JENKINS TWP. — Winemaking has been in Vito Balice’s blood for as long as he can remember, so much so that he’s making it his new profession.
Vito and his wife Domicella Balice are currently in the process of opening Vito’s Wine Cellar at 3 May St. out of the former recreation hall for St. Joseph’s Parish Center.
The couple has been working hard for the last six years to get their business up and running, but there is no timetable to when they will open their doors as more work still needs to be done.
“We already have a liquor control license from Pennsylvania to make and sell wine, but we are still waiting for the TTB, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, to give us the final approval,” said Vito. “They’ll send someone to inspect the facility and then it will be the label approval and we should be ready to go. It takes forever.”
What separates Vito’s Wine Cellar from most wine distributors is that the wine is all made from scratch and not purchased from other businesses.
Grapes are brought in from California on multiple trucks once a year in September, which is when wine season begins, Vito said.
The juice is pressed out of the grapes after they have started fermenting, which is when bacteria eats the sugar to turn it into alcohol.
The juice is then left to ferment for a few days in stainless steel tubs for anywhere from 30 to 45 days to let it macerate before it is mixed with alcohol and then bottled.
As for what got Vito started in making wine, he said it was just something he picked up and enjoyed doing.
“It’s something that I enjoy doing,” he said. “It’s an evolving experience and when I started people were telling me they liked my wine and asked if I could make it and duplicate it. It’s tough, but I continue doing it.”
While Vito will be responsible for making and distributing wine, Domicella will handle cooking meals, and that there is no set menu at this point.
The business will be operated by the couple and they will get help from family and close friends.
The decor of the area where patrons can wine and dine gives an Italian atmosphere with a piano in the center of the hall, couches, a small stage and a wine tasting bar.
Domicella said it’s all to reflect Vito’s Italian heritage, another reason winemaking runs in his blood.
“His heritage is one where wine is with supper and such,” she said. “He’s Italian and he’s from Italy; he wasn’t born in America.”
Not only will Vito’s Wine Cellar distribute wine and food, but it will also be rented out for banquets, benefits, and ceremonies.
Vito and Domicella recently held a wine class, and more events might be happening in the future.
“When we had the event everyone really complimented the food and the hospitality,” Vito said. “I don’t know if we’re going to do this, but maybe once a month there will be an event where we can introduce some wines and have a dinner.”
Though they aren’t open yet, the Balices know what kind of atmosphere they want their wine business to give off for customers.
“It’s going to be different from anything in the area,” Domicella said. “It’s going to be an inviting, warm atmosphere where you can relax instead of having loud music. There will be piano music, guitar music, and all different sitting areas to enjoy wine and food.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher