The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 18, 2013

Winery opening this week in Cambria City

Tom Lavis
tlavis@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Friday will be the official opening of the first-ever winery in the Cambria City neighborhood of Johnstown.

The neighborhood, with its rich history and growing cultural district, will welcome B&L Wine Cellars to its collection of venues.

Owners Gerard “Chip” Brill of Upper Yoder Township and Rich Lamm of Richland Township conducted a soft opening of their 900 Broad St. tasting room on Saturday with pleasing results.

The co-owners started making the 2,200 gallons of wine earlier this year, while at the same time converting a former mechanics shop into a little

corner store.

The wines are done and the tasting room has an air of the Italian countryside as a wall mural mirrors a landscape on a Tuscan hillside.

The tasting room has an industrial feel with a high ceiling and exposed pipes painted in an appropriate wine color.

Customers will belly up to an expansive bar facing a wall of wines for their tastings and selections.

“Guests will be able to buy a glass of wine and sit at one of our cocktail tables,” Brill said. “We also will have soft music to add atmosphere.”

They are contemplating having an occasional musician play for customers.

A ribbon cutting will take place at

4 p.m. Friday as family, friends and invited officials look on.

B&L Wine Cellars will keep business hours from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Brill and Lamm will sell eight varieties of wine, ranging from aromatic whites fermented in stainless steel to deep reds matured in oak barrels, mostly all made from Pennsylvania produce.

”We had to get some grapes from California, but nearly 600 pounds of grapes came from my own vineyard,” Brill said.

The cost of wines will range from $12 to $22.

The owners will offer wine-drinking accessories and plan to sell specialty cheeses in the near future.

More than 82 people showed up for the soft opening, most of whom attended as a result of seeing a Facebook post.

Both men were nervous, but they ran into only a few glitches.

“We had some cash register problems, got to practice running credit cards and there were some merchandise issues, but all in all we were very pleased,” Lamm said.

Brill, who grew up in Pittsburgh and traveled the world playing trombone with the Air Force Band, comes from a long line of home winemakers.

Both men think of Cambria City as a diamond in the rough.

“We could have opened anywhere, but we chose Cambria City because it reminds us of Pittsburgh’s South Side,” Brill said. “We have the arts, restaurants and a rich history that serves as the basis of helping the neighborhood blossom, and we want to be a part of that.”

The partners also want to work with the Greater Johnstown Convention and Visitors Bureau to come up with ideas to be part of Thunder in the Valley, Ethnic Arts Festival and Flood City Music Festival.

The owners want to work with other members of the Cambria City community and incorporate their wines into their promotions.

“VOMA (Venue of the Merging Arts) allows their patrons to bring their own bottles, and we would love for people to come here and pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy during those performances,” Brill said.

The winemakers will offer two wines with a Cambria City affiliation.

“We will offer our Cambia City Red, which is a dry red blend, and our Stone Bridge Red, which is more of a sweet wine,” Lamm said. “Our goal is to offer variety across the board because different people taste different things in the same wine.”

Brill said he believes in divine intervention when it comes to meeting Lamm nearly two years ago.

“My wife, Susan, and I went to a wine tasting at the Holiday Inn, and the only two seats open were at a table with two people we didn’t know,” Brill said. “It was Rich and his wife, Toni, and we soon learned we had a lot in common and hit it off.”

Lamm isn’t sure about divine intervention, but he believes the results have been heavenly.

 

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