Steve Unis was making beer and wine in his early 20s and, as he traveled around Pennsylvania, he said that he realized no one making wine commercially in any of the northern tier counties.
“So I thought we would give it a try at our farm in Bradford County,” he said earlier this week, leading to the opening of a tasting room in Waymart, Wayne County, the following year. He then built a winery and opened it in Rome, Bradford County, in 2005.
He has grown Antler Ridge Winery from that location, opening satellites in Honesdale, Wayne County, Mertztown, Berks County, and Jim Thorpe, Carbon County. All four locations are open Thursday through Sunday, with the tasting rooms in Rome and Mertztown/Topton also open Wednesdays.
The exception is this week ahead of Thanksgiving, with Mertztown also open Monday and Tuesday and all four locations open on Wednesday.
“All of our locations are built to look similar – the bars are all hand built by me using tongue-and-groove boards and wine barrels to support them,” he said. “Of the four locations, two of them have full functioning restaurants as well as bars [Rome and Honesdale]. We specialize in BBQ type foods and have the usual bar-type appetizers. All four locations have full bars with our wines and Pennsylvania beers either on tap or in bottles.”
The goal, Unis said, is to offer a fun and friendly atmosphere that will keep customers satisfied and parked at any of the four locations for a while. Several offer multiple TVs playing a variety of content, and that’s supplemented by music playing or live entertainment depending on the day. “During the summer we have car and bike shows and occasionally during the year we have a pig roast,” he said. “Our BBQ, wings and pit beef brings visitors from miles away.
Perhaps the item that most sets the winery apart is its kielbasa, made from a Unis family recipe that has been passed down for more than 100 years. “My grandfather had a huge butcher business and sold thousands of pounds of kielbasa at every holiday,” Unis said. “We have continued that tradition and it has become very busy for us at the holidays as people travel many miles for a ring of fresh or smoked kielbasa and their favorite wine for dinner.”
As for the wines, they make and sell dry (Chardonnay to Merlot to Chambourcin) but the majority leans toward semi-sweet, sweet and fruit. Red Vixen, a sweet red, might be the best-known of the wines that Antler Ridge makes.
In addition, the winery caters to home winemakers with supplies and juice, offering help for those starting out and happy to share stories for those who are established. It has been part of the business since first opening, Unis said, adding, “That’s how we started!”
Unis said they purchase most of their grapes and fruits now. “We did have 10 acres planted but every year we get a Memorial Day frost and could never get a grape to use,” he said. “We have partnerships / relationships with growers all across the state to provide us with the grapes and fruit we need for our wines.”
The Rome location sits in the mountains of Bradford County near Towanda, offering a picturesque view of the rolling landscape and forests that surround it. Those who enter the tank room will be able to view its state-of-the-art facilities through large windows while sampling the wines.
Among the items available for purchase at Antler Ridge are:
- Wine racks, gift baskets, picnic carriers
- Home winemaking supplies – A complete line of home wine making supplies including additives, yeast, instruments, test kits, cleaning supplies, brushes, siphons, tubing, carboys, bottles, corkers, corks, capsules
- Winemaking kits – neatly packaged kits of your favorite juice ready to be made into wine
- Fresh-pressed juices in the fall for home winemakers
- Wine-related gifts, clothing and home accessories such as carafes, glasses, gift baskets, cork screws, bottle stoppers
Per the website, Antler Ridge’s goal is simple: Create the best wines and offer its customers the best experience possible when they visit any one of its locations.
It’s a business that Unis certainly envisions as a long-term venture, one that added his son Michael two years ago after graduating from college. “Michael has been working at the winery for years every summer and during holidays,” Steve said, adding that “he will be leading the next 30 years!”
THE SKINNY ON ANTLER RIDGE WINERY
Locations: Rome, Bradford County, 37 Antler Ridge Lane, 570-247-7222; Honesdale, Wayne County, 654 West Park St (Route 6) Honesdale, 570-253-7878; Topton/Mertztown, Berks County, 951 State St., Mertztown, 610-899-0165; Jim Thorpe, Carbon County, 900 Walnut Ave., Jim Thorpe, 570-732-4100
Hours: Rome – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon to 4 Sunday; Honesdale – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday; Topton – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday; Jim Thorpe – 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday
Other wineries in the vicinity:
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