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The Vineyard & Brewery at Hershey: Spirited chocolate

Courtesy: The Brewery at Hershey

Some things are just meant to be enjoyed. Chocolate is definitely one of them and I think most of us would include beer and wine on that list, I know I would. It is only fitting that a town known for chocolate would be home to a brewery and winery that has bottled that delicious chocolate into beer and wine.

Meet the Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey. In 2008, Mike Wilson was enjoying a glass or two of Merlot at a local piano bar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Three guys walked in, sat down at the opposite corner of the bar and ordered the same wine Mike was enjoying. The guys started discussing the hope they had for Pennsylvania wines. They wanted someone to make a better class of wines - venturing beyond the sweet fruity wines the area was known for at the time. Mike joined the conversation expressing the same ideas for the grapes of Pennsylvania.

Paul Vezzetti was one of the guys in the conversation at the bar that night. Hailing from an Italian wine-making family, Paul had been making wines since his early high school years. The challenge was on.

In 2009, the plan took root with the planting of vines on a 40-acre historical farm. And in 2012, the winery opened. It was an immediate success proving these thirty-something bar buddies weren't the only ones craving better wines in Pennsylvania.

But why stop with wine when you can also have beer? The guys started a search for a brew master to join their team. The search ended with the finding of Ryan DeLutis whose creations "knocked their socks off!"

And why stop with wine and beer when you can add chocolate into the mix? They didn't. Named for winemaker Paul Vezzetti, Cocoa di Vezzetti is a chocolate port. This decadent blend of Merlot, aged with cocoa nibs and fortified with brandy is the perfect marriage of wine and chocolate.

Of course the beer could not be left out of the chocolate action. The result? A chocolate brown ale with fresh cocoa nibs, Chocolate M.I.L.F. I have to admit, the name grabbed my attention immediately, so I caught up with Mike Wilson a/k/a Merlot Mike to get the inside scoop.

"M.I.L.F. stands for Micro-brew I'd Like to Finish!" Mike explained. "Craft brews are all about breaking the rules, being non-traditional and standing out from the norm. If you want to success in this business, you have to get out there and be unique and own your identity. "

I think he has our attention, but as Merlot Mike says, "The name may entice, but the goal is to keep customers coming back, so the product has to live up to the hype. We aim to produce good products with great names!"

The guys at The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey must be doing something right. They just celebrated their 2nd birthday and have more than doubled their initial expectations for production. Social media is their chief marketing engine with 6,634 likes on Facebook and 2,800 followers on Twitter at this writing. Check them out online and join their followers.

Isn't it great to know a happy hour conversation can result in something spectacular?

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