Twenty years ago in May, Carl and I made our first visit to Allegro Winery in The Brogue, with our young son along for the ride. At the time we were living up near State College and working at Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery. Allegro's owner/winemaker John Crouch had decided to sell Allegro after his brother Tim (co-owner and winegrower) passed away. I remember the visit day as quite cold and misty. Together we toured the buildings and walked the vineyard, which was rather run-down but beginning to shine with the bright green of a new growing season.
That day two decades ago turned out to be quite an auspicious one. While we couldn't have read the future in those new Cabernet leaves, they have proved to be the foundation of the story of a successful family vineyard and winery which, under Carl's leadership, has grown to include multiple properties and wine brands and has now even survived a pandemic. The lessons from these years here together are many, and they certainly include the importance of stewardship, flexibility, and gratitude.
The dedication to quality wines begins in the vineyards. As stewards of what's now called our Cadenza Vineyards--the property on which Allegro's original winery is situated in The Brogue--we've tended the vines with care. Some of the venerable original Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vines which were originally planted on the property in 1973 and 1974 (when Carl and I were toddlers) are still thriving here. Less fruitful older vines have been replaced with new plantings through the years, and the estate vineyard from which Cadenza wines are produced has grown to include over ten acres planted with ten different varieties, including Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc.
This growing season, Carl is in the vineyards daily, and the vines are thriving under his management. I'm in the vineyards myself more lately, taking part in tending the vines through the early summer tasks of suckering, tucking, and weed management. Being out on the property really does allow us a sense of perspective, from seeing the tiniest evidence of the dreaded Spotted Lanternflies to listening to the short-lived chorus of the amazing Brood X Cicadas to seeing the effects of long-term phenomena such as climate change. I love to watch the procession of eagles, deer, snakes, foxes, and dozens of other birds and creatures which are also passing through this green corner of the world.
While stewards of Allegro, Carl and I have also have the pleasure of watching our two boys grow and thrive here. The support and many volunteer hours of family and friends has helped sustain us, particularly during our early years here, and we appreciate the wonderful community of employees (currently numbering over 30) which has become part of Allegro's story.
Carl and I moved to York County and began managing Allegro in August of 2001, and we purchased the property and business early the next year. Having fully committed to Allegro seemed particularly scary through the events and aftermath of September 11th, 2001. We learned early and often how important a tool flexibility is when one is trying to keep a business afloat, even when the seas get rough.
Growing Allegro has meant dedication to flexibility of working hours, financial plans, family/work ratios, retail expectations, spray schedules, business planning...and Carl has proven to be a master of the positive pivot. In an odd mirroring of September, 2001, in March of 2020 we had just finalized the significant purchase of the former Naylor Wine Cellars property in Stewartstown, PA, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down normal life as we knew it. From one hour to the next on some days, we were unsure how "essential" our business would be deemed or how we would or wouldn't be allowed to continue wine sales. Fortuitously, by this point in his nearly two decades of sustaining our business, Carl had diversified the ways we grow, produce, and sell wine to such an extent that he still found open doors when others were shutting. Wholesale wine sales and wine shipments grew. The 2020 vintage was harvested. Allegro's employees were kept safe. We've weathered this incredible storm.
And that brings me to the lessons Allegro has taught us about the importance of gratitude. If we hadn't stopped many times along this journey to appreciate this land, this industry, this growth, we would be poor people. Instead, growing Allegro for two decades has given us daily opportunities to raise our glasses to the beauty of this kind of life, uncertain though it may sometimes be. And, of course, it's literally filled those glasses with wine.
A few weeks ago our older son turned 21. Having lived nearly his entire life here at the winery (and having been present--though sleepy--at that first tour here in 2001), he had never yet gotten the chance to legally taste wine. While the dry varietals that Carl and I love proved quite shocking to his young palate, he did appreciate the fact that this living product represents the fruit of a heck of a lot of labor throughout these years. As his taste for wine develops, he and his brother will be able to taste the wines Carl made here when they were toddlers, when they were in high school, and even in 2020, when the world seemed to change overnight. It's a tangible, delicious legacy.
Cheers to Allegro, to Carl's dedication, and to our 20 years here together!