In the industrial hinterland between Lower Lawrenceville and the Strip, Pittsburgh Winery has been producing wine for nearly a year.
The winery is relatively new to the local scene, but vintner Tim Gaber — who runs the facility with his fiancée — has a winemaking history that spans several decades. Formerly a member of local rock bands Brownie Mary and Buzz Poets, Gaber previously partnered with photographer Duane Rieder to open the boutique label Engine House 25 Winery. But he and the photographer split, and Gaber decided to strike out on his own. So he moved out of the basement of the Roberto Clemente Museum, where Rieder's winery was housed, and rehabbed a former bank building just down the street.
Upstairs, customers can sample and purchase any of the winery's six styles in the small, dark-wood tasting room (wines are also for sale at more than 25 area bars and restaurants).
All six wines are pleasantly quaffable, and the Malbec is a real standout: juicy, soft and rounded with hints of coffee.
Downstairs, Gaber tips a hat to his musical background with an expansive performance space/party room. It's also where the wines are made. Imported grapes are hand-cranked in a vintage wine press, and then left to ferment either in back-room tanks or the scores of oak barrels that line the sides of the room.
"It's backbreaking work, but we get a lot of help," says Gaber.
Five of the wines are made with imported California grapes, and the Malbec is produced with Chilean grapes. With so much focus on "locally grown" these days, why use air-freight grapes instead of buying from Pennsylvania vineyards? For Gaber, it all circles back to "terroir," that old French winemaking word which refers to the geography and climate that shape the way grapes taste.
"You have to work with what the fruit gives you," he says. "And you're not going to get a California-style Cab with Pennsylvania grapes."