Believe it or not, just 300 ft away from a heavily travelled strip of Route 13 in Kent County is one of Delaware’s best-kept secrets, Pizzadilli Winery. As you approach this vineyard in Felton, Delaware you feel as if Route 13 has somehow taken you from Dover to Tuscany.
From the moment I stepped into the vineyard I began to melt into relaxation – with the owner’s daughter offering us a glass of their Pizzadilli Strawberry Mist wine and a seat outside with a view of the grounds. And then Pete Pizzadilli, the owner, arrived.
“I’m on a tight schedule,” Pete said jokingly as he shook my hand and welcomed us. I quickly got to my questions and he opened up to share the heartwarming story of how he and his brother started the vineyard.
When asked where he was from, he said straight -faced with a thick Italian accent: “Brooklyn”. All jokes aside, his family is from Tuscany, where his Mother and Father owned a very successful vineyard until the war came and they went from “riches to poor very quickly”.
At which point his father, in an effort to give them a better life, sent them to the U.S. to live with their Uncle in 1946.
“Once we arrived, the first question he asked us was if we want to buy land. We didn’t at first. But in 1982, we bought this land and it took us years [to cultivate], it looked like a jungle,” Pete reminisced.
They opened the vineyard in 1992 and opened the pavilion for weddings and events in 1998.
“I wish I had listened to my father a little more [about making wine when I was young]. Every plant you see here was planted by me or my brother,” he continued with pride.
Word spread about the vineyard through press and word of mouth. They have never paid for advertising. Yet, now they have built a clientele from all around Delaware and even some from out of state.
“We have a lot of people come from out of state,” said Pete. “It’s very relaxing and peaceful. Somewhat like Florence, you see the building and you think you’re in Italy. People say it’s the best-kept secret in Delaware.”
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The most wine popular this summer: Strawberry Mist (which we sampled – a delicious choice for those who enjoy sweet white wines).
His favorite wine is called Brother’s Table Wine, which holds sentimental value because it is a mixture of he and his late brother’s favorite wines.
“I like red wine – Brothers is mix of merlot and chambourcin– a mix of me and brother’s favorite wine.” Pete’s brother passed away last year. He continued: “I miss my brother. We worked together for 79 years and never had an argument.”
They even made a red wine just for their wives, too.
“When our wives found out about our Brothers wine, they wanted one, too. I made it sweet, with persimmon wine blended into the chambourcin. We tried it and it was very good. The persimmon gave it a refined a taste,” he said.
While I’m no wine expert, I quite enjoy their Delaware and Nigara wines (both white) myself. All are reasonably priced, most under $20 a bottle.
This 117-acre, picturesque vineyard is also a great venue to hold your special event: they host weddings, showers, anniversary parties, and more. They average 35-40 weddings a year! (In fact, there was a wedding getting set up the day that I interviewed him.) All events are catered by the Pizzadilli’s catering, of course.
“We custom make wine labels for all occasions – weddings, graduations, anniversaries, so far no labels for divorces yet,” he joked.
Don’t miss the upcoming Delaware Wine and Beer Festival on Sunday, October 23rd from noon to 5 pm hosted at their vineyard– featuring wines and beers from over 16 local vineyards and breweries.
And if you have the good fortune to meet with Pete on your visit, be sure to ask for a tour so he can show you where the virgins stomp their grapes, as he did for us (ending the tour with another joke, of course)!
“We pride ourselves on being very natural; we grow it, we crush it, and don’t use any imports,” he continued. “I’m proud to promote Delaware tourism and agriculture. Each night, I look at the fields as I drink the wine and say ‘I did it all’- my brother and I did it.”