The Old Westminster Winery LiveCast Moves To Prime Time

The Old Westminster Winery LiveCast Moves To Prime Time

On Tuesday, July 11, Old Westminster’s hit show, “Wine For Lunch” will become “Wine For Dinner”. After 23 weekly episodes, hosts, Lisa Hinton, Ashli Johnson and Drew Baker announced to more than 2,000 viewers the new time (Tuesdays at 7:00 PM) & new feature: Each week, the sibling trio will feature widely distributed wines from around the world and lead a live and interactive wine tasting with viewers.

The wines will be announced the week before the show, giving interested folks the opportunity to go out and purchase the wines in advance. Those who acquire a bottle of the featured wine will taste along with the siblings and be given the opportunity to weigh in. It’s a great opportunity to grow in your appreciation and knowledge of wine!

To kick off this new format, Old Westminster Winery teamed up with the prestigious French wine importer, LVDH, based out of Baltimore. They supplied a mixed case of wines to be featured on the first five weeks of the show. Below you’ll find a list of the specific wines, price points & tasting date. Each of these are readily available wines, but if you want a list of places to buy them, please email Alan Cohen.

Week 1: Tuesday, July 11 @ 7 PM

We think it’s fitting to kick things off with a Bordeaux tasting. Bordeaux is the largest and one of the most storied wine-growing areas in France. Because of its wide geography and sheer size, many styles of wine are made throughout Bordeaux. We will focus in on an estate situated on clay-limestone soils in Camiran. Three primary styles of wines are produced there: a red blend made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, a Rosé made from Merlot, and a Sauvignon Blanc. Here are the wines:

  1. 2015 Chateau La Roche Saint Jean “Bordeaux” $12

  2. 2015 Chateau La Roche Saint Jean “Sauvignon” $12

  3. 2016 Chateau La Roche Saint Jean “Rosé” $12

Week 2: Tuesday, July 18 @ 7 PM

In Week 2 we’ll feature what is, to our minds, one of the best value wine regions in France: Beaujolais.  Beaujolais wine is generally made from the Gamay grape which is red, has a thin skin and is low in tannins. Beaujolais tends to be a light-bodied red wine, with relatively high acidity. The wine takes its name from the historical Province of Beaujolais, a wine-producing region located north of Lyon. Here are the wines:

  1. 2015 Domaine Roche-Guillon “Fleurie” $25

  2. 2015 Domaine des Gaudets “Morgon”, Cote du Py $25

  3. 2015 Domaines des Hospices, Civils de Lyon, “Beaujolais-Villages” $15

Week 3: Tuesday, July 25 @ 7 PM

In Week 3 we’ll go a little more off the beaten path with Petit Manseng from Comté Tolosan in the Southwest of France. Petit Manseng is a white wine grape variety that is grown primarily in South West France. The name is derived from its small, thick-skinned berries. The grape is often left on the vine to produce a late harvest wine made from near raisin like grapes. We’ll try two different styles. Here are the wines:

  1. 2010 Chateau Cabidos “Petit Manseng Sec” $25

  2. 2011 Chateau Cabidos “Petit Manseng Doux” $25

Week 4: Tuesday, August 1 @ 7 PM

In Week 4 we’ll feature another fun, yet less mainstream, region in Corbières. Corbières is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Red wine dominates the production in Corbières with almost 95 percent, with 3.5 percent rosé wine and 2 percent white wine making up the balance (But don’t think that deterred us from finding a killer white Corbières to feature). Carignan is the most common grape variety. Due to its large size and geography, Corbières encompasses an enormous variety of soil types and microclimates. The wines from the region tend to be just as varied as the terroir. Here are the wines:

  1. 2015 Domaine Spencer “Le P ’tite Spencer” (Carignan 60%, Syrah 20%, Mourvèdre 20%) $16

  2. 2015 Domaine Spencer “La P’tite Envie” (Vermentino 70%, Roussanne 15%, Marsanne 15%) $16

Week 5: Tuesday, August 8 @ 7 PM

In Week 5 we finish strong with wines from one our favorite regions of France: The Loire Valley. The first is a Cabernet Franc from Chinon.  Chinon is a town situated on the banks of the River Vienne in the Loire where the vineyards cover the relatively steep banks. The vineyards consist almost entirely of erosional scree and gravels on top of rather hard Turonian limestones. In Chinon, Cabernet Franc is king and it is fitting that’s what we’re going to taste together. The second is a Chenin Blanc from Saumur. Saumur is a region noted for still and sparkling wines produced from Chenin Blanc. So, that’s what we’re going to taste! Here are the wines:

  1. 2015 Clos de la Lysardiere “Chinon” (100% Cabernet Franc) $17

  2. 2015 Les Pouches “Saumur” (100% Chenin Blanc) $14

Over the next five weeks, we'll explore each of these wines together with our viewers. 

Tune in – and weigh in – Join us for “Wine For Dinner” every Tuesday at 7:00 PM LIVE on Facebook & Instagram!

Taste Camp

Taste Camp

"There were soil pits, barrel rooms, vineyard tours, breweries and a distillery as a group of wine bloggers and other industry professionals from all over North America enjoyed a three-day immersion in the best of Maryland’s burgeoning farm alcohol industry. This was Taste Camp, an opportunity for beverage writers to explore Maryland, and for Maryland’s producers to strut their stuff before an international audience." - From the Washinton Post

Get the full WAPO story here

The Burnt Hill Project: Redefining Iconic American Wine

The Burnt Hill Project: Redefining Iconic American Wine

We’ve found a perfect hillside for growing grapes. The kind of grapes that will make wines that redefine what's possible in the eastern United States.

We'll never forget the moment we first stood on top of the hill overlooking Sugarloaf Mountain and the Blue Ridge. It was love at first sight. And it’s been confirmed by geologists, viticulturist and winemakers from near and far: we have a very strong sense that Burnt Hill is going to change the game.

So, of course, we're encouraged that Dave McIntyre, Wine & Food columnist for the Washington Post, is chronicling our journey: “I wrote in January about the Bakers’ purchase of Burnt Hill Farm and their hopes to produce an iconic, world-class red wine there. I will follow their efforts over the next few years to describe the choices, efforts, and risks involved in creating a vineyard.”

You can read these two WAPO articles written so far:

How does a top-rated winery in Maryland get even better? Buy a farm

Before the vines go in, it’s busy down on Old Westminster’s farm

To date, we’ve done a lot of recon: mapping the soils, digging truth pits, running visual and chemical analysis, etc. We’ve discovered ancient soil – formed from decomposing slate, phyllite and schist – that’s rocky and nutritionally poor, requiring the vines to dig deep for sustenance. The high elevation exposes the site to abundant sunshine and wind which are nature’s antibiotics. The steep hills quickly evacuate rainwater and cold air. All of these are characteristics of an excellent vineyard site for growing red wine. So we’re focused on that one thing: creating iconic red wines.

If I asked you to tell me what comes to mind when I say iconic red wine from America, I suspect many are picturing a Napa cab. Something culty, expensive, overly ripe, high in alcohol and aged in 100% new oak. And you wouldn’t be wrong. We’ve been conditioned to think that way – that bigger is better, that “makeup” is desirable.

But honestly, I think it’s a great time to redefine “iconic” American red wine.

We’re going to challenge current beliefs with unique and transparent wines – wines that offer balance, nuance, and character. We’re going to farm thoughtfully, using biodiverse cover crops, biodynamic principles and incorporating animals. And then, in the winery, we’re going to craft wines with a light hand, ferment with indigenous yeast, and bottle it all without fining or filtration. These wines will be made without makeup – a pure reflection of the time and place where they’re grown and the people who guided the process.

Creating an iconic vineyard isn’t a goal with a clear finish line. It’s a process. We’ll always strive to improve. But the hope is that we create many beautiful wines along the way. Wines that offer a glimpse into the potential of the Burnt Hill site and inspire us to continue on our journey.

Behind The Wine: Meet Our Team!

Behind The Wine: Meet Our Team!

This an Ode. An Ode to the TEAM!

We love nuance. Nuance is that special something that can go unnoticed by the casual passersby. The deeper lookers know that nuance puts a sheen on things. There are a million details that require a multiplicity of talents and none of it would possible without the talents that the Old Westminster Team brings to the table.  We thought we'd give you a peek behind the scenes -- to give you a glimpse into the nuances that make us unique: Our AMAZING TEAM. 


Summer Is Here! Let’s Make It Great.

Summer Is Here! Let’s Make It Great.

Ready For Summer? We Are.

June is a super busy time on Old Westminster Road. The vineyard, winery and tasting room are all bustling with activity. We want to share some of these happenings with you and also to thank you for being the absolute best customers, friends and family out there! So, here’s the latest in our endeavors to make this the best summer yet...

The Vineyard

The vines are growing vigorously skyward, the grape clusters are in full bloom and the chores seem endless. Our team has spent the past few weeks hand-planting the new Ribolla Gialla vines! RG is a grape variety I fell in love with last spring when my wife and I visited Northeast Italy. It makes beautiful wines in many styles – bright, aromatic wines fermented in steel, richly textured wines fermented in oak, and of course, delicious bubbly. We're the first to plant it in Maryland, and I have many reasons to believe it will make absolutely gorgeous wines from our greenstone soils.

Then there are the mature vines. We’ve been tirelessly removing suckers, positioning shoots between the trellis wires and removing leaves adjacent to clusters to expose them to the sun and breeze – nature’s antibiotics. We think a bottle of wine will reflect our efforts… At least that’s what we tell ourselves!

The Winery

Then there’s the cellar, where we’re preparing many new wines for bottling. Lisa is racking the reds from the French oak barrels where they’ve rested for the past year and a half, to the tanks in the exact proportions to make up our blends. We determined these blends through many hours of tasting, deliberation and consensus over the quiet winter months. The white wines are being moved from tank to tank leaving behind only the lees.

Important note: These wines will be bottled without fining or filtration. This is a move we are making to offer wine drinkers a more authentic product. One without any makeup. Lisa does things a bit differently – and hopefully better – every passing year because she’s always learning and challenging the status quo. We hope you’ll enjoy this latest revelation.

The Tasting Room

We believe that the only way to truly appreciate great wine is through a personal experience. So, come spend a relaxing, fun-filled evening on the farm! Every Friday from May – October is #FoodTruckFriday! We have a local food truck on site from 5-10 PM slinging local fare to complement our delicious wines and live music by talented musicians. This all in addition to our year-round Saturdays & Sundays from 12-5 PM. So dust off your lawn chairs and join us in the country!

Thank You

Lastly, we want to say thank you to our loyal customers. We consider you all friends. It’s an absolute honor to spend every day doing what we love -- to make your summer even better. Your appreciation and encouragement has been overwhelming over the years and we would not be here without each one of you.

We can’t wait to see you all at Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard this summer!

Ribolla Gialla

Ribolla Gialla

We're excited to let you in on a little something: We're doing something that's never been done in Maryland before! Ribolla Gialla vines come to Old Westminster! Many of you know that we love to experiment with new varieties. But the bottom line for us is that we always only want to grow natural wines that authentic with a sense of place and time, and of course, we always strive to make iconic wines that are delicious and unique. Ribolla Gialla makes really beautiful, light-bodied wines with high natural acidity and floral notes. In this short video, we'll take you on a little field trip to show you the process of planting these beauties.    

'Wine For Lunch’ LiveCast Strikes a Chord

'Wine For Lunch’ LiveCast Strikes a Chord

On Tuesday, May 2nd, Wine For Lunch hosts, Lisa Hinton, Ashli Johnson, and Drew Baker announced to more than 1,000 viewers the addition of an informative new feature: Each month, the sibling trio will feature a new theme for the live and interactive wine tasting. Themes include wine styles, varieties, and regions – both locally and around the world – each to be chosen live by the W4L audience. It’s a great opportunity to grow in your appreciation and knowledge of wine. This is mid-week wine tasting for the 21st century!

photo credit: Kelly Heck Photography

photo credit: Kelly Heck Photography

The first theme is “Wines from New York State.” And since there are five weeks in the month of May, they've selected five favorite wines: Hermann J. Wiemer’s 2014 Field Cuvée, Channing Daughters’ 2015 Ramato, Forge Cellars’ 2014 Les Alliés, Southold Farm + Cellars’ 2014 Flying and Falling, and Paumanok’s 2010 Merlot.

As you might expect from a livecast, viewers decide which wine each week. The first week, viewers voted (with a bit of nudging by Lisa) for Paumanok’s 2010 Merlot. And boy are we glad they did. This wine is lights out – offering intense aromas of crushed blackberries, plum, fig, and sweet vanilla – chewy and complex on the palate with rich, voluminous tannins. On the bottle, this wine said to drink between 5-10 years after bottling. At seven years old, this wine shows youthful exuberance. What a great wine to start this new theme off right!

Over the next four weeks, we'll explore each of the other wines in the order viewers select. Then for the month of June, viewers decide what style, variety or region to explore next.

Tune in – and weigh in – Join us for Wine For Lunch every Tuesday at 1:00 PM LIVE on Facebook & Instagram!

Bottling Day 2017!

Bottling Day 2017!

We love Springtime! All our hard work is meticulously packaged in a beautifully labeled bottle. And we can't wait for you to enjoy these beauties in our tasting room on a warm, sun-shiny day coming soon! If you've ever wondered how wine is bottled, here's a little window into the process. And even better: The beauty of the bottle is surpassed by the wine within. Come and experience it for yourself!  

Soil Exploration at Burnt Hill

When you think "farmer," does your mind associate science with it? Hopefully this video will convey that it should! Farming and science work hand-in-hand. Add to this that technology has come a long way for farmers and vintners. We hope this short video gives you a window into all that goes into that wine you're about to experience at our tasting room this summer!     

Here’s A Peek: Old Westminster Spring Updates

Here’s A Peek: Old Westminster Spring Updates

The kind of Spring you can feel is finally here! Sure, for most that means Mother’s Day, busting out the grill, and baseball. But for us, like every other season of the year, it means growing and bottling world-class wines. We’ve been working diligently all winter and now we’re ready for you to taste the results.

Here are 4 things we thought you’d like to know about this budding vintage: 

1. The Vineyard

It all starts here. We’ve just finished pruning all 10,000 vines in our Home Vineyard. Each vine was meticulously cared for to ensure healthy growth in the season ahead. Now we eagerly await bud-break. Please hope along with us that we’ll dodge frost this spring! We’re not out from beneath this annual threat until Mother's Day.

2. The Winery

We’re putting finishing touches on our first Pét-Nat to be released this spring -- affectionately named Barbera Rosé. This wine is sure to change the game! Lisa is also preparing our still wines for the first round of bottling on April 17th. This year we're doing things a bit differently. These wines are made with as light of a human hand as possible: wild yeast fermentation and bottled without fining or filtration. We think the results will knock your socks off!

3. The Burnt Hill Project

We’re in discovery mode at our newly acquired Burnt Hill Farm. On April 12th we will be EM (electromagnetic) mapping. EM maps use the conductivity of soil to create subsurface maps. It’s like an x-ray. As you can imagine, it's impossible to peel an entire hillside back to study each layer of soil. Instead, we create color coded EM maps. Once we have our maps, we dig "truth pits" (6' deep holes) with a backhoe. These pits, in conjunction with our maps, give us a complete picture of what's beneath so that we can better know the soils on our hillside. This technology informs our decisions on what varieties of grapes to plant and where. There’s no room for guessing on a project of this magnitude.

4. The Tasting Room

Back at the Old Westminster tasting room, we are ramping up for the season. New wines are on the way and so is live music. And food trucks! On Cinco de Mayo from 5-10PM, we are hosting our inaugural "Food Truck Friday" featuring wood-fired pizza from our good friends from Well Crafted Pizza, live music from the ever-talented Mark Scott, and of course plenty of delicious wine! Pack up some lawn chairs and join us in the country for a relaxing, fun-filled evening.

We can’t wait to see you at Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard this year! Each year brings a new phase in our growth. As local farmers and artisans, we absolutely love to share the fruit of the land with you. Check out the Summer lineup Here.

Rainy Day At The Winery

Just like farming is never really over, winemaking goes on behind the scenes through the cold and rainy days. Winemaking is a year-round process -- not to mention the business side of things. So on this rainy day in April, we thought you might enjoy some insights from Drew, as he walks you through a fun little agriculture lesson.   

Maryland Wine Hits National Newsstands

Maryland Wine Hits National Newsstands

The Old Line State isn’t all that old in wine years. And it certainly isn’t known in the overall grand world history of wine. Sure, there’s been something of a wine industry here in some small form for a few hundred years. But in terms of serious players, let’s face it: Maryland hasn’t popped off the map.

But that’s changing. And it’s always been our intent to be a part of the evolution. When we first sat down to write a vision statement for our little vineyard here, the suggestion “putting Maryland wine on the world map” sounded a bit over the top, even to our ears – certainly too crazy to actually write down. But here’s what we knew then and now: There’s nothing about our soil and climate that prohibits the growing of world-class wines in Maryland. So we set out to do just that.

Fast forward to now. Wine Enthusiast just published an article that offers our little state a long-awaited hat tip: “At 370 years old, the winemaking industry here [in Maryland] is ready for prime time.” Minds... blown. We couldn’t believe our eyes.

Citing Maryland’s recent “wine renaissance”, Enthusiast’s Dave McIntyre reminds us that we only had 12 wineries here at the turn of the century and that now that number “is up to 85 at the beginning of this year” and that “more than 900 acres are planted to vines.”

“Top wineries” named in this highly regarded national publication are Old Westminster, Black Ankle, Boordy and Big Cork. But there are many, many more quality producers behind this wine awakening. And they made it a point to mention the 117 acre farm we recently purchased for our next-level project that we affectionately refer to as Burnt Hill.  

Another mention of note is the role of experimentation in the emerging craft of Maryland winemaking, and of course, we’re referring to our foray into the world of Pét-Nat – a bubbly first for the emerging Maryland wine-scape.

Since the paper version of The Wine Enthusiast is their primary mode of circulation, a web version of the article won’t be available until the magazine hits the old newsstands. But we’re accustomed to waiting. We’re winemakers. We’ll send out a link as soon as it’s out!

3 Lessons from 7 Years in the Family Business

3 Lessons from 7 Years in the Family Business

Seven years we’ve been working together. Not just the passing each other in the office, touching base on the phone, or updates at a weekly meeting kind of working together. I mean sitting at the very kitchen table we grew up eating around every day brainstorming new opportunities, reflecting on past decisions, talking for hours about ideas, strategies, timing and growth. Day after day, morning to evening, week to weekend; we spend more time together than we do our own selves. Sounds tiring, doesn’t it?

One of the most frequent questions we're asked about our business is, “How do you work together as a family? I could never work with my siblings.”

Over the years, we've developed practical ways of working together. We have different personalities, sensitivities, and ways we receive challenge and encouragement. We’ve learned a lot through time and experience. No matter what the position, or who you work with, business relationships can be difficult. But when they are defined – and refined – they can be the foundation for a healthy and inspiring work environment.

Here are 3 ways we balance work and relationship:

1. Build People

We all have unique skills and strengths. We learned early on that we thrive in different situations. We have taken the time to massage our individual strengths, let go of our weaknesses, and leverage ourselves through strategic positions. We work within our strike zones because we can't all do everything.  

“You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build the business” – Zig Ziglar

2. Stay Connected

It can be easy to slip into the habit of continuously being all about the business. We make great efforts to invest in ourselves, each other, and our families outside of work. We encourage and enable one another to take breaks, travel, and continue education. We balance our business relationships with personal relationships by talking about individual goals, faith, and future. And generally, we just make time to hang out together outside of work, even though most of the time it’s drinking wine together. :)    

3. Others First  

Respect is an essential key to our relationships. When all else fails, the golden rule stands true: treat others the way you want to be treated. We are not perfect; we argue, we disagree, and we can even lose tempers. That’s when the most important skills are essential: to apologize when wrong, sacrifice for the good of the other, and celebrate everyone’s victories – small or large.

So here we are as a family business. Not without struggle, but always rewarding. We have different talents, but one vision. We will continue to grow individually and as a team, working together to put Maryland wine on the map!  

Old Westminster Winery Update

Join Ashli and Lisa as they bust some fresh dance moves in the vineyard. Aaaannd they'll also show you some things that go on behind the scenes in the cellar -- like explaining some of alternative technical terms for basic "cleaning" because it's actually really important! We'll also take a little walk through the vineyard to share a thing or two about vine pruning.     

Road Trip to New York!

Road Trip to New York!

Ashli and I took a little road trip to a grapevine nursery in New York. If you've ever wondered where grapevines originate, this little two minute video will give you an idea! We'll be planting a new vineyard at Burnt Hill Farm in 2019 and doing all the preliminary groundwork is essential. Knowing the source of your plant material and the grafting process and understanding the quality control measures in place at the nursery is a really important step in ensuring that we're planting a healthy vineyard at Burnt Hill. Stay tuned!  

Not Your Average Tasting Room Experience

Not Your Average Tasting Room Experience

We’re out to do what was previously unthinkable: Put Maryland wine map on the world map.  

Inherent to that vision is growing and producing world-class wines that uniquely reflect our climate, soil, and terrain or what is commonly referred to as terroir. This starts with the perfect hillside, continues with thoughtful, low-input farming practices, and ends in the cellar where we are careful to implement light-handed winemaking techniques. This puts the fruit on display. It's our simple recipe for making noteworthy wines in Maryland.

But this effort continues into the tasting room. Beyond producing delicious Maryland wines, we are in the business of creating authentic, wine-centered experiences. We believe that the only way to truly appreciate great wine is through personal encounters. So we’ve created a medium for you to taste, learn and enjoy. Nestled in Carroll County's rolling countryside, our cozy tasting room is a beautiful destination to not only rest and relax but also to experience delicious, Maryland-grown wines. Wine and conversation is always the big feature here and the main focal point of our tasting room experience.  

Another reason this is important is that we see wine as food. So to make this a complete and full-bodied experience, we host events throughout the year to celebrate food artistry such as Food Truck Fridays (every Friday, May – October). There are also events that celebrate wine tradition and culture, like the annual Saint Vincent Festival. And lastly, events like "En Primeur" that offer Cru Club members exclusive access to taste and purchase special wines before they're made available to the public.

Come spend some time with us. You’ll be greeted by friendly staff, taste some great wines, and really get to know the beauty of world-class winemaking.

Cover Crops

Cover Crops

Managing the soil is essential for farmers and vignerons. A measured and thoughtful approach and employing best practices is key to great winemaking. If we're going to put Maryland wine on the world map, we'll have to start with the best soil on gently rolling hills. This is precisely what we've found at Burnt Hill Farm. It all starts here, not just with the grapes, but even before that -- with the soil they're cultivated in. We may not be able to dictate the weather during any emerging vintage, but we can manage soil. Maryland vineyards hold great promise in the winemaking space with thoughtful farming practices. Slow and steady wins the race.      

Superb Wine Requires Smart Farming

Superb Wine Requires Smart Farming

The quality of a wine is determined by the quality of the grapes from which it was made. And the quality of the grapes is predicated on the quality of the hillside where they’re grown. So our goal, then, is to grow grapes on the best possible hillside. That’s why one of the most exciting aspects of the Burnt Hill project is the opportunity to start from a clean slate on an exceptional hillside. 

So much about a hill, like soil type and topography, is not easily improved. But there are some things, like biodiversity and soil resiliency, that greatly impact outcomes and can be enriched through thoughtful farming practices, like biodynamics. Developed in 1924, biodynamics was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks.

Think of a farm as a living, breathing organism. Like a human body with a system of organs, a farm is a system of interacting beings, substances and processes. This understanding is a fundamental starting point for biodynamic practices. To help guide our biodynamic program, we've welcomed Joseph Brinkley to our team. Joseph is a viticulturist and biodynamic specialist who has managed the largest certified organic vineyards in the country. 

Our purpose, as it relates to Burnt Hill, is growing the highest quality grapes. To achieve this, we must bring balance and health to the soil, plants, and animals that inhabit the farm. So the next few years will be spent getting to know the rhythms of the land. We will till the earth, cultivate biodiverse cover crops, compost, and prepare the foundation for our vineyard. We will begin this journey by focusing on overall soil health.

Here are 4 ways we will achieve healthy soils and a balanced farm system:

1. Compost

Compost is the only way to increase humus in the soil. Without humus, soil is dead. Not all composts are equal, and like wine, to get good compost one must start with good ingredients. The goal here is high quality, soil enlivening, humus-enriching materials with the addition of biodynamic preparations. Raising animals and growing our own ingredients is key to ensure the highest quality compost. 

2. Cover Crops

There are several plant ‘types’ we will focus on: legumes, grasses, small grains, brassica, and flowers. In late-summer, we will sow our first mix of daikon radishes, clover, barley, flax and buckwheat into the hillside. The aim is to keep our plantings diverse, knowing that plants feed soil.

3. Field Sprays

Biodynamic preparations add to the life processes of the soil and overall health of the farm. Without these, we won't get the full benefit of the biodynamic method. In time, we will raise our own animals and make our own biodynamic preparations on the farm.

4. Biodiversity 

There are many ways to increase plant and animal biodiversity: wild and domesticated animals, trees, hedges, habitat, meadows, etc. Our aim is to creatively build biodiversity on our farm with multiple layers of benefit. 

Farming is inherently an exploitative process. This is why we are consciously “giving” to the land before we start “taking.” Our work through time will be based on rhythms and a conscious cultivation of the soil. Observations from time spent on the farm will inform how and where we plant and design this new vineyard and farm. 

So here we are at the very start. Now is the time to prepare the farm for success. We will plant our vineyard only when the soil is ready. This Burnt Hill hillside – with all its elements in harmony – has the capacity to yield wines unlike anywhere else on earth. In due time we'll taste and see. 

Crazy Weather

It’s not just about the weather during the Spring and Summer months that affect the vines -- winter plays a big role in any given vintage. The colder the winter, the better the vintage because cold air helps keep the vines dormant. "Yesterday it was 70 degrees and that just tricks vines into thinking it’s spring before we’re ready for them to bud out. So the colder the better.” There’s plenty to do during the winter months while the vines lay dormant. Like this footage of Lisa kegging 2016 Chardonnay for local Baltimore restaurants that feature Old Westminster in their tap program. 

An Open Letter to Annapolis

An Open Letter to Annapolis

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Since our original post, The Maryland Wineries Association is now working with Delegate Miller and the MSLBA to draft new language for HB-742. Delegate Miller did not intend to hurt Maryland wineries and I trust that a positive compromise will be reached. It appears that our voices have been heard! Thank you for your activism. This seems like a great example of how the local democratic process can and should function. We remain hopeful toward our vision to put Maryland wine on the world map!

Original Post:

As many of you saw on Facebook and Instagram yesterday, I spent President's Day in Annapolis testifying against a piece of proposed legislation. This was the first time I've ever provided personal testimony and I typically wouldn’t get involved in such a thing except that our family farm – and many others like it – would be devastated if this bill passes into law as written.

I know that there are always two sides (or more) to an issue. I’m not out to impugn the sponsor of the bill as I understand that bills are often drafted with reasonable intentions. But I also know that unintended consequences can sometimes be overlooked. In this case, the results would put a significant number of Maryland farmers out of business.

The particular bill that brought me to Annapolis is House Bill 742 – brought forth by Delegate Warren Miller from Howard County on behalf of the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA).

Bottom line: This bill would put 25 Maryland wineries out of business on day 1.

The proposed legislation states that a farm winery license may only be issued to “a location that has as its principal purpose the production of wine.” This doesn’t seem unreasonable at face value, especially to public servants who are unaware of how Maryland farm wineries actually operate, but it would hang local farms and farmers out to dry.

Beyond Old Westminster Winery – the flagship vineyard that our family “bet the farm on” and poured our lives into – we also own Maryland Wine Cellars, a full-service winemaking facility that other area vineyards rely on to produce wines from their local farm produce. They send us their grapes for production, bottling, and labeling, and then we send it back ready to market in their tasting rooms. It’s a cost-saving resource that local vineyards have built their businesses on. This bill would undo years of work, time, and financial investment. The farm wineries that rely on our space, equipment and expertise would be forced to either come up with millions of dollars to build and equip their own winemaking facility, or go out of business. The current cooperative environment we all benefit from would cease to exist.

So I spent six hours listening to bill after bill waiting for HB-742 to be heard. When it was finally called, I had the opportunity to step up to the table and share my testimony before the Economic Matters Committee. I told the story of Old Westminster Winery and how we’re a family business run by three siblings and our parents, a local farm that relies on the land and the commodity that we produce, and how this bill would put us – and 25 others like us – right out of business.  

I truly believe this is a perfect example of a bill drafted with reasonable intentions, yet loaded with unintended consequences. In fact, after I testified, Delegate Miller (the sponsor of the bill) was surprised to learn of the widespread impact his bill would have.

The reality is that many legislators are completely unaware of what grape growers and winemakers do, making it necessary to write this piece.

You see, wine is made in the vineyard. Grapes are grown on farms. We are farmers. We work hard to make a living, create jobs, support local commerce, and enhance the quality of life for a lot of Marylanders.  

It’s honest work, old school agriculture, and an ancient business model that supports rural economies. We generate a significant amount of tax revenue from our wines and contribute to Maryland tourism. We also benefit other local shops, restaurants, and hotels. We’re proud Marylanders who have a passion for putting Maryland wine on the world map and being a blessing to a lot of locals in the process.

While I understand the intent of house bill 742 – to clearly define a “farm winery” – I believe it’s imperative that we do this in a way that preserves farms, creates jobs, and supports local agro-tourism. The raw truth is that this bill will put many good old-fashioned farmers straight out of business and undo everything we’ve worked so diligently to achieve over the past 10 years.

One of the lessons I learned during the testimony process is that citizens can, in fact, persuade the legislature by thoughtfully and respectfully presenting concerns. Consider letting delegate Miller know that you support Maryland wineries. Let him know that you care about local farmers, jobs, and the Maryland agricultural economy.

Here's the link if you care to write Delegate Miller: