Being a winemaker meeting his grape expectations
July 16, 2022
UPDATED: This story was updated July 26, 2022, to correct the location of The Aging Room.
Patrick Borelli caught the family spirit as a teen.
Great-grandfather Enrico DeLuca and grandfather Pasquale Borelli learned how to make wine in their native Italy, a pastime they continued – and passed on – after emigrating to the city of Pittsburgh more than a century ago. (Pasquale later moved to Bethel Park, where he had a wine cellar.)
“My great-grandparents and grandparents would get family and friends together for the fall grape harvest and make wine,” Patrick said. His father, Patrick, added to the tradition “and eventually, I got started.”
The younger Patrick hasn’t stopped, but unlike his genealogical predecessors, he has turned his grape avocation into a vocation. He is the wine-maker and proprietor of Borelli Cellars, a 5-year-old operation he runs, literally, out of the cellar of his house in Jefferson Township, in northwestern Washington County.
Borelli, a fourth-generation vintner who uses grapes only from northern California, sells more than a dozen varieties of small-batch wines from his home outside Burgettstown. He also supplies two restaurants, Amel’s in Baldwin Township and LeoGreta in Carnegie, and now has a relatively new space from which to market his wares.
He has set up shop in the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon, in a bright, airy location on the lower level. Borelli Cellars operates there with The Aging Room, a business that provides spirits as well, and is based near Hollywood Casino at The Meadows in North Strabane Township. The shop is called Borelli Spirits and The Aging Room.
A spirit of relaxation prevails there. Not only can patrons purchase bottles, they can sit in small groups at tables or the bar, both made of butcher block, sip spirits from glasses, and nosh or charcuterie items, like soppressata. There also is live music on certain nights.
Julie Trbovich, one of four Borelli employees, oversees the bar, which has a painted replica of Mona Lisa as a backdrop.
She said this is Borelli Cellars’ second location at the Galleria, and longest lasting. The business, she explained, was “across the hall,” in a space previously occupied by Godiva Chocolate, for one day – Thanksgiving Eve – before being told to move.
“We’re a short-term tenant, through December, but we’ll hopefully get a long-term lease,” Patrick said. “We’re trying to promote this space for bridal parties and other events. This space is very desirable.”
Borelli, who also is a partner in a wood waste recycling company, said he has pondered the possibility of constructing a winery on his property, moving the wine cellar out of his current cellar and other options. He certainly has the land – 68 rolling acres in the village of Eldersville.
This is where he built a home seven years ago, a structure in which he had the foresight to erect a large wine cellar. “Everything is done in the cellar,” Borelli said with a smile.
His daughter, Sophia, who will be a Duquesne University freshman in about six weeks, works with him there and at the Galleria. She is a pivotal figure in the wine cellar, assisting in many of the production steps while trying to stay comfortable. Her father keeps the temperature at 63 degrees.
In the cellar of the home where Patrick, wife Jennifer and son Gianni reside, the area is tidy, and has to be, with spaces devoted to barrels; 36 tanks, all from Italy and each dedicated to one wine variety; a filtering system and more.
Winemaking is a laborious endeavor that goes well beyond Lucille Ball happily stomping grapes. Following their arrival, according to borellicellars.com, the step-by-step process entails crushing/de-stemming; primary fermentation; gentle pressing; secondary fermentation; racking; and continued aging.
Borelli also has a chic bar in the cellar, with shelves of bottles lined up and tables and chairs for gatherings by reservation only. Charcuterie, salads and wood-fired pizza are served during events.
“I’m also ready to launch a wine club,” he said, directing would-be patrons to check the website.
Borelli, 53, is a devoted Pittsburgher. He grew up in the Brookline section of the city, graduated from Seton-LaSalle High School, where he played quarterback, and is a Duquesne U. alum.
As challenging as his vocation/avocation may be, and as tedious as the commute between Mt. Lebanon and Eldersville is at times, Patrick Borelli enjoys what he is doing and is considering expansion.
“I won’t retire from this,” he said. “I’m having too much fun.”