Franklin County's Newest Winery: Jan Zell Wines

Downtown Chambersburg is welcoming a new business to the neighborhood this month: Jan Zell Wines. The newest Franklin County winery is owned and operated by Arnie and Laura Jansen. They began their winery adventure in May 2014 when they started a production facility in Fort Loudon. This month, the Jansens opened their first tasting room in Chambersburg at 251 Grant Street.

As they prepare to celebrate the Grand Opening of their tasting room on Thursday, October 29 at 5 p.m., we took some time to hear from the owners about their experiences starting-up a winery...

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Chamber (C): What inspired you to begin your own winery, and why in Franklin County?
Arnie (A): Inspiration for making wine resulted from a gift we received. The giver (Chris Williams) sent us a bottle of his wine. We made our first six gallon batch in 2012 and we were hooked. Laura and I progressed from one batch to two, to six, on up to around 20 batches at a time. We also started touring wineries and realized there is a void of wineries in South Central Pennsylvania. That void is shaped roughly like Franklin County, only larger. Tuscarora Mountain Winery was the only winery from Adams County in the East to Bedford County in the West, and from the state line of Maryland to Harrisburg. We felt we could help fill this void.

C: How has the start-up experience been so far?
A: The experience of starting this business was exciting, challenging, and rewarding. There are so many hats to wear, and while operating under these hats we sought mentors who could help us strengthen our knowledge in each area. There are so many people to thank for their time and patience while answering our many questions.

At the root of this support are the wine makers. Without their input, our products wouldn't be at the high level we are experiencing. Scott Bubb from Seven Mountains Wine Cellars, Ken and Sue from Tuscarora Mountain Winery, Mary Beth Seibert of Knob Hall Winery, Lloyd from Four Springs Winery, and Roy and Linda of Royal Rabbit Vineyard, were all big supporters of our efforts. Blain from Homebrew4less was instrumental in sharing his understanding of equipment and supplies. Our tasting team, who never required any arm twisting, graciously tasted sample after sample while sharing their opinion on product strengths and weaknesses.

C: Any advice to share from your experience for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to build a knowledge of project management or hire experienced resources in this area. The process of starting a business requires many task lists, but don't look at these as daunting. Prioritization is the key.

C: What are you most excited about for the opening of the tasting room in downtown Chambersburg?
A: The Chambersburg area brings many opportunities to our tasting room. Of utmost importance is our Grant Street location. The area offers ease of access and plenty of parking. It is exciting to think of the storied history of the 251 Grant Street building; from its origin as a freight office for the Cumberland Valley Railroad, to the Grant Street Station Restaurant, to a Jennings Chevrolet property. I think back with fondness to the day Skip Jennings listened to and liked the idea for this tasting room at this location. I am so grateful that he helped make this a reality.

One added benefit is the area's recent revitalization efforts. We are proud to join Roy-Pitz Brewing, Nathan Miller Chocolate and Jim's Farmers Market on the North End. We look forward to our new neighbors who are planning a new brew pub/distillery for the area. Things are shaping up nicely in the North End of Chambersburg.

C: What is your favorite wine you’ve ever made?
A: My favorite wine is in our private collection and is made from oranges. In the early months, everyone hated it. The citric acid just didn't feel right on the tongue (most wines have predominately tartaric acid). We often opened a bottle and received bad reviews so we stopped sharing.

About a month ago, I was consolidating our personal wine cellar and was going to throw out the last three bottles, which were now two years old. I stopped and decided to open a bottle for one last taste. I quickly called Laura down to the cellar. We both agreed the wine was superb. Something happened in the aging process to smooth out the flavor and acid. About a week later I came home to find Laura enjoying the second to last bottle of this wine. That is it, I declared, the last bottle is off limits. So, I am reserving this last bottle for a yet to be determined special occasion.

The name of this wine is a little too risque for print media. Stop in to the tasting room and I'll be more than happy to share the name quietly.

Support downtown’s newest business and join us on October 29 for their Grand Opening. Also be sure to drop in the tasting room, which is now open (hours). Guests are invited to bring a picnic basket and snacks while stopping in for tastings, a glass or bottle. Some snacks are available on-site.


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