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Urban winery Mark and Val Wines in Penn Market finds niche with familiar faces

Urban winery Mark and Val Wines in Penn Market finds niche with familiar faces

  • Mark and Val Rhodes started making wines as a hobby five years ago. Today, they operate a stand in Penn Market and are considering expanding throughout the region.
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Mark Rhodes remembers the early conversations he had at regional wineries well before he and his wife, Val, started their business, Mark and Val Wines.

With a glass in hand, in between sips, he’d ask as many questions as possible. From the fruit and sugar content to time spent fermenting, Mark wanted to know it all.

He found the winemakers were more than willing to share their process.

“There aren’t that many people who make wine,” he says. “So, when someone is really curious, when they want to know the skill and craft, folks are just excited that someone cares.”

‘We need to be proud of that’

That curiosity led Mark and his wife, Val, to pick up a wine-making kit five years ago. Their hobby of making fruit wines from home turned into a problem: Their basement filled up with wine.

While they handed some out to friends and family over the years, the couple decided it might be time to start selling and started their business in 2020.

When they received their license in early 2021, it made them the first Black-owned winery in the state, Mark says.

“I wasn’t sure that was something I wanted to lead with,” he says. “I teach diversity and inclusivity training for a living, and sharing that information didn’t feel very inclusive at first. But I’ve come to realize that if more people of color are to be seen and comfortable in this industry, we need to be proud of that.”

Valuable lessons

Mark and Val Wines opened a stand at Penn Market in the spring of 2021. Their bottles feature the faces of York County women, including former Mayor C. Kim Bracey, artist Ophelia Chambliss, and many others.

“We didn’t think a lot of women in our community get their due, and putting them on a bottle helps recognize who they are in York,” Mark says. “A lot of them are fantastic people.”

With hopes of a cider line rolling out later this year, Mark plans to recognize some of York’s notable men on those labels.

They’re also looking at expanding into surrounding markets, growing into Harrisburg and “stepping lightly” into Lancaster. His greatest hope is that he can teach his grandkids what it means to run a business and potentially pass it on to them.

“Even if they don’t want to get into the wine business, there are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned in running your own venture,” Mark says. “If all I do is teach them those skills, I think I’ve done well.”