Photos by: Kayla Bennett // Video by: Curtis Feder
Between the trees of the hilly roads of Circleville, Nicole Mitchell can be found with a wine glass in one hand and her husband Patrick holding the other as they watch their dog play in the fields of Manchester Hill Winery and Vineyard.
The couple walks around the vineyard, seeing the rows of crops they planted when starting the business together.
The couple established the business in 2011. Before they made wine, Patrick was an environmental scientist who worked as an inspector, and Nicole was in theater for 25 years. Then they decided to change career direction and pursue their dreams instead.
“[Patrick] always had a passion for making wine. He [would make] one that tastes really good, and I said, ‘keep doing this, keep doing this,’” Nicole says. “Eventually we decided to throw away our past and focus all of our everything on what we were doing here.”
After buying and renovating a building on Tarlton Road, they began the process of making their own wine. Nicole and Patrick pride themselves on having all their wine grown, harvested, fermented, bottled and labeled in-house. Once the wine they sold became popular, they decided to expand the business.
“We’re trying to get a broader variety of wines for different palettes, and as more people came, I said ‘obviously, we have to start doing food,’” Nicole says. “That became very popular, and then people kept saying, ‘what else do you have?’ So, I started a food truck.”
The food truck never leaves the vineyard, and it features a wide variety of options, including pesto pasta along with barbecue brisket and potatoes that are slowly cooked in a smoker.
“We’ve been doing the smoking for the past five years and we serve barbecued brisket on Friday and Saturday,” Patrick says. The smoker is a short distance away from the winery adjacent to the food truck. Shortly after the smoker got up and running, Nicole had another idea on how to serve the needs of Pickaway County.
“The local pizza place in town went out of business, and with us being from New York and New Jersey, one thing we know is pizza,” Nicole says. “So we’re doing our own handcrafted wine and barbecue, and now we’re going to handcraft our pizza.”
Manchester Hill Winery once again expanded its workload, but the owners both continued to demonstrate their desire to stay local. Although the business imports its dough from Naples, Italy, the winery grows most of its ingredients on-site, including tomatoes and basil.
“One problem we’ve been having is that people love the food so much [that] they come here just to eat and have a water or soda with it,” Patrick says. “As good as it is that they like what we serve, we are a winery first.”
Even with unexpected difficulties such as the coronavirus pandemic, Nicole and Patrick have managed to adapt by establishing a four-bottle requirement for orders and free delivery for places less than 20 minutes from the winery. As a licensed alcohol manufacturer, the winery also made its own hand sanitizer.
As Manchester Hill grows each year, the Mitchells continue to find new ways to bring in revenue. They have a beehive to help pollinate the crops and a fire pit outside the building. One day, the owners came up with another idea: selling stays in a cabin on the vineyard.
“The cabin was a greenhouse/office, and as it sat there, we thought that this was kind of a waste of space,” Nicole says. “I’m like ‘well, I can make the bed and do this,’ and I listed it the next night. Now we’re pretty much booked solid.”
Patrick has already ordered several new fermenting tanks to expand the room where the wine is processed. Meanwhile, Nicole wishes to expand the space where people can take a tour behind the scenes to see how the winery’s products get made.
Despite Manchester Hill Winery’s rapid growth, both Nicole and Patrick wish for the winery to remain a local gathering place.
“We want kids outside playing cornhole, with their family playing frisbee,” Nicole says. “It’s a nice social gathering, it’s a good time. And we want it to be all-inclusive as much as possible.”