Meet the Winemaker: Carl Helrich of Allegro Winery

The story of Allegro Vineyards in Brogue, PA, began in 1978 by musician brothers John and Tim Couch.

When Tim passed away, the winery was purchased by husband-and-wife partners Kris Miller and Carl Helrich, who honor the Couch brothers’ musical legacy through label art and creatively named blends like the 2015 Forté and the 2014 Medley. While Kris recently returned to teaching, Carl remains the maestro of their several acres of family-owned vines.

“I come from an artistic and creative background and love to work with my hands. This perfect storm of skill sets allow me to be outside and get my hands dirty. Agriculture of any kind speaks to me,” says Carl. “There is a whole list of variables to put together, and every year the raw materials are different. So you learn to ‘do the right thing’ to make good wine.”

Carl was inspired by reading about winemakers “who drove tractors, not Jaguars.”

“That’s what I’m about,” he confesses. “I drive tractors and surround myself with those who understand that being on (and in) the soil is what the process of winemaking is all about.”

Similar to composing a masterpiece, editing is a vital part of maintaining a healthy and bountiful vineyard. In early March 2003, Carl made the difficult decision to pare down, pulling out many acres of underperforming vines, leaving Allegro with just five. Since then, he has steadily and strategically added vines back to the vineyard.

He first focused on doubling the density of the existing vineyard, which increases the quality of the fruit rather than adding acreage. Since it wasn’t possible to move the existing rows, he added vines between those rows to create a denser vineyard.

“We’re almost up to full strength,” boasts Carl, “and looking to the future to plant more vines at this, our piece of grape heaven.”

The shallow, well-drained soils, unique weather patterns, and southern exposure provide the canvas from which many of the best vintages are born.

Allegro is currently up to seven varieties of grapes, including award-winning Chardonnays, Rieslings, and some fascinating Rosés. Carl is most proud of Allegro’s ability to pull great wine from tough vintages, including its flagship red wine, called Cadenza.

“We started [Cadenza] in 1984 and made six vintages, is very consistent along vintages, and one could taste the family and lineage of this wine.”

Carl muses over the challenge of convincing wine lovers to take Pennsylvania wines seriously. “It’s frustrating when they tell us that they feel that Pennsylvania wines are not up to par with Californian, European, and South American wines. I believe that Pennsylvania winemakers work extra hard to make sure their product is something to be proud of. Once we get them to try our prized vintages, they become hooked.”

Allegro is considered one of the top 20 Pennsylvania wine producers, turning out 30,000 gallons (that’s 150,000 bottles) of wine this year alone. Carl summarizes, “Our winemaking here at Allegro is driven by my need to make better wine. In order to get there, we revise our process constantly—and hopefully it shows in the glass.”

Visit Allegro’s website to explore further or order its wines online. Also be sure to like its Facebook page for updates, and check in with the Pennsylvania Wine Association for new releases, events, and pertinent wine-lover information.

Allegro Winery and Vineyards is located at 3475 Sechrist Rd., Brogue, PA; (717) 927-9148.

Related Posts