Newly formed Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country will include 12 wineries in five counties. by Linda Jones McKee
Harrisburg, Pa.—A new wine tourist destination officially launched Wednesday morning at Fort Hunter, on the banks of the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg. The Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country will feature 12 wineries, all of which are located within a 45-minute drive from Harrisburg. The Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country (HHWC) experience will encourage local residents and tourists alike to visit wineries to taste the wine from the region’s rapidly expanding wine industry.
Agriculture has long been a major economic industry in Pennsylvania, and today grapes and wine are a major success story within that economic sector. The rolling hills of the state, a reasonably mild climate, good soils and rainfall make it a desirable place to grow grapes, and the location as the “keystone” of the Mid-Atlantic region makes it possible for wineries to attract thousands of visitors to their tasting rooms.
The motivating force behind the creation of the new HHWC was Jason Reimer, who with two partners opened The Vineyard at Hershey, the area’s newest winery, in February. Last fall, while in the middle of starting his new winery, he also began working with the Dauphin County commissioners and the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau to develop the plans for the “wine country.”
For the first year, the Dauphin County Commissioners agreed to provide $32,320 in initial seed money from the local hotel tax to fund the start up of the HHWC. As commissioner Jeff Haste noted during the official launch ceremony, “A wine country experience centrally located in the Hershey Harrisburg region will help local businesses and local agriculture, and also draw more people to the area.”
Reimer made clear in his remarks that this initiative on the part of the 12 wineries is a “wine country” experience, not a “wine trail.”
“A trail implies a start and a finish, but this is not a race. It’s bringing 12 wineries together to focus on marketing the wineries, and on marketing the region,” Reimer stated. “The goal of the Wine Country is to give locals a reason to stay home and visit local wineries, to give visitors another reason to spend an additional night in the region, and to provide excellent wine products for everyone to experience and enjoy.”
The HHWC will offer two seasonal events at the wineries. Sweet Sensations will take place in May and feature wine and chocolate pairings on Saturdays and Sundays from May 5 to 20. HHWC’s Fall Festival will take place Oct. 27-28. In addition, all 12 wineries will come together to participate in the Harrisburg Wine and Music Festival on June 9 and 10 and in the Jazz and Wine Festival on Sept. 8 and 9.
HHWC members will work closely with the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. The region currently attracts 10 million tourist visitors per year and ranks as the fourth most-visited tourism region in Pennsylvania.