Sh!tshowOct 01, 2021 08:30AM ● By Maggie Barnes
The isolation and stress of the pandemic spawned a huge variety of coping mechanisms. Everything from yoga to bread making to puppies had its day. But amidst the new air fryers and language lessons, one winery in northern Pennsylvania reached a new height in tackling the headaches COVID caused.
Grovedale Winery in Wyalusing has more than two dozen entries on their wine tasting menu from robust reds to soft whites. After opening in 2007, they soon grew a healthy following of folks who enjoy what they do with their grapes as well as the expansive outdoor space at the winery. Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, an American flag made of wine bottles, and a swinging daybed give off a comfortable, low-key vibe that emphasizes the wine and those you drink it with. There’s even a curly-haired dog who smiles at you while strolling the grounds. But in early 2020, back in the days of thinking we could “flatten the curve” and get our lives back within a month or so, Dom Mantei, the winemaker at Grovedale, had a crazy idea.
“He was being serious about trying to find something humorous in what was happening, and developing a line of wines that spoke to the times,” says Grovedale owner Jeff Homer. “Not really just for the pandemic, but something to drink in times of frustration. Coming up with a way to laugh, when you really want to cry.”
That’s how they decided to bring the world what it really needed; a wine for every taste, named “Sh!tshow.”
You read that right. The name on the bottles is Sh!tshow, with the tagline of “A Fine Wine for the Times.” They were introduced in 2020, early enough that no one truly realized just how long that particular phrase would be applicable. But here we are, late 2021, and it still sings with relevance.
“Between breakthrough infections, shipping problems, and kids trying to go back to school, it turns out that the label applies to 2021, too,” Jeff says.
While wine is often associated with celebration and toasting happy occurrences, the staff at Grovedale took the entire concept of raising a glass somewhere it hasn’t been before. What do you drink when served with court papers, or after that big project at work fails? Transmission dropped out of the car on the Interstate? This calls for a glass of...what? Grovedale Winery to the rescue with a trio of red, white, and rosé wines, all dry, perfect consolation for the next time something in your life falls apart.
“These are very good wines,” Jeff explains. “The red is an oak-barreled Cabernet Sauvignon, the white a Chenin Blanc, and the rosé is from Washington State grapes. They are premium varietals.”
Grovedale’s customer base responded with great enthusiasm to the vintage. “The labels always bring a smile,” Jeff says.
The bottles were the subject of countless social media posts. At the recent Wyalusing Wine Festival, a woman with an ear-to-ear grin loaded four bottles into a tote bag. “The label is a hoot, makes a great gift. But the bonus is that the wine is great.” There may have been a mention about a friend dreading a milestone birthday and how fitting this was for the party.
Wines that so perfectly capture the spirit of the last eighteen months were bound to attract attention, and the Sh!tshow trio did so brilliantly. The venerable publication Food and Wine wrote about them, calling them “especially well-suited to this still-terrifying, eternally frustrating landfill of a year.” Popular foodie site Delish offered, “You deserve a glass. Or maybe a whole bottle!” Dana Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent, is a fan.
And what’s the bottle without a little swag to go with it? Wine glasses, canvas bags, t-shirts, and tank tops, all bearing the Sh!tshow logo, are displayed at the winery.
Jeff confirms that the online store has done quite a business. “We’ve shipped nationally, to forty-four states. There are a few that don’t allow wine to be shipped in.”
Right now, the wine is only available from the winery, a few regional grocery stores like Weis and Giant, or via online ordering.
But Sh!tshow did more than just boost the bottom line. This concept of bottling an entire nation’s frustration with a situation out of control also helped Grovedale find its groove.
“It really gave us the chance to build out our brand, to articulate what we want to be as a winery. We want to be responsive to the mood of our customers and what they are going through at various times. Our wine needs to reflect that,” Jeff says.
Such an irreverent approach flies in the face of the traditionally stuffy topic of wine tasting and selection. But that bend in the road works for Grovedale.
The idea of riding the wave of their customer’s sentiments has taken root at Grovedale. Jeff hinted at many more such theme vintages in the works. Grovedale, it seems, has found its seat at the crowded table of regional wineries, by appealing to all emotions, not just the ones to be cheered with a raised glass. Sometimes a busted ego or a broken heart needs a vintage all its own.
Better days must be coming however, as the folks at Grovedale have dived back into the specialty wine process and already put a label to their next themed wine. Its name? “Grat!tude.”
Grovedale Winery is located at 71 Grovedale Lane in Wyalusing. They are open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can find their website at grovedalewinery.com and follow them on Facebook.