Rostraver Winery Bringing California Experience to SWPA

IMG_7121Story by Dave Zuchowski

Even before you hear the first pop of a cork, you get to experience the wow factor the moment you enter the impressive gates at aptly named Castle Drive in Rostraver. You’re treated to a sight rarely found in the countryside of rural Pennsylvania – a gorgeously large 32-room blue-gray castle-like building with contrasting white trim.

What was once the home of Jay Lustig, former minority partner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and developer of the Willowbrook Shopping Plaza, is now the home of the Vinoski Winery. Built in 1996 at a cost of $7.8 million, the 33-acre estate was purchased by Walter and Roxanne Vinoski of Ruffsdale for $1.95 million on April 6 of last year.

An engineering consultant, Vinoski (pictured below middle) has traveled the world on business and tries to sample the local wines every chance he gets. (He said the only places he hasn’t been to yet are Africa, Antarctica and the North Pole). He’s also a certified sommelier whose been making wine since the age of 4 when he helped his grandfather ferment fruit on the family farm.

For 11 years he served as winemaker for the Greendance Winery at Sand Hill Berry Farms in Mount Pleasant. For the past five years, he’s also been making quality red and white wines in a leased facility in Lodi, California. The operation uses reserve-quality grapes from Napa Valley and Sonoma County, using the natural yeasts found on the harvested grapes.

After he sold his shares in Greendance, Vinoski opened the doors to his Rostraver winery on June 30 but not before sinking another $800,000 in improvements to the castle-like edifice, which included an upgrade to the building’s 200 windows and doors. He also shipped in from Lodi 5,400 cases of his premium product (think Cabernet, Petite Syrah, Old Vine Zin and Chardonnay) which he now sells in Rostraver along with bottles of East Coast wines like Concord, Diamond and Isabella.

Visitors to the upscale ground level tasting room can look out over the patio dotted with black wrought iron tables and chairs shaded by colorful red umbrellas. One nice touch is the markers on each of the tables with the name of a particular grape varietal. Eventually, the plan is to have visitors order food via an app linked to the kitchen and have a server deliver the order to the designated table identified by varietals like Mourvedre and Montepulciano.

IMG_7145 (1)Among his many talents, Vinoski is a food aficionado (and knowledgeable cook) who insists that when his bistro kitchen is fully operational, (he eventually hopes it’ll grow into a full fledged restaurant), it will serve as much natural and organic product as possible.

With such gorgeous surroundings that include a pond with a large fountain spurting fleur-de-lis in the middle people have started inquiring about holding their weddings and showers on site. Just recently, he’s started to host a few of these special events.

The winery also holds private tastings for groups and has a full summer calendar of live weekend entertainment. For a full, detailed schedule, go to vinoskiwinery.com.

“What I’m trying to do is bring the California experience here to Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Vinoski said.

Vinoski Winery wines start at $15 for French Colombard, Diamond and Concord, move up to $22 for a 2014 Merlot, $24 for a 2014 Cabernet and a 2016 Chardonnay, $28 for a 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel and a 2014 red blend called Symphonia and top off at $88 for the 2014 Reserve, a blend of Cab Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The winery also has a 2016 Sparkling Brut ($20) and a 2016 Sparkling Rose ($20).

The Vinoski Winery is at 333 Castle Drive in Rostraver. The winery is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Phone 724-872-3333.

FMI: vinoskiwinery.com

Photos by Bill Rockwell