by Sally Colby
Like many vineyard owners, Richard Naylor was already making wine for himself when he purchased a farm in Stewartstown, PA. Although he didn’t have plans to create a vineyard and a winery, a friend suggested that Naylor plant grapes to sell to winemakers. Naylor agreed, and the first year he planted seven acres in seven grape varieties. “It was mostly labruscas for grape juice,” Naylor recalls. “We also planted Niagara, Worden, vinifera and Zinfandel, but the Zinfandel didn’t hold up in the winter weather.”
Today, Naylor Wine Cellars grows more than 30 grape varieties on the gently rolling hills of York County, surrounded by lush farmland yet easily accessible to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Naylor says that although he didn’t originally select the site with grape growing in mind, it turned out to be ideal for that purpose. “The whole area is one of the finest sites for east of the Rockies for growing grapes,” he said. “We’re at about 1,100 ft. and the soil is rock schist. When we drilled a well for the new building, we went down 15 ft. and hit sand.”
Although Naylor had accumulated knowledge about making wine as he made it for himself, he wanted to learn more. He traveled to Europe where he discovered Chambourcin, which he says is his favorite grape variety. “We have six acres in Chambourcin grapes,” said Naylor. “It’s disease-resistant and has good acidity. We make about six different wines with it.” After visiting with other growers, Naylor had a good idea of what he wanted to plant. He started planting vines in 1975 and had his first harvest in 1978. Naylor Wine Cellars currently has 22 acres in production with about 30 grape varieties.
Naylor’s daughter Janie Potter says her father saw the need for packaging as soon as he opened the winery. “He didn’t see any packages that he wanted to use,” said Potter, explaining her father’s background in the packaging industry. “He worked for a corrugated box company, and if they had a product they needed a package for, he’d take the product and design a package for it.” Potter says the packaging business at the winery started in a section of the current winery, but they quickly outgrew the area and constructed a building dedicated to packaging.
Packaging materials are all corrugated, and designed especially for packing and shipping wine. Naylor contracts with several companies to make the packaging materials and converts the materials to a variety of convenient packaging options. One popular option is the two-bottle gift box, which is easy to ship. Janie says wine carriers are also popular, and that they see a lot of carriers in use when they attend wine festivals. “Quite a few festivals offer a wine check,” she said. “If people are walking around the festival with the winery name on the box, it’s good advertising for the winery.”
Some customers opt for customized packaging, which involves preliminary artwork followed by more detailed work and the creation of a printing dye. Others prefer plain packaging that they can customize with their own labels. Potter says the goal of Naylor Packaging is to meet the needs of small, family-owned businesses that can’t afford to buy 10,000 pieces at one time.
She says at one point, her father saw the need for a three-bottle shipper, but couldn’t quite figure out how to make that work. He wanted it to be one piece so that it would be easy to put together. “He said that he woke up with a vision about how to make the three-bottle wine cradle insert,” said Potter. “He drew it up and finished the design.”
Prior to joining the family business, Potter worked in human resources — a job that has proven useful for her as she plans events such as the summer concert series held at the winery. Potter’s husband Ted is the winemaker, but that wasn’t his original vocation. “It’s his third career,” said Janie. “He was trained as a chef, then went into the Navy as a chef. When he got out of the Navy, he received his education to become a teacher and started teaching food preparation. Before we came to the winery, my dad had an enologist and a chemist working for him, and Ted got some hands-on learning from them. He has since taken enology classes to expand his skills.” Ted’s training means that he’s good at selecting wine and food pairings, and that he keeps those options in mind when he’s making wine.
Dan Potter, the son of Ted and Janie, is the grower and vineyard manager. The relationship between the grower and winemaker is close, and that father and son work together throughout the season to ensure a good vintage. “They talk about what wine we want to make, how many grapes we need to make it, and how much will we sell,” said Potter. “Then it’s a matter of picking and sampling, and Dan making sure that the grapes are picked on time.”
Naylor Wine Cellars are currently in the process of redesigning their own wine label. “The main focus has been a monk kneeling next to a vine,” said Potter. “I didn’t want to get rid of that, just update the concept. The new label will be gray with a black monk in the background. It’s a new design but we’re not leaving the old behind. The label will include ‘Naylor’ with the wine name on the side, and a little story about grape growing in York County. It acknowledges that we are a family-owned business.”
Visit Naylor Wine Cellars and Naylor Packaging on line at www.naylorwine.com
Winemaker solves packaging problem with experience and ingenuity
by Sally Colby