Monday, September 22, 2008

23 September - Made in Maryland

It took twenty five years, but I finally made it to my first Maryland Wine Festival. I believe there were ten Maryland wineries at festival #1 -- this year there were thirty three. I can report that thousands of people were having a great time, tasting, drinking, lugging cases of wine to their cars. One of these days a local entrepreneur is going to open a Maryland Wine-only shop in downtown Baltimore (or Annapolis), not unlike the New York Wine-only shop in SoHo.

The question is, are there any world class wines being made in Maryland? The answer is yes, and more are on the way. Here are three wineries to keep an eye on:

Woodhall Wine Cellars. Al Copp's Woodhall Wine Cellars is one of the originals - one of the ten wineries in business since the inaugural Maryland Wine Festival. Woodhall, like most of the older Maryland wineries, has only a few acres of its own. They have taken advantage of a recent burst of activity in local wine grape growing to add a few stars to their "reserve" line. Hiring Chris Kent as winemaker several years ago, combined with acquiring better raw material for him to work with, has produced some standout new wines. The new raw material is coming from some interesting places like old tobacco farms in St. Mary's County and new vineyards planted by deep-pocketed landowners on the Eastern Shore.

Deep Creek Cellars. To this point in time, Paul Roberts has made his name mostly with grapes grown outside of Maryland. So what is he doing on this short list? Well, he is the most creative, original, yet well grounded winemaker in the state. Whether Vidal, Cynthiana, Cabernet Franc or Blueberry, Paul makes a compelling, delicious wine out of it. And as sources continue to expand for top quality fruit grown here in Maryland Paul will make more wine with a Maryland appellation of origin. Evidently his small parcel planted with three Pinots - Noir, Gris and Blanc - is close to producing its first crop for making into wine. It is also important to note that Paul mentioned Black Ankle Vineyards to me about two years ago - and took the time to introduce me to Ed and Sarah yesterday in the midst of wine festival bedlam.

Black Ankle Vineyards. Ed Boyce and Sarah O'Herron did a lot of research and traveling before deciding to attempt making great wine right here in Maryland. They've put their research into practice in a big way, planting, since 2001, some forty acres of vines on their estate outside of Mt. Airy. They are farming organically, with the goal of being 100% biodynamic. The vines are planted in the Bordeaux style, more closely spaced and trained higher off the ground than vineyards in drier, more Mediterranean climates (ie. California). The grapes are 100% vinifera - all the Bordeaux red varieties, as well as Syrah, Albarino, Gruner Veltliner, Viognier and Chardonnay. I tasted a few Black Ankle wines yesterday - hopefully you will be seeing them at CWC in the very near future.


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