PORTAGE - Tom Krinjeck began making wine more than 15 years ago after his son bought him an at-home kit.
"It was terrible," he said of his first batch, laughing.
But with help from family friend John Bertuzzi and a lot of practice, Krinjeck perfected the process and began to make new wines.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Germantown Winery owners Tom and Cathy Krinjeck will open their business in Portage soon. It will be the third winery to open in Cambria County within the last 18 months.
Over time, what was once a hobby grew into an obsession, he said.
Like a grape on the vine, Cambria County's wine industry is ripening: Tom and his wife, Cathy, are slated to open Germantown Winery on Sept 5. - the third to hit Cambria County within the last 18 months.
"Wine has gained, over the last few years, in popularity," said Robert Layo, president and CEO of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce. "And I think there's a business opportunity there to capitalize on that."
B&L Wine Cellars in Johnstown opened in early 2013. That fall, Woody Lodge Winery in Ashville opened its doors.
Located on the Krinjeck's 12-acre property along Frankstown Road in Portage Township's Germantown Village, Germantown Winery boasts 15 varieties, including grape and fruit wines, as well as four German wines (to pay homage to the business' name).
Layo, who lives near Portage, said he's familiar with the Germantown brand and thinks it will be a good addition to the county.
"I certainly hope they do well," he said.
Cathy said over the years she and Tom were giving bottles away as gifts, and people often approached them asking how they could buy more.
She said Pennsylvania - whose Liquor Control Board is the largest wine purchaser in the United States - makes some delicious wines, and she prefers to think of the wineries to the north and southwest as complements rather than competitors.
All three can bolster tourism in Cambria County and get people excited about buying local wine made with local ingredients, she said.
She hopes to emphasize buying local by incorporating local crafts and hand-painted wine glasses for sale in Germantown's tasting room. In the future, family friends will help create cheese and chocolate pairings for sale.
"If this works, we will expand to do more events and meetings" and host live entertainment, she said. "It's going to take time to build it. ... but we think it's good for the Portage area. We think people are embracing that in the community."
Germantown Winery is to be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 1 to 10 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays and by appointment by calling 241-7922.