Not many people can turn a hobby into a tourist destination. But Chuck Nunan defies the odds. In 1995, he began making wine in his basement. Today, he and his wife, Chris, own Harvest Ridge Winery in Marydel, which opened to the public in November 2013.
In spring 2018, the winery added 4 acres to the 18 already under cultivation. “We will continue to add more,” Tom Nunan says. “There’s ample room.”
Nunan is no stranger to entrepreneurship. He has a SERVPRO master license to develop franchises, and there are 191 franchises in his group. All three of his sons are involved in both family businesses.
The idea for turning winemaking into a business came from a 2010 trip to Charleston, South Carolina. After visiting a winery, the couple agreed that the concept would suit the family farm, Harvest Ridge in Kent County, which they’d purchased in 2005.
The location is about a 23-minute drive from Dover. “We have a huge local support base from around Dover and from eastern Maryland,” says Sofia Horvath, who’s worked for the winery since 2012 and handles social media.
The wines appeal to both locals and tourists craving local flavor. Blue Hen Blue is a red and fruity wine blend. Blue Line — a combination of Viognier, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc and Traminette — was created to honor fallen Delaware state trooper Stephen Ballard. A dollar from the sale of each bottle goes to the Ballard Memorial Fund.
Although situated in a pastoral oasis, the winery is an easy drive from Painted Stave Distilling, Blue Earl Brewery and Brick Works Brewing & Eats — all in Smyrna — Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company in Dover and Pizzadili Winery in Felton. Consequently, visitors to the area can create their own libations tour.
Events also boost traffic. The winery’s annual food truck competition brings people from Philadelphia and New Jersey, Horvath says. It’s so popular that this year Harvest Ridge capped attendance at 3,000.
In April, Harvest Ridge opened a tasting room in Toughkenamon in Chester County, Pennsylvania. (Chuck and Chris Nunan have their primary home in that area.) “It is gorgeous,” Nunan says. “It’s a model. The goal is to open more in southeastern Pennsylvania.”
Harvest Ridge is the fourth winery in Delaware, but its sister operation, Rebel Seed, is the state’s first cidery. Because the product is big with a younger demographic, another employee handles social media for the brand.
The winery also makes mead, and judging by its history, there are more products and locations on the horizon.