Mark Lucchi owns and operates Lucchi Family Wine Cellars in Scranton, but he considers his business to be more of a means to form and maintain friendships and enjoy camaraderie than a money maker. While he credits his loyal customers for helping allow him to do what he loves, he likes to think of them more as family. He also works for the City of Scranton Department of Public Works. He is a 1988 graduate of Scranton Technical High School and studied radiology at Johnson College. He lives in Scranton.
Meet Mark Lucchi…
What is your role at the Department of Public Works?
I do whatever they need me to do. It can be anything from patching potholes to driving a garbage truck, plowing roads, cleaning storm drains — basically we do it all. My official title is pack master operator.
How long have you been making wine?
I’m a third-generation wine maker. As a hobby, I started making my own wine with my dad. I’ve been making wine about 20 years, but my dad is 80 and he’s been making wine with his father since he was about 4 or 5 years old. My dad made wine his whole life, and I always helped him pick grapes. At Christmas dinner, we’d toast, and I said, “Pop, this wine is pretty good.” And he said that was the stuff from the yard.
How did your hobby become a business?
It’s labor-intensive and costly to make wine. We were making wine and giving it away. It began to get very expensive, and we couldn’t just keep giving it away. People liked our product, and we started making wine for other people. In 2013, I licensed my wines through the state Liquor Control Board and federal government. We became a licensed winery. It went from a hobby to a business and, knock on wood, I am blessed.
Can you describe the labor-intensive wine-making process?
Back in the day, with my dad, we hand-picked the grapes then washed them, de-stemmed them, ran them through the grinder — everything was manual. Now we have machinery doing it. Technology has advanced so much that we’re able to eliminate the grinding and pressing of the past. We can get juice shipped in. Our Pennsylvania products we still grind and press. We get five or six people together and go out there, and it’s all about the camaraderie. We’ll go out and just work eight hours.
What does it mean to do the wine-making around your friends and family?
I am blessed. My parents are 80 years old and relatively still healthy. My dad instilled a very good work ethic in me. It’s a laughing and joking atmosphere. Even though it’s a lot of labor, when our friends come over and enjoy a glass of wine, that pays for itself right there. We get buddies who come over and help us out, and I have employees who give us a hand. We are really family-oriented. Unfortunately I never got to meet my grandfather Mario. You can find my dad, Robert and my mom, Mary, they come with me to events (to vend). My mom will be out, and someone will say “Hey, Mrs. Lucchi, how are you doing?” She doesn’t know them, but they say, “We’ve seen you at the farmer’s market or festival, and we bought wine from you.” Sometimes people we don’t know will come in and have a glass of wine or two, and by the time they leave, they feel like family. My greatest reward is when people send us a nice review or positive feedback. We strive to treat everybody with respect.
You mentioned there is a great camaraderie among not only you and your family and employees but also among other local wine makers?
We buy local as much as we can and we support each other, even the wineries here. Sal Maiolatessi is one of my dear friends. We just all sat down in February and formed Lackawanna Wine Trail with the local wineries. When I was going through the licensing process, Sal was helping me constantly because he already did it. Now, a buddy of mine is opening a winery in Taylor, and I’m helping him. We all work together. Everybody thinks it’s a competition, but we all have our own niche. We’re constantly on the phone with each other. If there’s an event or someone is organizing a bus trip, we help each other out. I don’t know how the other small businesses are, but this is very unique, and that’s what I love about it. We all go to these festivals and work together. If somebody hears of something going on that could benefit all of us, we reach out to each other. Nobody wants to see anybody hurt.
Some of your wines have creative names. Where do the names come from?
We’ll be down in the wine cellar like mad scientists blending wines together. We come up with different names. Sweet Mary Rose is a Concord Catawba. I named that after my mom. Her name is Mary Rose, and it’s a sweet wine, so we call it Sweet Mary Rose. We have a lot of fun with these wines. A lot of people get a kick out of our names, like the Sexy Sisters wine, (which) is a Niagara Cayuga that blends two sister grapes. Another is Sweet Trouble. It’s sweet, and if you drink enough, it’s going to get you in trouble. People love that, and we interact with them and joke with them at the festivals. They laugh at all the names, and we love to have fun with them.
What is your favorite wine either to make or drink, and why?
It’s funny, I still drink beer. I never really drank wine until 20 years ago. I guess my palette has changed. Seventy-five percent of the wines we sell are sweet; now I enjoy drier wines. I like a nice pinot noir. That’s one of my favorites.
Outside of the business, what are your hobbies or interests?
I enjoy hunting and anything involving nature. Whether it’s walking by Nay Aug gorge and sitting by the falls, I just love the tranquility and peacefulness, or boating at Lake Wallenpaupack. I don’t have the time like I used to. Right now, hunting season is starting, but it’s also harvest season. I work full-time, and this is easily a full-time job too. I love anything by the water or outdoors. I ice fish a bit during the winter. The winter months are a little slower in the wine industry, so I get out with my guys and go ice fishing. One thing with the wine, it dictates to you when it’s ready. You can’t say, “Oh, I’ll get it next week.”
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m petrified of heights. On ladders and roofs, I get crazy. As big as I am, I’m a little baby when it comes to heights.
Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I lost a dear friend. We all think we’re going to live forever, but life can change in the drop of a dime. I get up every day and thank God that I’m able to get out of bed. That opened my eyes. I try to do something good every day for somebody else, whether it’s buying somebody a coffee at the drive-through or telling someone they look nice today. I always say if we all took our own problems and threw them in a pile and saw everybody else’s, we’d want our own back.
Photos by Emma Black