Delco Profile: Gino Razzi, President and Winemaker, Penns Woods Winery
Although he’s largely considered the father of the local wine scene, there’s two things to remember about Gino Razzi. First, he’s a staunch advocate for all great Pennsylvania wines. Second, his passion for growing great grapes in Delco and transforming them into award-winning wines is unmatched.
An industry icon, Gino has worked tirelessly to change the way people think about Pennsylvania wines for more than four decades. He will not tolerate talk that Pennsylvania wines are “second-class citizens,” instead urging skeptics to taste them alongside those with similar profiles that come from other states. He’s adamant that Pennsylvania winemakers who take care of the details and listen to their customers make exceptional wines that he’d pit against those from any vineyard, anywhere.
You certainly can taste that attention to detail in Penns Woods Winery’s offerings. Gino’s beautiful winery is a Delco gem, featuring authentic, Italian-style wines inspired by his homeland. Still, making wine wasn’t his first endeavor when he arrived in America in 1962 from southern Italy’s Abruzzo region — he proudly served four years in the United States Marine Corps.
Once his service was completed, his love for wine seduced him into the industry. In 1970, Gino created Viva Vino Imports to bring his favorites from Italy back to the United States. Wine lovers appreciated his finds so much that the company quickly grew into WinesU.
“The ‘U’ stands for ‘unlimited in quality, creativity, knowledge, experience, possibilities, opportunities, customer service and access to the best distribution network,’” he explained.
Those who knew Gino then knew it was only a matter of time before he would begin making his own wine. His heritage, experience, reverence for grapes and insistence on quality demanded he pursue winemaking.
Gino honed his craft under the watchful eye of master enologist and friend Concezio Marulli of Cantina Zaccagnini. His first wine — Symposium — was a winner. Not only did Wine Spectator magazine award it 95 points, the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was also featured it in a retrospective, “Italy’s Golden Vintage — the 1997 Harvest.” A star was born.
In the early 2000s, after surveying numerous Pennsylvania properties, Gino settled into a bucolic estate in Delco’s Chadds Ford in 2001, intrigued by the former Smithbridge Winery’s 25-year-old vines and location. He chose the name Penns Woods as a nod to his longtime home state, and then quickly got to the business of cultivating the vines he wanted to retain and planting others to meet his vision. He focused on grapes that grow well on the East Coast, such as white grapes, and those with shorter growing seasons, like Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Some of his Chardonnay and Cab Franc vines are more than 40 years old, while Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminette are newer plantings.
“I’m a stickler about the grapes I grow,” Gino explained. “We work hard to take care of our existing vineyard and to carefully cultivate the new. Because of that, more than 80 percent of the grapes that go into Penns Woods’ wines come from our vines. I’m proud that 98 percent of the grapes we use are grown in Pennsylvania.”
His hard work has paid dividends not only for discerning wine lovers, but also for his business: Penns Woods Winery has earned numerous awards and accolades. The winery is a family business, too: Gino’s daughter, Carley Razzi Mack, came on in 2010 as co-owner and to manage marketing. You’ll find other family members and friends on the Penns Woods and WinesU teams — and that’s just the way Gino wants it.
Gino continues to waive the flag for Pennsylvania wines, putting his money where his mouth is: He donates $1 from the proceeds of each bottle sold to further wine and grape research in the Commonwealth. This investment underscores his confidence in the growing demand for locally sourced wines.
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