Our History


“We came to this land with a dream and a promise: farm the earth to provide for our family and preserve the land for our future generations to enjoy. Growing grapes was the solution. As early pioneers in this industry, there was no instruction manual. With a lot of hope and plenty of luck, we guided these majestic vines into rows. They in return produced an amazing crop year after year,” Elaine Pivinski, Franklin Hill Vineyards owner.


Elaine married her college sweetheart, Charles Flatt, and moved to Bangor, PA in 1975 and purchased a 35 acre farm. The couple couldn’t decide what to plant, so Elaine wrote to Rutgers University and Penn State to ask their opinions. They both told her to put in apple orchards…because that was all they knew at the time. By chance, they found out that Cornell University was experimenting with French American hybrids…and the idea of a vineyard was born!

By 1976, Elaine and Charles were ready to get to work…with a little help from their friends and family. “We jumped into the holes, and we covered the dirt with our own hands. Franklin Hill Vineyard’s first crop had 51 rows, 125 vines/row.”

Elaine’s brothers and sisters helped her plant row 2.


Elaine and Charles knew they could not handle the vineyard alone. They needed people that were as passionate about wine as they were.

“I met Elaine in 1979, and helped her at the vineyard. She opened her doors during Christmas of 1982, and she said why don’t you come back and help me. I said sure! I had 3 year old twins, and thought it would be nice to get me out of the house for a couple hours a day,” said Bonnie, currently, Franklin Hill Vineyard’s head winemaker.

By 1981, the vineyard had taken route and was growing strong.


In 1985, 3 years after they saw their dream come to fruition, Elaine and Charles’ marriage ended. At the time, their daughter Jennifer was 14, and son Adam was 11.

Elaine admits that she was scared…for the first time in her life. It was the fear of losing a life partner, and being isolated in Bangor PA. She was so scared of being a bad mother…that she made the choice to be a father.

Elaine was working nonstop to make the winery successful, and now had to work even harder to also support the family.


Elaine had become overwhelmed. The vineyard had become a two-woman operation…herself, and her winemaker, Bonnie.

The two would work hours together in the vineyard, get caught in a snowstorm, and then come in and begin another project.

“We worked well together. She has great work ethic, and is more the “mechanic” of the group…and I had the vision,” said Elaine. She had to make a decision whether she was going to keep it going or sell it.


Elaine and Bonnie were about to pack it in, when they were “met with an act of providence”.

They entered their wines that winter into the Penn State winemaking competition, and won 3 medals! A gold and two bronze medals.

“What those medals did for us was give us a pat on the back, and it said just keep doing exactly what you are doing and you will be okay,” said Bonnie.

“This is what changed my life,” said Elaine. Elaine and Bonnie decided they could do this, and trudged ahead more determined than ever.


Elaine and Bonnie knew if they were going to make a go of it, they would need more workers. Family and friends helped where they could, and soon, a core of 5 women emerged at the winery.

Elaine, Bonnie, Helen Smith, Debbie Veers, and Linda Flemming…now know as the ‘first” or “fabulous 5”.

“They put me out in the vineyard and said pick some grapes. I had never done anything like that before, but it ended up being where I belonged, and Elaine and I clicked,” said Helen Smith.


After Elaine would put her daughter on the school bus, she would approach the other Moms doing the same thing, and introduce herself and ask them if they would like to come work in the vineyard for a couple hours while their kids were in school.

She would work with all the Moms who lived along Franklin Hill Road. These women would refer other women, and the “sisterhood” grew to 12 women. Elaine says she was able to do it because she “put family first”.

“No child will go into daycare when your mother works here.”

If there was a sick child at school, Mom could go pick her up…but often times, they would end up at Elaine’s house.

Elaine realized the power, work ethic, and passion that women have for their family, and their work. The extended family grew.


Elaine’s biggest supporter was her father, Walter. He was an older polish gentleman who always wore a white shirt and tie to the store. He would always smoke a pipe with Sir Walter Raleigh tobacco.

He would work in the wine store, and people would come in just to have a chat with Walter.

“He was her number one supporter, and he sold so much wine, and was so happy about it. It really was the joy of his life,” said Elaine’s daughter Jennifer. “He sold more wine than anyone. We would search his house and storage units, because we thought he was just buying them to make my Mom feel good.”


Elaine’s heart was broken when Walter passed. As a tribute to everything Walter did for the company, Franklin Hill renamed his favorite country red to “Sir Walter Red”.

“He had a special laugh. His belly would move more than any sound would come out,” said Elaine’s son Adam. “My grandpa was my male figure in my life, and would always preach strength and kindness.”

Adam changed the label around and put a silhouette of his grandfather on it to honor him. His favorite red, and the label showing Grandpa with his pipe in honor of his favorite tobacco…Sir Walter Raleigh.

Up until this point, “Country Red” never won any big medals. But, the year after the rebrand, Sir Walter’s Red won it’s first in a series of gold medals. “Because it is such a big money-maker today, I feel like Dad is still helping us make money from the other side,” says Elaine, “I always say “Thank you Dad.”


Although Elaine and Charles were divorced for years, his name was still on the winery. It took 9 years of negotiation, but Elaine was finally able to buy him out, and move forward with the winery on her terms.

Franklin Hill had hit its stride. But another heartache. Linda, a member of the “Fab 5” became ill with breast cancer.

“She was so tall and beautiful with her long blond ponytail, and her pink hat that she wore everyday in the vineyard,” said Helen of the Fab 5.

After Linda passed, the women of Franklin wanted to support other women survive and thrive.

So, they started a fund called “Friends Helping Friends”.


Elaine was among the first wine makers and owners in the state of Pennsylvania.

She began to get immersed in giving back to the community, and started speaking in 2010 on panels, and still today, mentors today’s women leaders of tomorrow.

“The biggest challenge is getting up everyday and wanting to change it for the better…because sometimes you just want to keep it the way it is. But, the minute you stop and like it the way it is…you have already told the universe you are going the other way, says Elaine. “I am a big believer that you get back what you put in, and it is important to treat everyone with compassion.”

Elaine always says her mission is to empower women and give them purpose, and she does just that.


After starting a line of cider, Elaine, and her son Adam, decided to go in a different direction.

“Just when I thought I was close to retiring, my son Adam said to me, Mom the law has changed.”

In late 2013, PA passed a law allowing you to distill in the state, and after working at Franklin Hill Vineyards, Adam worked up an idea of his own…spirits.

“She and I were willing to put it all on the line and reinvent ourselves for a 2nd time since the 80s. It was scary but she trusted in me,” said Elaine’s son Adam.

And the Social Still was born. Social Still, the next generation of business for Franklin Hill, resides in Bethlehem’s SouthSide, and has become a popular hotspot in Bethlehem PA. Diners can sip cocktails below the ambiance of the stainless steel glow of the distillery tanks.


Something Elaine always prides herself on is that she is always looking ahead for the next big thing. Franklin Hill Vineyards has created 24 wines, 3 of which were named for her grandchildren. Evanswood, White Jade, and Red Head for her only red-headed grandchild Fiona.

“Some say life is a journey. A path that leads you through joy and sorrow. My path has been here, among the vines. I planted them, I nurtured them, and I watch them flourish. As they have grown, so have I…and with each season that passes, I grow stronger in my purpose. To expand beyond the labels, I have been given: a hippie, a farmer, a business woman. Real fruits of my labor, as a mother, a sister, and a mentor. Cultivating life’s balance and giving back to the soil hasn’t been easy. My name is Elaine Pivinski. You might say this is my story, but to me, it’s our story.”