Karamoor Estate Winery: A Local Hidden Gem
Nick and Athena Karabots don’t commit to a new project unless they’re going to put in the maximum amount of effort.
So in 2003, when they decided that it might be a fun endeavor to have a 27-acre private boutique vineyard on their agricultural estate in Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, they didn’t pull any punches. They spent three years in planning mode. They hired Lucie Morton, a top viticulturalist in the United States, to architect the vineyard in order to set it up for success from the get-go. The plan was to plant European clones that would yield Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Petit Verdot. They’ve since added Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec.
Their plans finally came to fruition when they put down the first 12-acre plot in 2006. In 2007, a small crop was made into wine, which was shared only with the family. Although that crop never made it to the market, they decided to expand the operation, adding an additional five acres in 2008, and another 10 in 2013.
In 2012, they expanded their wine-making team, hiring veteran Napa Valley wine maker Kevin Robinson and bringing Alecia Jankowski, the Karabots’ granddaughter, on board. More recently, Joseph Rienzi was hired as the Karamoor Wines viticulturist and Cheri Morrison as their Marketing and Sales Specialist. Victor Yroruk has also joined the team, responsible for developing the Karamoor brand outside of Pennsylvania.
Breaking The Mold: Pennsylvania Wines Come into the Spotlight
Located just four miles from The Hill, Karamoor Wines has helped to bring Pennsylvania wines into the national spotlight. With great attention to detail and a lot of hard work, Karamoor Wines has become a local hidden gem.
“Wine requires a lot of patience and a lot of capital,” says Alecia. “Especially if you are growing vinifera grapes for wine in Pennsylvania. The climate does not provide the ideal conditions for European varieties to thrive, causing many local vineyards to outsource their grapes or grow hybrids that are engineered to do well in this particular climate.”
Karamoor Wines, however, does not source a single grape, so all of their wines are a true expression of what can be done locally. The result is a really great product that can hold up to wines nationally and internationally, and the wine community has embraced Karamoor Wines for that reason.
Karamoor Wines has won an impressive amount of awards at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Their 2015 Chardonnay took home a gold medal, along with their 2013 Petit Verdot. Their Merlot-based 2013 Meritage Blend was awarded a silver medal, and their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc took home the bronze.
They’ve also competed at the San Diego International Wine Competition, with their 2015 Meritage, 2015 Cabernet Franc, 2015 Chardonnay and 2015 Merlot all taking home silver medals. The New York International Wine Competition named Karamoor the PA Winery of the year and awarded a gold medal for their 2015 Cabernet Franc and 2015 Chardonnay, as well as a bronze medal for their brand-new 2017 Rosé.
A Hobby That Exceeded Expectations
Karamoor Wines produces Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Meritage (a Bordeaux-style blend), Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. In addition to these signature wines that are available vintage after vintage, they have a barrel-select program that currently includes Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Reserve Merlot. All of the wines that they produce were chosen specifically because the Karamoor team knew that those specific grapes would be able to thrive—with a lot of attention in the vineyard— in the Philadelphia-area climate.
“All of the grapes are French clones that have been grafted to American root stock,” says Alecia. “Even though the varieties do fine here because our latitude is very similar to that of Bordeaux, our winters are a bit harsher, so we had to graft them to American root stock in order to withstand the cold temperatures, wetter climate and disease pressures.”
Alecia muses that it’s been really great to see the business grow over the years, especially since the endeavor started off as a very expensive hobby. In addition to selling their wines through their website, Karamoor Wines can also be found in some of the best restaurants in Philadelphia and its suburbs. They’ve had tremendous success over the years, with their first real win in 2014, when The Union League of Philadelphia produced a private label with Karamoor—buying the entire vintage of the 2012 Chardonnay and then collaborating on a special vintage of Meritage. In 2017, with the support of Larry Korman, his chain of AKA Hotels partnered with Karamoor to produce a special in-house wine labeled A.Vin, which can be found as an amenity in AKA suites and on the menus at the restaurants that the AKA hotels partner with.
Although Karamoor Wines does not currently have a tasting room that is open to the public, they are getting ready to break ground on a new space down the road from the vineyard. Their new tasting room has an anticipated spring 2019 opening. In the meantime, they do offer limited private tours of the vineyard, which can be arranged through their website:
They also do off-site wine tastings, dinners and events, some of which have been for residents of The Hill at Whitemarsh.
“We grow here, we crush here, we make it into wine here, we bottle and age it here and then self-distribute,” says Alecia. “So when we drop off a bottle of wine with a customer, it’s the first time that grape has left our property, and there’s something really special about that.