Grape Expectations

Historic Hopewell Vineyards grows wine grapes in Chester County

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By Emily Kovach

Nestled in a patch of verdant farmland in Oxford, Pennsylvania (about 30 miles southeast of Lancaster), sits Historic Hopewell Vineyards, a 2-acre vineyard run by Karen and Anthony Mangus. From the rich, well-drained Brandywine Valley soil, they grow seven varieties of wine grapes including merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. They once counted a number of Pennsylvania wineries among their customers, but last year Karen and Anthony decided to exclusively partner with Chaddsford Winery for their entire grape production for at least the next three years. Grid enjoyed the chance to chat with Karen Mangus to learn more about the operation.

Tell us about Hopewell Historic Vineyards’ beginning. Did you have a background
in farming?

KM: We are “first generation” farmers. Through personal research, numerous classes and thousands of hours of interaction with other growers, we finally developed the confidence to prepare and plant our first 2 acres in 2003.

Before that, we were living in Northern Virginia, and we’d venture to wine events and vineyards, locally and as far as South America. The more we interacted with other growers and winery people, the stronger our passion became to do something similar. It took a decade of planning, research and education before moving to Chester County in 1999 with the primary purpose of planting a vineyard.

What drove your decision to just be a vineyard and not a full winery?
KM: Initially, our intent was to gain experience by growing grapes for several years, and then progress to a full-blown winery operation. We even had a well-developed business plan and private investors and a commercial bank on board. The economic “correction” of 2008 made us apprehensive, and we decided to concentrate solely on producing the highest quality vinifera [wine grapes] possible in our location.

What are some challenges you face growing wine grapes in Chester County?
KM: Our climate is very similar to the Burgundy region of France, where you can produce consistently high quality grapes and wine, but the higher level of moisture makes things more difficult. We have to deal with issues like weed control, fungus and mildew and unpredictable weather. These are not insurmountable, but require a considerable investment in technology and specialized machinery. 

We’re excited to learn about your solar program. Do lots of vineyards do this?
KM: In 2009, we installed our solar electric generating system: 132 solar panels directly on the north side of the vine rows, which generates over 40 kilowatts of clean energy and reduces carbon emissions by more than 20 tons per year.

There are several vineyards with solar generation systems; however, ours is one of the largest in the area. Part of our philosophy here at Historic Hopewell is to value and conserve our environment, and clean, renewable energy is a logical extension of that philosophy.