What started as a family hobby has morphed into a thriving business that feeds and entertains the thirsty throngs of southwestern Pennsylvania. In this edition of Tasting Room Tours, we take you inside (and outside) Gibsonia’s Narcisi Winery to explore their gorgeous property and its many enticing spots to enjoy a glass of wine.
“Our family features four generations of winemakers, my great grandparents all the way through my father and me,” says co-founder and owner Randy Narcisi. “Making wine in your basement was almost required for the Italian household. My father [Dennis Narcisi] was a high school shop teacher. When it was time for retirement, he wanted to do it for real.”
Finding the right space for their commercial winery wasn’t easy. The family looked for years at buildings to rent or existing facilities. When the search failed, they decided to start from scratch, buying 10 acres of land and using their special skills to transform the property, one project at a time. The original Narcisi Winery tasting room opened in 2001.
“My father had a lot of experience in construction growing up and I did as well,” explains Randy. “We built the building ourselves. We designed everything from start to finish. At the time, we couldn’t afford to hire an architect or design team. Luckily, we had a little bit of talent and the vision of what it should look like.”
When you visit Narcisi Winery, here are a few things to look out for.
A Taste of Italy
The overall feel of the winery was inspired by the family’s Italian heritage and their many trips to the home county.
“We wanted to reflect a little bit of Tuscany,” says Randy. “That’s where the family is originally from, so that was the inspiration for a lot of the decor and a lot of the design as far as the woodwork goes.”
The goal is to give patrons a transportative experience close to home.
“A lot of people say they feel like they’ve come to Italy or they’re on vacation when they come here,” he explains. “I always compare it to watching a good movie at the theater. Two hours later, you walk out and say, ‘Wow, I completely forgot about everything around me because I was so immersed in this story.’ If we can make the atmosphere, the environment, and the products captivate, then we’re doing our job.”
The Family Crest
Because of Dennis’ long career in woodworking, these elements are particularly important to the space, from the rustic beams to the wall of wooden wine racks. And there’s one bit of woodwork you should definitely try to spot: the family crest.
“It’s a little piece of our family that’s come with us over generations from Italy,” says Randy. “We had it hand-carved. That’s really a reflection of our family.”
The Tasting Room Bar
It was always Dennis’ dream to have a copper-top bar, and that dream became a reality in the Narcisi Winery tasting room. While the enterprise has continued to expand, the original tasting room and entrance is unchanged. The tank room moved into a larger building in 2006 and the family added a 9,000 square foot restaurant six years ago. The family of woodworkers also made sure the bar was made of handsome cherry.
La Vite Restaurant
The aforementioned eatery, which is open five days a week all year-round, features rustic Italian cuisine such as salads, pasta, pizzas, and grilled entrées. The welcoming space has double-height ceilings, exposed beams, and plenty of windows.
“I’m very aware of the fact that people need to entertain their eyes in all different directions,” says Randy. “You can’t have a dead space where somebody is staring at a wall or somebody is walking through a hallway where there’s nothing to see on either side. It’s very important.”
The Outdoor Bar
While the inside spaces at the winery are enticing, the outdoors are a serious bonus. There are two stages for live music, a patio where diners can enjoy the full restaurant menu, a large pergola, and an outdoor bar featuring a wood-fired pizza oven, a firepit, TVs, and wine slushies.
“At our bar outside, you can put about 100 people; the bar itself seats about 30,” says Randy. “It’s a round bar so any which direction you look, you get a view.”
When it comes to live music, the winery has a list of over 500 different bands, though about 80 percent of the acts are return bookings who develop a following.
“We mix it up,” explains Randy. “It’s mostly mainstream rock on the lighter side. We go into a little bit of blues and a little bit of jazz. We have a little country in there as well.”
The centerpiece of the patio — which can seat 200 — is a classic tiered fountain.
“That’s the focal point,” says Randy. “All our relatives and anybody who has anything to do with Italy in our lives has a fountain at their house. It’s really nice to sit around the fountain, listen to the water, and enjoy the live music or the outdoor menu.”
Visitors can enjoy live music on the patio three days a week.
And while you might need to wait until the weather warms to enjoy the alfresco amenities, the winery has plenty going on year-round.
“We do wine dinners once a month where we focus on a region of Italy and pair five wines with five courses,” says Randy. “We do tours and tastings almost every day. Sometimes we’ll do Italian language classes. The restaurant is open, so people cozy up in the dining room. And then we do live music, two to three days a week all winter long.”