HAMMONTON — Tomasello Winery co-owners and brothers Jack and Charlie Tomasello didn’t expand their banquet building this year for themselves, said Jack Tomasello.
“We did all this for the fourth generation,” he said, as about 200 people milled around the new bar area, ballroom and spiral staircase Wednesday night. It was the Greater Hammonton Chamber of Commerce’s International Wine and Beer Expo, one of the first events at the new facility, which opened this month.
Jack Tomasello and wife Cathy have a son Sean, 19, a freshman at Villanova University in Philadelphia studying finance; and a daughter Kara, 16, a student at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, who is interested in the hospitality business.
Charlie and his wife Lisa have a son Brian, 21, studying viticulture and enology — that’s grape growing and wine making — at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Together, the three should have the expertise needed to take the business well into the future, he said.
Jack Tomasello said the expanded facility is allowing them to go from comfortably seating 120 to now being able to seat 225. That means they can accommodate larger weddings and other affairs, he said.
The vineyard and winery business is 82 years old, he said, while the banquet business is 22 year old.
“We had the idea to have separate rooms,” Jack Tomasello said, “to give people more options. More of a ‘wow’ factor. There’s a flow around from the dining room, separate from the dance floor, and a separate area for a cocktail hour. We want to wow them constantly.”
A spiral staircase provides a great backdrop for photos, he said. It leads to a bridal suite, not for the wedding night, but as a place for brides and their parties to prepare and change clothes in private.
While the facility primarily hosts weddings, it also does a lot of business and community events, like the wine and beer expo and the Lions Club Citizen of the Year award dinner coming up in May.
This year the honoree is lifelong Hammontonian Paul E. Galletta, co-owner and vice president of the Atlantic Blueberry Company, the largest cultivated blueberry farm in New Jersey and one of the largest in the world.
“I’m really looking forward to that,” said Jack Tomasello. “Paul and I worked on Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team together. I’ve known him and worked with him a long time. He told me he’s nervous about (the award dinner), and I told him, ‘Not as nervous as I am!’”
Galletta is a current Pinelands Commissioner and is being honored for his work with youth sports as a coach and sponsor in Hammonton for many years, as well as his community involvement in environmental and agricultural groups.
But Tomasello’s may not be able to sell more tickets to the Sunday opera galas the winery has been hosting for about 17 years, Jack Tomasello said. They start at 2 p.m. and go on for four hours.
Singers from the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts come to perform, while about 200 opera fans enjoy four-course meals from Tomasello’s Executive Chef Jason Hall, who pairs the food with champagne and wine paired with the food, he said.
The winery may have to close off the dining room for the opera performances, to protect the wonderful acoustics it has.
“We are experimenting (with the bigger space),” Jack Tomasello said. “We are concerned about the sound. We’ve always done them in the dining room. Because of the A-line ceiling singers don’t need mikes.”
Two opera nights are scheduled for May, and are already sold out, he said. People come from all around the tri-state region to attend, some in busloads.
There is also a Fall Harvest Gala and a Christmas Gala. Tickets for those should go on sale soon. Usually there is one in February, but this year construction was still going on, said Cathy Tomasello.
Jack Tomasello said the Opera Galas were started by his late mother Peggy, who grew up in South Philadelphia and “had a big passion for opera,” he said.
If You Go:
2015 Lions Citizen of the Year award dinner honoring Paul Galletta 6:30 p.m. May 7 at Tomasello’s Winery, 225 N. White Horse Pike, Hammonton. Tickets are $45.00 per person. Call Loretta Rehmann at 609-561-3904 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother’s Day Brunch May 10. Adults $26.95 and children 12 and under $12.95. Reservations required. Call 1-800-MMM-WINE (666-9463).
The Harvest Opera Gala, 2 p.m. Oct. 11 and Oct. 18; and Holiday Gala, 2 p.m. Dec. 6 and Dec. 13. Visit tomasellowinery.com or call number above for more information. (May Opera Galas are sold out.)
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