Kathleen Hall believes having fun is an art form and wine is the perfect medium for creating it.
Pittsburghers will get a chance to express themselves through vino this year when R** Bandana Winery opens in Homestead.
Unlike traditional wineries that look like upscale Italian villas, Hall prefers a laid-back pub atmosphere filled with couches and coffee tables.
“I wanted to create something different than what I was seeing,” says Hall, a professional artist who studied and taught at Carnegie Mellon University and toured Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship.
In 2012, after years of making small batches of wine for friends, she opened the original R** Bandana in Leeper, Pa., a rural town about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. Situated on a 22-acre property with an adjacent cabin that is available for rent, the business is a respite from the city and a lively oasis filled with art and music.
A second location opened last year in nearby Franklin, Pa., for locals who wanted to experience R** Bandana’s eclectic vibe without having to make the trek into the forest.
Given its blue-collar heritage, Hall thinks Homestead is an ideal place for another R** Bandana.
The name isn’t a dig at rural life or a reference to a farmer’s tan, she says, but rather a tribute to the Appalachian coal miners who wore crimson kerchiefs to protest deplorable working conditions, earning them the nickname “rednecks.”
For the past year, she’s been renovating a historic theater and nickelodeon on Homestead’s East 7th Avenue. When construction wraps on the 19th-century building in March, the rustic space will serve as a cultural hub, complete with an art gallery and a stage featuring nightly musical performances from jazz ensembles and acoustic acts to full-on rock n’ roll bands. And, of course, wine.
A small snack menu will be bolstered by partnerships with local restaurants and food trucks.
Every Saturday during construction, Hall has been bringing cases of wine from the production facility in Leeper to set up a small tasting and sales area at the Homestead site. The nearby Waterfront shopping district generates a lot of foot traffic, with curious people drawn in through the brick building’s open door.
From noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, visitors can sample the company’s 17 different wines, which range from sweet blushes to dry whites and reds, and can buy them by the bottle or case. Bottle prices range from $12 to $19.
Hall’s number one seller is Rebel Red, a semi-sweet wine with intense flavors and aromas of Fredonia grapes, which are harvested in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. All of the products are low in sulfites, a compound that occurs as a byproduct of fermentation. Many winemakers add sulfites as a preservative, which increases a beverage’s shelf life but also can lead to a nasty hangover.
As a self-proclaimed “city mouse” who has spent years living and creating in the country, Hall is looking forward to calling Pittsburgh home again.
“This will truly be like walking into an artist’s studio,” she says, gazing around the enormous Homestead site. “I want to bring something completely different and fun to the area.”