A Central Pa. Producer Harnesses the Knowledge and Skills of a West Coast Winemaker to Help ‘Raise the Bar’

For an East Coast winery and a West Coast winemaker, a new marriage offers both an opportunity for growth.

Nissley Vineyards is a 44-year-old producer from Pennsylvania with an established clientele familiar with his portfolio of off-dry to sweet wines. Now he’s looking to add more dry wines to appeal to a wider audience.

Genevieve Rodgers is a former automotive engineer who finally found the wine in her life, both as a winemaker and a consultant, from her home in California. Although she has worked with wineries on the east coast, this is the first that is established.

“Life is a learning experience, it’s kind of been my whole career,” she said in a recent phone conversation, speaking of a career journey that started so far from a wine cellar. “I love this part of life…I love learning. I like new experiences. I like to challenge my brain, my expectations and my understandings, and see what’s new to offer, new that I can learn. For me, it’s a great experience. I really appreciate that.

Rodgers started in March, getting acquainted with the winery team and winery vice-president Jonas Nissley, who has introduced a number of changes since taking over as manager about five years ago. year. He said there were two main goals in adding Rodgers to the Nissley Winery family, starting with getting a “West Coast perspective on the winery’s reserve program.” The other goal is to “give our large cellar team the professional and experienced resource they need to make great wine,” Nissley said.

The team is made up of cellar master Brittany Vittor and cellar masters Andrea Rodriguez and Ashley (Red) Schatz, giving Nissley one of the only all-female winemaking teams in the state.

Says Rodgers: “Several women have been there for several years and have a very good understanding of what to do and how to take care of the wines, so my role is a combination of making decisions but also building the team that it has so that they can grow in their abilities and skills.

Winemaker and consultant Genevieve Rodgers says his “role is both to make decisions but also to train the team he has so they can grow in their abilities and skills.”

Rodgers will do the vast majority of his work from home this summer, going through tastings and providing advice via technology, then heading east to the winery in September to watch the harvest and help shape the harvest. evolution of wines.

While the in-house group works as a cohesive group in the winery, none have formal winemaker training, Nissley said, adding that “Geneviève will guide this all-female team to success and contribute to next-level winemaking decisions.” .

There are few wineries on the East Coast that aim to scale as much as Nissley has while maintaining its target audience, a challenge its vice president and senior winemaker are eager to take on. For decades, the winery located about 20 miles southeast of Harrisburg and 20 miles west of Lancaster has built its following on the appeal of its venue, its long run of summer concerts and a long wine list which included Grape white, Grape Red and Bainbridge Red (sweet to semi-sweet), and Rhapsody in blue and Naughty Marietta (half dry). Masquerade, a semi-sweet white, has rapidly gained popularity since its inception a few years ago. All have a mid-teen price.

It’s what long-time Nissley customers expect from an iconic producer founded by Dick and Anna Nissley in the late 1970s then aided in its growth by their children and the eventual addition of winemaker Bill Gulvin. Dick Nissley would be the first president of the Pennsylvania Wine Association.

“Nissley is not a start-up winery, they’re established. They have a long history and they have wines that they’ve been making for decades that people love,” Rodgers said. is important that they have established what they do and who they are and have made the wines fit that, so my job in the situation with Nissley is really to make these wines the best that I can do it.

At the same time, she says, wineries can change the same way people do, changing with age. This role will allow him to not only make the wines that fit Nissley’s business and what their consumers want, but also “maybe challenge them a bit, which is what good companies do, because we put people challenged to try something a little different.., maybe have a slightly different experience with a slightly different product and a slightly different wine.”

Anyone familiar with the Nissley brand has seen things change over the past few years. For example, these summer concerts have expanded to Friday and Saturday nights in the wake of the pandemic. Additionally, Nissley became one of the first in the region to introduce canned wines, in this case a range called Kiss which features blueberry. peach and strawberry sparkling wines. He has been as aggressive as any regional winery in adhering to COVID restrictions, not only implementing curbside pickup, but also a delivery service to parts of Dauphin, Cumberland, Lancaster and York counties.

Nissley Vineyards

A photo of one of Nissley’s dry wine ranges, a reserve Merlot. It is aged in French and Hungarian oak barrels for more than 6 months. the cost is $19.99.

Finally, it happened a Reserve collection of dry wines: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay… and counting.

This is one of the main reasons Nissley said he connected with Rodgers, to provide valuable input into the winery’s premium wines. She will manage the supply of the winery’s barrels not only for reserve wines, but also for what will be called the Heritage Series, which will soon be introduced and should sell for between $30 and $49/bottle.

These will include an estate Chardonnay, Chambourcin and possibly a Cab Franc, all aged in barrels. “These wines will really raise the bar at Nissley,” Nissley said. “We have been producing sweet wines well for many years, and there is not much to change about them, maybe some tweaks to improve the flavor profile. But for the most part we are looking for consistency with wines that we have been producing well for many years.

It all fits nicely into the wheelhouse of Rodgers, who has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Davisan MBA from Chapman University and a Tier 3 award in wine from Wine and Spirits Education Trustaccording his biography. She has held several positions in the wine industry, including as a winemaker, consultant and educator. On Thursday, she was an instructor at the Winemaker Conference Boot Camp, where she taught a seminar at Starting a commercial cellar.

“Winemaking is really special, dear to me, and how I got started, and I love making wine. So it’s wonderful to be back in the cellar, making wine,” he said. she said “Winemaking on the east coast is a challenge – my colleagues here on the west coast, they don’t realize how spoiled you are until you start making wine somewhere else, and there are big challenges on the east coast.

“For me, if it’s something that doesn’t challenge you, then it’s a role you shouldn’t take on. I like the challenge and [I am] happy to work with them.


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