Where There's a Wine There's a Way: Gino Razzi & Davide Creato, Penns Woods Winery
An Italian with a degree in enology has no shortage of opportunities to make wine close to home, but Davide Creato, now the assistant winemaker and vineyard manager at Penns Woods Winery, moved from Abruzzo to Pennsylvania and puts his degree to work in the fields of Chadds Ford.
“When I first moved here I thought, oh, I know how to make wine,” says Creato, but acknowledges now that it was Gino Razzi, founder of Penns Woods, who taught him the art of winemaking.
Razzi, also from Abruzzo, started a wine import business in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, in 1962. Traveling frequently to Italy to meet with suppliers, he tried his hand at making a bottle of his own there in 1997. Though well received—Wine Spectator magazine scored it at 95 out of 100 points—Razzi knew that he couldn’t sustain the several trips to Italy per year that expanding production there would require.
Instead, he turned his focus home to the Brandywine Valley. He built a winemaking facility, bought grapes from area vintners and began experimenting. Then, in 2004, Razzi bought the Smithbridge Winery. For the first time in his wine career, he had 12 acres of vines of his very own.
Though the 25-year-old vines were well established, they were also overgrown. He pruned them aggressively, risking killing them in the process. Fortunately, his vision yielded fruit, and Penns Woods Winery is now a family business that releases about 3,000 cases of their wines each year, products of two vineyard sites to which they’ve recently added a third.
The wines themselves are made entirely of Pennsylvania- grown grapes, and some who may once have turned up their noses at Pennsylvania wines have taken a second look at the award-winning offerings from Penns Woods. The winery’s varietals now grace the wine lists of area restaurants such as White Dog Cafe, Panorama and The Capital Grille. “Let’s face it, the growing conditions in Pennsylvania are not the best, especially for a wine of this caliber. It takes a guy like Gino to cultivate the grapes and get the best out of the juice,” says Anthony Masapollo, who manages the wine program at Center City’s Le Castagne restaurant.
Creato credits Razzi’s experience with keeping their ambitions lofty. “Gino has been in the wine business for 40- plus years, so he’s tried everything around the world, and he knows how wine should taste,” he says.
Though he was once the apprentice, Creato functions more and more as a partner to Razzi as time goes by. At 71, Razzi is trying to step back, so Creato does the work of moving, filtering, and bottling the wine, but when it’s time to taste, the pair still makes decisions together.
“When I began, nobody believed that you could make wine in Pennsylvania. Now, people are starting to believe,” says Razzi.
124 Beaver Valley Rd., Chadds Ford 610.459.0808