Looks can be deceiving.
Upon entering III Ponds Winery, just off of Jordan Hollow Road in Benton Twp., you would never have known that, at one point, the building had been a garage.
Now, it is a workshop of another kind, housing production, pressing and bottling for the winery as well as its tasting area.
"There were two garage doors in the front, car lifts and everything like that; we gutted the whole building and renovated it," explained Bob Murphy Jr., head of operations for the winery. "My uncle [co-owner Randy Marchuck] has been making wine for the past 20 years are more of a hobby and my dad [co-owner Bob Murphy Sr.] has been helping him for the past five years. They decided to turn their hobby into a business."
III Ponds Winery opened in late May and is already becoming known for its variety of Californian wines, boasting flavors such as "Wild Muscrat," an oaked chardonnay; "Foxy Lady," an oaked malbec; and "Lily Pad," the winery's most popular wine, a red zinfandel that, according to Murphy, boasts blackberry, black pepper and chocolate flavors.
"We have a large variety of wines from all the reds, whites, dry, sweet and anything in between," Murphy said. "Our grapes came from California. That was not our top choice but we didn't get our occupancy permit until after the Pennsylvania and New York growing season had ended. Our goal for the next season is to have the majority of our wines from grapes from Pennsylvania and New York."
"You get a sweeter wine from Pennsylvania and New York and you will get a better dry wine from California," Murphy continued. "We've had customers come here and tell us they came here specifically because we have Californian dry wines."
Murphy explained that the winery is looking forward to next season's Pennsylvania and New York wines but advises customers that although this year's wines are Californian, they are still essentially local.
"We're a local business and we want to support other local businesses," he said. "We bought our grapes locally from a small market but the grapes themselves came from California. We want to buy local and keep it local."
III Ponds Winery is also looking to introduce unique ways for customers to sample and enjoy their wines, including cigar nights featuring the Cigar Tube cigar catering company, live entertainment and more.
"We're hoping to have big events here, like an open-air concert by the end of the summer, since we have a five-acre grass field in the back behind the winery," Murphy said. "We want to have a big-band orchestra and a place where people can bring their own food. We are looking to have a full concert series in 2014."
The winery is already set for Fourth of July weekend; although it is closed on the holiday itself, Frankie Gervasi will perform from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, July 5, and Mr. Rick's Pretzel Stand will be on premises selling food and on Saturday, July 6, High Falls will perform from 6-10 p.m. outside on the patio and the Drinker Mobile Food Truck will be on hand.
For more information on III Ponds Winery, including a full wine list and event schedule, visit www.iiipondswinery.com or call 563-5080 for more information.