At the start of the new year, Adrian Mobilia introduced the area to Fenwick Wine Cellars, a local farm winery that’s also much more. Located along the Route 54 corridor, the winery and tasting room – although still new – is something he thinks could evolve into one of the region’s most popular spots in a matter of months.
“In this economy,” Mobilia said, “word of mouth and having a good product are the best two things for a business. I believe we have a great product, and if the people who come in here are treated right and have fun and enjoy the wines we produce, they’ll spread that word.”
Fenwick Wine Cellars currently boasts 13 different wines, from their classic German-style riesling to their oak-enriched Cabernet Franc, with seven other wines set to debut in the upcoming months.
Although he may seem young, Mobilia’s knowledge exceeds his years. Growing up and working on his family’s fruit farm in northwestern Pennsylvania, he developed a strong appreciation and understanding of harvesting and agriculture. His great-grandfather found immense success cultivating cherries, apples and tomatoes. The vines and root systems on the 250-acre farmland have been traced back to the mid-1800s. The family grew peaches that were sold to Gerber and concord grapes, which were the predominant variety there until the 1980s, that were sold to Welch’s.
“By the time my father had the farm,” noted Mobilia, “he looked ahead at what was happening and wanted to be more diversified instead of taking whatever price offered.”
Throughout the generations before his own, Mobilia explained, farmers were “price-takers,” typically accepting payment established by the companies buying their produce.
“This bothered my father,” said Mobilia. “He took a gamble and started putting trees in. He’d have pick-your-own cherries and apples. He wanted to go right to the consumer and become the processor.”
The abundance of fruit raised on the farm led to the production of fruit juices, which ultimately led to wine. Mobilia was always on the move, traveling across the country, to Massachusetts and Oregon for the freshest cranberries, and internationally, to Brazil and Chile and to South Africa for the most succulent prunes. Juices and wines put out by the family were nothing short of perfection, he said.
“The whole goal of starting a winery,” said Mobilia, “was to give credit to the juice business. We understand what it is to have a good product, and our juice and wine business went through the roof.”
The family’s original business, Mobilia Fruit Farms Inc., paved the way for their winery, Arrowhead Wine Cellars, which has since progressed into an award-winning farm winery with an impressive retail market.
After enhancing his own education at Penn State and relocating to the Delmarva Peninsula with wife, Shannon, Mobilia took his expertise into his own hands, creating Fenwick Wine Cellars.
“Once I was here,” Mobilia explained, “I missed home, and that’s when I looked into starting a farm winery of my own.”
Initially, he looked at locations in Maryland, but due to limited facilities there, he settled in Delaware. The farm winery began processing in 2008 and was licensed in December of 2009, before opening this January.
“It allows me to still be involved with agriculture and do something I enjoy,” Mobilia said.
By springtime, Fenwick Wine Cellars will begin planting their own grapes on several acres across the road from the establishment – a process that typically takes four years before the first crop is ready.
“We will put in three varieties of grapes,” explained Mobilia. “The first few years, the crop is very green and new, and you can taste it. By the fourth season, we should be seeing some really nice crops.”
Until their own crops come in, grapes and juices will be purchased over the open market.
The change to the geography of southeastern Delaware, which varies from the Mobilias’ property beside Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, comes with a price.
“I have a few concerns,” Mobilia explained. “The ground here is heavily saturated. There’s a high water table, meaning, from surface of the ground you’re not going to dig too far down until you hit water; maybe a foot or so. The root systems in crops back home are much more extensive to anchor plants in.”
To accommodate these hurdles, Mobilia has already taken action. Fenwick Wine Cellars offers a dry red wine, similar to a merlot, from the Chambourcin grape. The plant is a hybrid, which combines a rich French taste with the root systems of plants native to the Delaware shore. Add that to an extensive selection of wines, and you’ve got a recipe for potential success.
“Anyone can come in here and taste the wine until they find something they like,” emphasized Mobilia. “We have anything you’re looking for – dry whites, dry reds, sweet whites, sweet reds, blushes – and everything in between. Even if you’re not typically a wine-drinker, there’s still something here for you.”
Fenwick Wine Cellars joins Lewes-based Nassau Valley Vineyards as the only farm wineries not only in Sussex County but the entire state.
“She was the pioneer of that industry in the state of Delaware,” explained Mobilia of Nassau Valley owner Peggy Raley. “If it was not for them, we wouldn’t be here today. This is only second time it’s been done in the state, and there are a lot of areas not covered. I’ve turned to her a number of times as we prepared to open, and she’s been a great help as we’ve started.”
Fenwick Wine Cellars is quickly finding its niche, joining with neighboring Mio Fratello’s Italian Steakhouse for wine tastings on special occasions. Tastings are offered every day, on the premises, too, during regular hours.
“The whole idea behind a farm winery,” said Mobilia, “is this is where people are going to come to have fun, try great wine and enjoy themselves. It’s a benefit to our business, because it’s a way to help a farmer get more of his product directly to market, and you get exemptions from a lot of the rules you’d have to go through if operated as a bar or restaurant.”
With the upcoming Valentine’s Day season, Fenwick Wine Cellars has plenty in store. Guests who stop in can enjoy wine samples and choose from several Valentine’s Day gift baskets for that special someone, complete with bottled wine, assorted chocolates and a variety of small gifts available. Live entertainment, courtesy of Bryan Russo, and treats from Wockenfuss candies will also be featured at Fenwick Wine Cellars.
On St. Patrick’s Day in March, the farm winery will unveil a green apple wine, too.
“Our grand opening will be coming around this spring,” said Mobilia, “and we’ll have something for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
“It’s something fun and different to do. Five years from now, I believe we will be a fairly well-known spot on the map. People will come here for that local flavor and to have fun. If you’re going out to dinner, stop by the winery first. It’s a great place to try good wine and meet great people.”
For more information about Fenwick Wine Cellars, visit www.fenwickwinecellars.com online or call (302) 436-1500. Stop in for a wine tasting, or to browse their unique and local gifts, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday; from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday; and noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday.