Burnt Timbers opened their doors just a year ago in June 2017. It’s also a family business and lifelong dream for brothers Ben and Josh Hill.
“My parents purchased my grandparents’ farm and I always thought this would be a great place to start this venture,” recalls Ben. “It’s a 100-plus acre farm that sits next to the Juniata River in Central PA. My parents were kind enough to allow my brother and me to use part of the property for our new business.”
The branding of this nascent venture has multiple meanings. The winery’s logo shows a burning canoe, representing how Native Americans made dugout canoes for life along the adjacent river. As for the name, one afternoon, the brothers’ grandmother was cooking and simultaneously trying to keep track of her 10 children. In the midst of her multitasking, the old house caught on fire. Years later, the next generation (Josh and Ben’s parents) renovated the house but decided to leave the old burnt timbers exposed as a reminder of that family lore.
The home has also become an innovative way to diversify the business — The Cottage at Burnt Timbers is available for rent via VRBO.
“The cottage on our property is something that my parents had in motion before my brother and I started rehabbing the barn where our tasting room is located,” explains Ben. “My parents enjoy the process of breathing new life into an old building or house. This cottage is one of a few homes they have rehabbed over the years. It’s a great place to kick back and relax.”
Josh and Ben started making wine as a hobby. The family’s land was the ideal enticement to push them towards making their passion into a business. The aim is to make wines for all comers.
“We are still very new and working to build our portfolio,” says Ben. “Our goal is to have a nice balance of dry, sweet, and fruit wines for all to enjoy while never compromising on quality. My brother Josh has turned into the main winemaker and I think he is doing a wonderful job.”
One crowd favorite is an off-dry mead, an alcoholic beverage made from honey.
“We come from a long line of beekeepers,” says Ben. “Our grandfather, on whose farm we have our business today, was a lifelong beekeeper. It’s neat to think about integrating that history into our winemaking.”
The next step for the Hill family is nourishing the fledgling business, and establishing a reputation with wine lovers near and far. Ben feels optimistic, both about Burnt Timbers and Pennsylvania wines as a whole.
“I see the PA wine industry continuing to grow,” he says. “There are more and more wineries popping up across the state. I think this is good as it will allow certain areas to be more of a destination, bringing visitors. One thing I’m learning about this industry is that many are eager to help and lend their knowledge. I have really enjoyed getting to know a network of good people.”