Thoughts on the Past and Future
Written by John Crouch, Co-Founder of Allegro Vineyards
Many of you know some of the history of Allegro Vineyards, but I would like to meander over it just one more time. Tim and I bought the run down vineyard at the end of 1978, I was 31 and Tim was 38 years old at the time. We struggled to bring back the vines that had not succumbed to neglect. Tim was awakening at 5:30 each morning to commute to his electrical project managerial work. We lived along with our mother, Marguerite in the old mobile homes which we had made livable. I worked in the vineyard for some long hours in those days. In 1980 we had the 40 by 100 ft. winery built. It was strictly utilitarian! The grand opening of our new winery was on Halloween of 1981. We sold our first commercial vintage (1980) of Premium White, Vin Rose, and Chardonnay, followed shortly by our double-gold winning Cabernet Sauvignon. We almost ran out of money in 1983, but were saved by a quick loan from our mother who also devoted most of her time to the winery now. In 1981 we pioneered the use of French oak barrel aging in Pennsylvania if not in the entire East. We also developed an international reputation for fine Cabernet Sauvignon grown here in the East, heretofore thought almost impossible in this climate. We pioneered methode champenoise sparkling wine made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. We won over 80 international, national and state medals in our first 15 years. Along the way we built a small house on the property in 1987. The very day we moved in, we saw a propitious double rainbow after a shower. Tim was able to start work full time at Allegro that same year. He learned rapidly and came to enjoy working in the vineyard most of all. In the early 90's, my health went downhill with an undetected heart attack. Tim then started assuming more and more of the tough vineyard and winery work. By the 1995 vintage, he had become the finest viticulture man around. The beautiful 95, 97, 98 vintages were primarily his efforts. Our mother passed away at the end of 1996. It was a dismal vintage and an unhappy time for us. We continued on with more outstanding wines and our wildly popular Chef Series along with other great dinners and spotlight weekends. Tim and I finally made the decision to retire in 2002, but in the end of 2000, Tim complained of a pain in his side. He was put through a battery of tests and was diagnosed with cancer of the colon about dec. 1. Then, the evening prior to his scheduled surgery to remove the tumor, he suffered a massive stroke. It proved too much for him and he passed away on Dec 31, 2000.
Unable to run Allegro by myself, I entertained the idea of depleting the inventory, selling the equipment and closing. Serendipitously, the grape ag agent, Mark Chien, told Carl Helrich and Kris Miller...that the winery and vineyards might be for sale. We have negotiated the sale and will finalize it in the near future. Carl is 31, Kris is 30, and they have the energy to continue the dream that Tim and I envisioned.... Come down and meet them soon! I'll still be "haunting" the winery and will hope to see you too. The future of Allegro looks bright.