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Narcisi Winery transplants Italian tradition to Pittsburgh

"After our family settled in this area they thought we should have our winery here, too."

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Tucked into the rolling hills just north of Pittsburgh is a family winery that blends Italian traditions with Pennsylvania terroir.

Members of Narcisi family, which still operates wineries in Europe, immigrated to Pittsburgh from Abruzzo, Italy, in the early 1900s. According to owner and head winemaker Denny Narcisi, the family started selling bottles of wine to friends and neighbors shortly after arriving here.

"After our family settled in this area, they thought we should have our winery here, too," he says.

That winery, however, remained a word-of-mouth operation — based in Sharpsburg and later Corapolis — for decades. In 2001, Narcisi opened the current Gibsonia location, which also supports a restaurant and banquet hall. 

Mr. Narcisi is as proud of his Pennsylvania roots as he is of his Italian heritage, so he requires that all his grapes be sourced either at the winery or in the Lake Erie region.

While the grapes are cultivated locally, inspiration comes from Mr. Narcisi's annual visits to Italy. "That's where I learn everything. I take a lot of notes," he says.

For example, a cousin introduced him to a soft, refreshing style of rosé bottled under the name Brezza Marina. "This bottle is very similar to what we had in Italy," he says.

He also looked to Italian tradition for his Chardonnay. There, the grapes barely kiss oak — a sharp contrast to the wood-forward California style. The result is a minerally wine with just a hint of butter and cream.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most enjoyable Narcisi wines is German in origin. The winery's Riesling is delicate and floral, probably because Riesling grapes are better suited to the Lake Erie region than Merlot or Chardonnay grapes.

Still, don't look for a large shift in influence. "We've been doing this for 500 years," says Mr. Narcisi, as he pours a glass of "Stella," a tart and plumy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. "It's in our family's blood."

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