325 W. High Street Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
Claire Gray & Loren Stamm
By Travis Johnson
There’s plenty to take in when you walk into the historic, Civil War era building that sits along Spring Creek and is now home to Wine and Café on the Park.
Vintage hardwood flooring, massive front windows and a marble and polished wood bar are immediate highlights of the Café’s space. A row of elaborately decorated wine bottles line the back counter. Medals dangle from many of the bottles — awards won for their wine’s taste and craftsmanship. The Café offers more than a hint of exclusivity to downtown Bellefonte visitors.
Reopened this past summer as an extension of Happy Valley Winery, Wine and Café On The Park is unique in the Victorian town that includes handfuls of pubs, a cider and a whiskey distillery. It’s the only place you can walk in, grab a glass of local wine and take in the sights and sounds of Spring Creek and Talleyrand Park.
On this afternoon, a sweet, blueberry aroma hangs in the air as a regular sips a glass of Blue Luna — the latest addition to the Café’s impressive collection.
“I could pour this over brownies,” Claire Gray says with a smile that indicates she just may do so. Gray moved over to the Café after working in the winery’s tasting room and now keeps most of her hours behind the cafe bar.
Six months after opening, Wine and Café on the Park is expanding its capacity and experiencing a surge in attention thanks in large part to the range of local products offered and the air of locality, punctuated by Gray and her partner behind the bar, Loren Stamm.
Claire and Loren do all the cooking, waiting, managing and bartending and always make time for conversation with anyone who comes in.
“She can do this with anybody,” Claire says as Loren chats with a woman about their family members who live in the same apartment complex.
“It’s just a really cute, awesome place to visit,” Loren says. “My sister lives in Philadelphia. She moved away. She loves coming home to this small-town feel. It’s just a slow pace. You don’t need to rush. Take your time.”
And conversations like these have become commonplace as the cafe has gained a following.
“For us it’s really important because it signifies that we’re doing something right, that we have a service and a product that people like enough to keep coming back and establish their faith in us,” Claire says.
The cafe is currently searching for an established chef to come onboard and add to a menu currently comprised of well-crafted sandwiches, wraps and soups. The Café has begun serving breakfast with a focus on offering farm-to-table options sourced from local fields along with Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Raspberry Spritzers. They’ve recently added an espresso machine and will serve ice cream in the spring and summer.
But the main attraction is the revolving stable of wines and the tender love and care that goes into each flavor profile. They serve wine by the glass, bottle or in tasting flights.
“Every vine of ours gets touched by a couple of hands a couple times a season so it’s all very much still a manual process,” Claire says. “It’s kind of common consensus in the wine industry that the best wines are still almost entirely manual labor.”
Most of Happy Valley Winery’s bottles are available at the Café. Their estate wines - born, bread, nurtured and loved just a few miles away - can be ordered for pickup at the Café.
“Everything happens on the farm in an estate bottled wine,” Claire says. “From growing the vines to all of the trimming, all of the pest management systems, then picking, pressing, fermenting, bottling, everything happens on the farm.”
Soon, more will be happening inside the Café.
Claire and Loren hosted their first Sip-And-Paint event in December when a handful of people signed up to sip wine and paint with local artist June Ramsey. The cafe is hoping to host more Sip-And-Paints, possibly as regularly as every other month.
Wine glass painting could also become a fixture.
“We want to do more of those kind of events,” Claire says.
From soaking in the rich history and ambiance of the building to sipping on the award-winning wines, there is nothing like the Wine and Café on the Park. Without a doubt, the Café is uniquely Bellefonte.
For more information visit http://www.thehappyvalleywinery.com/wine-and-cafe-on-the-park/ or call 814-355-2658 and be sure to follow Wine and Cafe on the Park's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WineandCafeonthePark
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