After years of perfecting the art of winemaking from his father, Greg Betti’s father opened Capra Collina Winery in Jessup in 2004. His sons took over the winery in 2011 and have built the company into one of the Valley’s best spots for wine aficionados. Here’s what Betti had to say:
Q: What does Capra Collina mean?
A: Capra Collina means Goat Hill in Italian. My great-grandfather, Antonio Betti, immigrated to Jessup in 1894. In the late 1800s and the early 1900s uptown Jessup is where the Italian immigrants settled in Jessup. Many of them had goats to provide milk for the family. Thus the area became known as “Nanny Goat Hill.” Antonio was a miner and also made wine. He passed on his knowledge of wine making to my grandfather, Francis Betti, who passed it on to my father, Kevin and thus to myself, my brother and several other local people who were interested in wine making. So as you can see we are a family of winemakers going back to Italy and well into the 1800’s and probably further.
Q: What were you up to during the shutdown and what’s your plan for reopening?
A: During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were open for curbside wine sales only and only on Saturdays. As of early June, when Lackawanna County moved into the yellow phase, we opened up to take out and curbside sales Thursday through Saturday, noon till 7 p.m. We plan to get back to some semblance of normal operations once we go into the green phase. During the early weeks of the crisis, I spent lots of time with my 12-year-old son Anthony. He was doing online schooling but also hands-on learning with me at the winery. Anthony was introduced to the wine cellar and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making wine.
Q: What are your bestsellers?
A: Our best selling wines are our sweeter wines. OMG, an apple and cranberry blend; Therapy, a pomegranate and wildberry blend; and Black & Blue, a blackberry and blueberry blend, are consistently our top three sweet wines. Our top dry wine is Tuscan Red, a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon. I think the reason our wines are popular is because they are easy drinking wines. Our sweet wines are not super sugary sweet and our dry wines are not overly dry. We take a casual approach to wine. Some people are intimidated by wine. What wine do I drink with this food? How do I hold the glass? What kind of glass do I use for this wine? Should it be chilled or room temperature? On Nanny Goat Hill, we drank wine from recycled jelly jars that became the family water glasses. So we believe everyone has their own taste, their own likes and dislikes and people should just simply drink what they like.
An interesting thing that did occur during the COVID-19 crisis was that when the state liquor stores closed, we picked up a lot of dry wine customers who had never tried our wines before. Our sales went from predominately sweet wines to a 50/50 mix of sweet and dry wine sales. Some of our most unique wines are Coconut, a coconut-lime blend; Verdicchio, a semi-dry grape wine made from grapes that are grown in the Marche region of Italy; and Poolside, a mix of cucumber and melon.
Q: What are some of the trends in wine that you’re seeing?
A: Wine trends seem to move slowly. Right now, one of the most popular dry wines is Malbec. A couple years ago it was Pinot Noir. For the sweet wine drinkers it was White Zinfandel. Now almost no one drinks White Zinfandel. We try to encourage people to try new wines, new blends. Often we are doing wine tastings (and) people will seem a little unsure and ask for a wine that they have heard of before like Pinot Grigio because its safe, not too dry and not sweet. When that happens, we try to steer them toward something different like Savignon Blanc or if they like sweeter wine maybe our RIP, a raspberry-peach blend. So basically we encourage people to try a variety of wines. We always offer small tastings so you know what you are purchasing.
Q: Do you have any special events coming up?
A: I think our biggest challenge this year is the cancellation of many wine festivals. We hope to return to participating in festivals in the fall but we will have to wait and see how things work out. Wine festivals are are great way to get our wines exposed to variety of people and we have made some great friends over the years at festivals.