Mark Gerencher ’96 Bus and his wife, Carrie, began winemaking at home about nine years ago, experimenting with different kinds of grapes and other hand-picked fruits. When Gerencher was laid off from his telecom job of 18 years in 2016, the couple decided to turn their hobby—and their dream of opening a winery—into a real venture: That year, they opened Sleepy Cat Urban Winery in the bustling theater district of Allentown, Pa. In 2018 and again in 2019, the winery, which offers more than 30 varieties to choose from, was named Lehigh Valley Magazine’s Best Winery in the Valley, and to date it has won 31 medals at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Wine Competition and other international competitions.
The Gerenchers import their grapes and fruit juices from suppliers in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Chile, and then they process, bottle, and sell the wine out of the 2,800-square-foot space. Mark handles the finances and customer service, while Carrie, a registered dietitian at Lehigh University, does the marketing.
Prior to the pandemic, clients enjoyed wine tasting at Sleepy Cat—named for the Gerenchers’ three cats, which were dozing while the couple was trying to decide on a name—and the winery was open for parties and other special events. The winery stayed open for bottle sales and home deliveries during lockdown, but with restrictions easing, the Gerenchers were gearing up to celebrate Sleepy Cat’s fifth anniversary in August.
“We have plans to release several new wines to celebrate, one being a red wine to introduce the newest member of our [cat] family, Sedona,” Mark says. “We are expanding our presence in farmers markets, and we are working on a partnership that will allow us to ship our wine across the U.S.” —Cristina Rouvalis