About Us

“Papa Joe” Talarico started his winemaking journey in 1982 in Erie, PA.  His family didn’t make wine like many Italian immigrants, so in his late 20s, Papa Joe learned winemaking from Doug Moorehead at Presque Isle Wine Cellars in North East, PA (on Lake Erie at the New York State border).  He started with Pennsylvania grapes and his wines were decent, but they just didn’t make the dry reds comparable to the wines he grew up drinking (yes, Italian American kids commonly drank a little wine at home with meals).

Katie and Beth aren’t quite sure when they joined in, but they were young. Katie remembers sitting next to her little sister on overturned five-gallons buckets in her Aunt Maria’s cellar each fall. Aunt Maria kept them occupied and happy with traditional Italian cookies as they watched their dad and cousin Salvatore (“Sam”) carefully cultivate and grow this family tradition. Sam had learned to make wine from his father when he was back in Italy, before he left the ancestral home in Sersale, Calabria to join his cousins in Pennsylvania. Nearly thirty years later, Papa Joe and Sam still get together each fall to make wine, although the setting has changed a handful of times since those days in the early 1990s.

In August of 2000, Joe and his wife Deb moved the girls to Zelienople, PA, about 40 minutes north of Pittsburgh. The large detached garage would be the first home of Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar, established in 2014. Long gone were the wines that Papa Joe learned to make from PA grown grapes. Their craft had gradually moved to more refined techniques, featuring the best grapes sourced from all over California. Not long after the family moved to the Pittsburgh area, Papa Joe discovered California grapes transported to the produce docks in the Strip District neighborhood.  He finally was able to make wines of the quality he was accustomed to (Cribari Chianti).  When he met Ron Casertano at Consumer Produce, who provides the BEST quality grapes, the quality of Papa Joe’s wines improved dramatically to the point where the family was convinced that we could produce fine Southern Italian wines worthy of putting his name on the label.

In December of 2017, Piazza Talarico and Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar opened on Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville, providing Pittsburgh with a place to find authentic  Southern Italian recipes (some over 150 years old!) and those homestyle wines that Italian immigrants love to make and share with their friends.  The next five years were a wonderful journey, but the desire to return to their roots saw the doors of the restaurant close in March of 2023. The wine is the real passion, and it is now back in focus.

Papa Joe likes to say in his 40 years of making wine, he had one year of experience repeated 30 times, then another 10 years experience to reach the point where he currently exists from a winemaking perspective.  Katie’s impending promotion to la capa vinaia promises to elevate our wines to a whole new level.

Today, Piazza Talarico and Papa Joe’s Wine Cellar is in transition. Piazza Talarico, the restaurant, closed at the end of March. The winery will be reopening in Zelienople in the Spring of 2024. More to come on that soon…

Stay tuned. This is going to be a great adventure, and we’re excited for you to join us on it.