the winemaking business was truly phenomenal and is definitely someone you should talk to when visiting Franklin Hill vineyards.



-Certified specialist of wine: Study guide 2017. (2017). Washington, DC: Society of Wine Educators.

-Ewing-Mulligan, M., & McCarthy, E. (2006). Delicate differences make New World Pinots difficult to identify but an adventure to try. Nation’s Restaurant News, 40(15), 50. Retrieved from

-Simon, A. L., & Allen, H. W. (1972). Wines of the world. London: McGraw-Hill.

-Sokolin, W. (1987). Liquid assets: How to develop an enjoyable and profitable wine portfolio. New York: Macmillan.

Retail Wine Shop Analysis- Astor Wine and Spirits, 399 Lafayette Street

The retail beverage shop I had decided to go, and visit was the Astor Wine and Spirits, located on 399 Lafayette street. Upon arriving at the store, the outside ambiance blended really well with the other buildings in the area, but also made its presence with a themed window display of wines as well as signs and a flag to allow the location to pop out. Upon entering the store, I felt like I had entered a supermarket made specifically for wines, seeing things that a supermarket normally had such as aisles and signs showing what were in the aisles, a customer checkout towards the exit and a customer service area where they held their tastings and information desk as well as a clearance section. Something I found interesting about the store was that alongside store tastings they also worked with Astor Sector located right above their store in order to teach people about wines and also held more wine tastings tailored towards wine enthusiasts.

For their wine set up, each country was properly labeled with the country in big overhanging signs and then individual signs were at the top of each shelf that held the wine from that region. Each wine had its own shelf talker and there was a separate storage area which held wines that needed to be stored in a colder temperature. Despite this overall, I felt that you needed to know a little bit about wine just to navigate the store where as the selection got more specific, it became more and more overwhelming even with the shelf talkers present near each wine bottle. However, their set up also has some benefits with the addition of things like staff picks and tons of staff members to help out their customers as well as a two information desks where customers can try and find something that fits their tastes.

I was lucky enough to interview one of their employees there during a busy time for them, setting up for their upcoming Italian wine tasting and sale. Jose, the associate we interviewed handled a lot of the guest relations and provided each guest with the information they needed to navigate and find what they were looking for within the store and provided me with a brief overview of how they ran their store.  He explained that their store organized their wines by country then region and then grape variety. These wines came from one of their 25 state distributors who only deal with business in New York state and talked about how they try not to carry bigger name brands such as Yellow Tail, but rather try and support local and smaller producers if they can. Due to this, they carry some unique wines such as the Mia Prosecco their best seller, but also carry some of the staple big-name brands still such as the Veuve Clicquot Brut as it is something that is always requested. Through buying wines and creating relationships with local and smaller producers, Jose explained that they are able to provide both the classic staples that are always requested but can also provide alternatives from these smaller producers to sell more inexpensive and affordable wines for people to enjoy and maybe even buy again. For the most part he explained that over 70% of their inventory is from a local or smaller producer while the other 30% is comprised of the classic known brands and wines. Finally, he explained about their mailing list and class calendar which they try to promote in order to try and educate more and more people about the beauty of wine

Astor Wine and Spirits-Outside of Astor Wine and Spirits located on 399 Lafayette Street.

Shelf Talker-This shelf talker describes and shows one of the best sellers at Astor Wine and Spirits called Mia Prosecco NV made from Glera grapes from Veneto, Italy.

Red Wine from Spain- The Friend and Farmer Red Wine from Spain is made from using a black grape called the Tempranillo grape and is great paired with carne asada and pulled pork.

Sparkling Wine not from France- This sparkling Rose wine from Austria, Sparkling Rose, Erdenlied NV is made from Zweigelt grape and contains a lot of red berry flavors matched with dry and delicate bubbles.

Red wine- The Niepoort Rotulo Tinto, Dao 2016 is a red wine from Portugal, a region I did not know made wine and is made from a Portugese red wine blend which is famous in their port wines. The wine is similar to that of a Beaujolais red wine made with the Gamay grape and pairs well with cheese.

Red Wine- The Chateau Musar Rogue 2001 is red wine from Lebanon, another region which I didn’t know produced wines and is made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsaut and is one of Lebanon’s famous full bodied wines.