A Conversation With: Mandy Tolino of Tolino Vineyards in Bangor

Mandy Tolino –


Tolino Vineyards is an artisanal winery owned by the Tolino family in Bangor. Their wines are hand crafted from grapes grown in their onsite vineyard. Business is in the family’s blood, starting with Tolino’s Fuel Service in 1955.  Mandy Tolino is general manager of the vineyards and a third generation of the family business.

LVB: Tolino Vineyards has been around for more than 13 years now. What has it been like working with your family for all this time?

Tolino: My three siblings and I started working together at the winery when we were in our twenties, which has allowed us to grow together professionally as the business grew.  Reflecting back on where we started (working in the vineyard), to where we are today it is pretty amazing.  Each of us has unique talents, educational backgrounds, and personality strengths that we used to find our niche in the business.

LVB: Was working for a family business always ‘in your blood?’

Tolino: Yes. Our grandfather started Tolino’s Fuel Service in 1955 and our dad, Carl Tolino, continues to own and operate the business.  I worked at the fuel service as well, learning the ropes in preparation for the third generation to manage the business. Growing up we lived a few houses up the street from the business and would all spend a lot of time there playing in the office and riding around on the tractors and trucks. When the winery opened, we had a lot of family business resources to turn to for advice. Each of us took our own path to land back at the business, some right out of college, while others worked in other jobs before returning to the business.

LVB: How do you share the workload, responsibilities and decision making?

Tolino: Decision making is the most challenging part of four siblings working together. There is a lot of collaboration and heated discussions about some decisions, while other things come easily now that roles and responsibilities are more clearly defined.  Carl is the winemaker, Liz is the tasting room/retail manager, Mark manages our Easton location and I am the general manager. We sometimes still argue about who is going to take out the recycling just like when we were kids, but when it comes down to the important decisions and tasks we work together to get them done.

LVB: When are you at your busiest? How do you work together to get everything done?

Tolino: We are busiest July through October.  The tasting room is busy with events such as Family Fridays, Sangria Sunday and fall harvest events. In September we start harvesting grapes and processing wine and everyone pitches in. During September we are all working 7 days a week and as life starts to slow down we schedule our lives so we each get some down time.

LVB: What’s the most rewarding part of running a vineyard with your family?

Tolino: Looking back and seeing that we built the business together as a team from the ground up.  We started with tiny little grapes vines and now we have a picturesque winery and a reputation for making really great wines and providing our customers with a fun and educational experience. It is also rewarding that at the end of a long day of harvest or a busy Saturday that all of our kids — 10 cousins so far — are able to spend so much time together and grow up in the family business together much like we did.

Kosher winery opens in Allentown Bridgeworks

Kevin Danna, owner of Binah Winery, bottles his kosher wine at the Allentown Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


The newest tenant at Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is the Lehigh Valley’s first kosher winery. It’s also the only kosher winery in Pennsylvania and one of only a few in the Northeast.

But Kevin Danna, owner of Binah Winery, said he’s part of a growing trend in the industry to change the image of kosher wine, which he said has unfortunately been associated for too long with sweet, lower quality wines, like Manischewitz.

“We’re here to break that stigma,” Danna said.

Such wines are generally used for sacramental purposes and just aren’t meant to be premium wines, but there is nothing in the process of kosher wine that would make it taste any different than traditional wines.

“You can’t tell the difference when you’re drinking kosher wine from other wines,” he said. “It’s more about the ritual, religious part.”

Making a wine kosher means selecting ingredients, such as yeast, that are made in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. The wine can also only be made by those who keep a kosher lifestyle.

Apart from that, he got his winemaking skills the traditional way. He began experimenting in wine making in his basement with his friends back in 2014.

“It was bad,” he admitted.

He enrolled in winemaking school and had an apprenticeship at Pinnacle Ridge Winery near Kutztown before leasing his own vineyard outside Easton last year to grow and bottle the grapes. Space for bottling at that location was limited however, and he knew he couldn’t grow his business without more space.

He was unable to find anything that fit his upstart winery budget until he was introduced to the Bridgeworks, which had everything he needed, including a meadery, microbrewery and micro distiller.

“Since I’m a winery, I kind of complete the circle,” he said.

The new winery also received financial support in the form of $165,000 in low-interest loans from the Allentown Enterprise Zone and the Allentown Revolving Loan Fund, programs that are part of AEDC’s Urban Made initiative.

The move changed his business model slightly; instead of growing his own grapes, which was labor intensive, he operates as an urban winery, purchasing his grapes from other growers in the region. He ultimately wants to use all local grapes to give his wine distinction, but he said the grape supply is very low now, impacted by the spotted lanternfly and other issues and most vineyards locally don’t have enough grapes to supply him.

His sales structure remains the same, he sells mostly direct-to-consumer in 40 states with what he said is about a 50/50 split between kosher Jewish customers and regular wine enthusiasts, which is his goal.

“I don’t want to be known for making just excellent kosher wine, but for making excellent wine,” he said.

The local Jewish population has been very supportive, but he doesn’t plan on opening a local tasting room. He noted most tastings occur on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, and he needs to remain closed to be observant. He is hoping to get into Pennsylvania liquor stores and area grocery stores and is building his inventory to tap that market.

In his first year he made around 1,000 cases of red, white and sparkling wine. He’s up about 50 % over last year and hopes to have his inventory doubled by next year.

“Sales have exceeded expectations so far,” he said. So he hopes the growth will continue and he’ll help grow the reputation of kosher wine as fine wine in the Lehigh Valley.