Old Westminster Winery

Back in April we attended the Drink Local Wine event in Baltimore. We were able to taste some of Old Westminster wines at the Twitter Taste off held at Camden Yards. We really enjoyed the 2011 Chardonnay from Old Westminster. When we were back on the Maryland wine trail in August, we decided to pay them a visit and taste all the wines they had to offer. We should have posted this sooner but you know how life gets in the way.
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Old Westminster Winery is located just south of Westminster Maryland. It’s a family winery run by the Baker family. They have a strong commitment to producing high quality wines and it shows in the bottle. They have seven acres of grapes growing six different varieties: albarino, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc, merlot, and syrah. The day we arrived the winery was buzzing with wine tasters enjoying a warm sunny day with music filling the air. We recognized some of the Baker family right away. They recognized us from the Drink Local Event. It was nice to see some familiar faces.
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We selected a table to enjoy our tasting and they soon poured the first wine. We tasted six different wines and enjoyed them all. However, as we always do, we had our favorites. The 2012 Chardonnay presented apricot notes, with nice acidity. We thought it presented classic chardonnay characteristics. Warren quickly put his star next to this one. We both enjoyed the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc as well. The grassy notes with hints of citrus and green apple made for a bright, crisp wine. Of the red wines we tasted, we both enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc. We noted tobacco, earthy, pepper elements with a clean, firm finish. Drew Baker also gave us a sneak peek of the new 2012 Albarino. We noted peach, citrus and stone notes with bright acidity. It wasn’t available for purchase when we visited but it might be now.
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After chatting with Drew and enjoying our own glass of the 2012 Chardonnay, we purchased some of our favorite wines and bid farewell. Old Westminster was part of the Maryland Wine Festival this past weekend. We hope if you attended the festival, you stopped by and tasted their wines. We don’t often get out on the Maryland wine trail but we’ll be sure to visit them again in the future. And when you visit them, tell them Maryland Wine Time sent you!

Drink Local Wine (Continued)

So I left off with the wine media junket arriving at the Waterfront Kitchen in Baltimore for a food and wine dinner. The menu continued with the locavore and locapour theme, and it featured locally grown food and locally produced wines.
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The menu included:

Reception: Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery Blanc de Blancs NV

First Course: Black bass, spring pea risotto, and beurre rose
Paired with Knob Hall Winery Rose 2011

Second Course: Gallentine of Chicken, pork sausage, swiss chard and mushroom jus
Paired with Port of Leonardtown Chambourcin 2010 (my fave on the menu)

Third Course: Roasted lamb rack, black truffle risotto, rosemary essence
Paired with: Basignani Winery Lorenzino Reserve 2005

Dessert: Picholine olive oil cake, vanilla ice cream, crème anglaise
Paired with: Serpent Ridge Vineyard Slither NV

Friday was certainly filled with food and wine. Saturday, though, was the day with panel discussions on the past, present and future of Maryland wine. Four sessions were held on these topics, and session moderators included wine blogger and publisher Carlo di Vito, wine columnist Dave McIntyre, Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association, and viticulturist Dr. Joseph Fiola. Panelists included author Maguerite Thomas, chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen, Jade Ostner, director of event for the Maryland Wineries Association, radio host Al Spoler, winemakers Ed Boyce of Black Ankle, Dave Collins of Big Cork, Robert Deford of Boordy, and Tom Shelton of Bordeleau.
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I will not get into the nitty gritty details of each session; however, I will summarize the ten conclusions that I drew from them:

1. Maryland wines were not very good in the 1980s and 1990s; however, they have improved in the past decade. Skilled winemakers and viticulturists such as Lucie Morton have contributed to this.

2. Maryland’s climate shares some characteristics with Virginia and Pennsylvania; the best grape growing regions in the state are those that have higher elevations and rocky, less fertile soils.

3. Warm days and cool nights are ideal during growing season.

4. Best grapes for the state seem to be cabernet franc, chambourcin, petit verdot, sauvignon blanc and albarino with potential for quality chardonnay.

5. The focus especially for red wines should be blends rather than bottling single varietals. This is critical for troublesome years such as 2011.

6. Chambourcin has the potential to be the Norton of Maryland.

7. Maryland’s challenge is not quality but constituency, and winemakers should look to Europe for inspiration since they face similar year-to-year challenges.

8. Tight spacing of vines may be a best practice; this absorbs rain water.

9. Maryland wineries continue to open; 62 are now open for business

10. Consumers must enjoy the wine tasting experience and made aware of improved quality. Maryland Wineries Association will continue awareness programs such as Eat Drink Go Local.

The conference concluded with a twitter taste off that was held at Camden Yards. At least 20 Maryland wineries were on hand to pour their finest wines, and tasters were encouraged to tweet their impressions. The taste off was opened to the public after 4 PM. What were our favorites?
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White Wines:
Black Ankle 2011 Albarino
Old Westminster 2011 Chardonnay
Sugarloaf 2011 Pinot Grigio

Red Wines:
Big Cork 2012 Meritage
Boordy 2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Black Ankle 2010 Crumbling Rock
Sugarloaf 2010 EVOE!

The ultimate champions of the twitter taste-off were the 2011 Albarino from Black Ankle and the Sugarloaf 2010 EVOE!

Drink Local Wine provided a perfect opportunity for Maryland winemakers to present the best wines, and there was no doubt that Maryland can produce quality wines. Most of our fellow bloggers had never tasted Maryland wines, and I must confess that we have visited only a couple of Maryland wineries. However, that will be changing. We plan to frequent Maryland wineries more often, and we encourage readers to do the same. Mention that Maryland Wine Time sent you.

Drink Local Wine Comes to Maryland

dlw-drink-local-wine-logoDrink Local Wine, established in 2008 by Jeff Siegel of The Wine Curmudgeon and Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre, held its fifth annual drink local conference in Maryland on April 13. In previous years the conference was held in Texas, Virginia, Missouri and Colorado. We attended the event and concluded that it was a wonderful way to showcase the great strides made by Maryland’s winemakers. The next two posts will capture the highlights of the conference that culminated in a twitter tasting held at Camden Yards.

Our participation in the conference actually began with a media tour of Maryland wineries on Friday, April 12. We boarded a bus with other bloggers, columnists, and writers from the Tremont Suites Hotel in Baltimore. Our first destination was Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard located in Dickerson, Maryland. Winemaker Benoit Pineau was on hand to conduct a tasting of Sugarloaf’s wines; however, Elk Run Vineyards’ representatives were also on hand to likewise showcase their best wines. A buffet of cheeses, olives, breads and deli meats were offered for enjoyment. Favorites included the 2011 Comus, a lush Bordeaux blend created in a difficult year. Yes, Maryland got the same copious amounts of rain in 2011 that plagued Virginia that summer. My ultimate favorite, though, was the 2010 EVOE!, so named after the excited cries of ancient Bacchanalians to honor the god, Bacchus. In a contrast of seasons, the 2010 EVOE! was more dark-hued and complex. Like Comus, it is a Bordeaux-style blend. From Elk Run, I enjoyed the Alsatian-styled 2011 Gewurztraminer. Tours were offered, and an added treat was the ability to vote for an upcoming release. Benoit Pineau asked us all to sample four red wine samples and then to vote on a favorite, and these included a Cabernet Franc, a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc (75%) and Merlot (25%) blend and then a Merlot (75%) and Cabernet Franc (25%) blend. These were all from the 2012 vintage. My vote? The Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend. Benoit will be the ultimate judge on which will be finally bottled, but I will definitely follow up to see if I picked the winner!
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By lunchtime, it was time for the press junket to leave Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards; our next destination was Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy. Did I mention lunch? It was here that we were treated to a lunch prepared by Woodberry Kitchen of Baltimore, a restaurant devoted to eating and drinking local. We were greeted by a glass of an outstanding 2012 Gruner Veltliner (yes, Gruner in Maryland) that complemented seasonal tartines. Lunch began with a warm greeting from owners Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron. They gave a brief synopsis of their story and the decision to make wine in Maryland. The couple opted to purchase farm property with the rockiest, least fertile soil possible; not good for corn or tomatoes, but great for a vineyard. Anyway, we tasted the excellent results of their decision. With grilled Chesapeake oysters we sipped the floral 2011 Bedlam, a blend of Chardonnay, Albarino, Muscat, Viognier and Gruner Veltliner. Wheat berry salad with radishes, pea shoots and pecans was paired with a berry-driven 2010 Rolling Hills, a red blend that included all of the Bordeaux grapes. The main event, though, was a platter of whole Maryland Suffolk grilled lamb, lamb sausage, scallions, and potatoes. The lamb was indeed fresh and local; Woodberry Kitchen’s George the Butcher butchered the lamb, and it was absolutely divine. Equally divine was the 2010 Leaf Stone Syrah with its elements of tobacco, dark plum, and blackberries. (This was my favorite pour of the day.) A dessert course rounded out our dining experience, and we were served Beiler’s Heritage Acres cornflour cake made from locally produced flour. This was partnered with a port-style Terra Dulce II.
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With our appetites satisfied, we departed for the last leg of our tour that concluded with a visit and tasting to Boordy Vineyards located in Hydes, Maryland. Vineyards here are nestled in the Piedmont Plateau and the Blue Ridge Province. Robert Deford greeted us and provided a brief history of the winery. Boordy Vineyards is the oldest commercial winery in Maryland, and Philip and Jocelyn Wagner established the winery in 1930 to protest Prohibition. Deford bought the property in 1980; however, he replanted the vineyard in 2005 to maximize its potential to produce world-class wines. We tasted the results in the tasting room. The buzz-worthy wines were the rich 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve and the 2010 Landmark Reserve, an award winning blended red wine. Also on hand to pour their wines was Cygnus Wine Cellars and Fiore Winery. Fiore Winery offered two grappas, and these were an interesting twist to the traditional line up of white, red and dessert wines.
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The day ended with a dinner at the Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point, an event hosted by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Wineries Association. Yes, more food and wine. However, I will provide details about this experience in the next post. Before I sign out, though, I must thank Nomacorc for sponsoring the very comfy bus that took us hither and yon. I’ll write more about Nomacorc in a future post.

Start your own tours of Maryland wineries soon. The wineries mentioned in this post are great places to begin. Just mention that Maryland Wine Time sent you!

Impressive Wines at Black Ankle

We started Maryland Wine Time a little over a year ago, but we rarely get to visit Maryland wineries. We decided to spend a summer’s afternoon on the Maryland wine trail, and at the top of our list was Black Ankle Vineyards. We were very impressed with the lineup of wines that we sampled.
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On tap for tasting were two white wines, a rose, and three red wines. All were well-crafted wines. The floral 2011 Viognier included a 4% blend of Syrah to create a vibrant wine with lovely peach and melon flavors and a nice minerality. The bit of Syrah was added to boost the wine’s acidity. The 2011 Bedlam Rose was a mix of several varietals that included Viognier (49%), Gruner Veltliner (13%), Merlot (11%), Albarino (9%), Chardonnay (9%), and Muscat (9%). The result was a lean, crisp wine that presented notes of strawberry, and citrus zest and finished with a refreshing minerality. The 2011 VGV, a blend of 50% Viognier and 50% Gruner Veltliner was very aromatic with aromas of peach, pear and spice. As with the other white wines, it also presented a noticeable minerality on the palate.

Our red wine tasting began with the light-bodied 2011 Passeggiata with its raspberry and strawberry aromas and bright berry flavors. A blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it was fermented in French oak barrels and finished with a bit of cedar. A bottle of the 2011 Passeggiata might be handy if pizza or burgers are on the dinner menu. It could also be enjoyed with lighter cheeses and baguette. I favored the earthy 2008 Leaf Stone Syrah which was a blend of Syrah (81%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Cabernet Franc (5%), Viognier (3%), Petit Verdot (2%), Malbec (1%), and Merlot (1%). I noted tobacco and dark plum on the nose with favors of plums, dark cherry, sweet tobacco and black pepper. This was certainly a wine to enjoy with steak, lamb, or game meats. Paul favored the 2009 Crumbling Rock which was a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc and appreciated its elements of cherry, raspberry, and spice.
Eco friendly tasting room at Black Ankle.
As we sipped and favored, we learned that the owners, Sarah O’Herron and Edward Boyce, developed a passion for wines and interned at various vineyards before opting to purchase the 145-acre Black Ankle property in 2002. They selected the site due to its rocky soil and favorable elevation which offered good aeration. They’ve also implemented biodynamic principles in the vineyard and use no chemicals or pesticides on the vines. Twenty-two acres are now currently planted in vines with another 20 acres intended for planting to boost yields, and all wines are produced from estate-grown fruit. Black Ankle Vineyards now produces between 3000 and 4000 cases of wine.

The tasting room can be described as spacious yet charming, and its architecture seems to blend in with the rural surroundings. It was constructed in 2007 with materials found on the property; it is also eco-friendly and makes use of solar energy, a masonry fireplace, and a water-runoff system to capture rain water that serves as a natural cooling system.
Inside the tasting room at Black Ankle.
With our tasting done, we opted to enjoy lunch in the tasting room and ordered goat cheese and a baguette. Of course, a glass of wine was also ordered, and I sipped the 2008 Leaf Stone Syrah while Paul savored the 2009 Crumbling Rock. Though it was a hot day outside, the high-vaulted ceiling helped to provide a very cool and comfortable dining experience.

We made certain to purchase our Black Ankle favorites and know that we will return soon. In the meantime, be sure to visit Black Ankle Vineyards, and mention that Maryland Wine Time sent you.

Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery

On our way back home from a bloggers meet up on the Eastern Shore, we decided to follow the grape signs along the highway to Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery. Our experiences with Maryland wines are very limited so we were anxious to see what Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery had to offer.

I must say that the grounds are stunning and offer a breathtaking view of Chesapeake Bay.  We made a decision to spend time appreciating the bay vista regardless of the winery experience, but we were also eager to sample the wines.  The white wine offerings were the strongest with the Chardonnays topping the list.  The crisp 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay was Paul’s immediate favorite, and it offered a pleasant nose of citrus and pear. An easy sipper, it could also pear well with salads and light cheeses.  The 2007 Chardonnay Reserve provided a more food friendly option.  Aged in French barrels for twenty-one months, it presented pear aromas and flavors with some hazelnuts on the nose.  With the oak-aging, a creamier, honeyed texture was inevitable.  Serve with any dish that includes a cream sauce!

Of the red wines, the Meritage NV held the greatest potential.  Dark cherry and brambleberry characteristics led to a spicy, tannic finish.  This one could age for a couple of years and should pair well with beef, lamb or game meats.

As we tasted away, we learned that owner and winemaker Tom Shelton planted the property’s twelve acres of vines in 1999.  In 2008, the winery became the first to open in Wicomico County.  Tom is dedicated to producing small quantities of quality wines, and plantings include Pinot Gris,Sauvignon Blanc, Charonnay, and most of the red  Bordeaux varieties.

With our tasting done, we opted to share a glass of the 2007 Chardonnay Reserve, and we made good on our promise to explore the grounds.  We walked down the pier and spotted water fowl as they enjoyed a crisp autumn swim in the Bay.  It was a sunny but brisk afternoon, and we made sure to take in every inch of scenery.  

We hope to continue our forays into Maryland wine country, and readers should do the same.  Planning a visit to the Eastern Shore? Stop by Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery for a tasting, and mention that Maryland Wine Time sent you.

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Our first visit to a Maryland winery brought us to Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard just 40 minutes outside of DC.

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Sugarloaf is located on 92 acres in Montgomery County Maryland. The tasting room is in a tent permanently set up next to the winery. Next to the tasting tent is an old barn. They have renovated the lower level of the barn for retail sales and seating.

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For our tasting Warren chose the premier wines and I selected the classic wines. Warren was able to taste two whites and four reds and I was able to taste three whites and four reds. A gold star was awarded to the 2007 Chardonnay is a light bodied wine with aromas of melon and grapefruit with lemon and pepper on the tongue. It spends 16 months on oak. Another gold star was given to the 2006 Merlot. This one had raspberry on the nose with flavors of black cherry on the tongue.

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After our tasting, our tasting associate introduced us to the owner who showed us around the winery facility and told us all about their vines, wines, and future plans. Once our tour was complete we opted for a bottle of the 2007 Chardonnay to enjoy with our lunch. It was a perfect match.

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We enjoyed our time visiting a Maryland winery. We hope to visit a different Maryland winery soon. If you visit Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard please tell them Maryland Wine Time sent you!

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