Cru Cuvée Blending Event 2018

Cru Cuvée Blending Event 2018

Check out this behind-the-scenes video of our Cru Cuvée Blending Event held right here at Old Westminster Winery.

"Cru" is a grade of wine or vineyard, especially one of recognized quality. Old Westminster invites you to join "The CRU"  -- a community of members who enjoy wines with a sense of place.

One of the benefits of membership is that members are invited to help blend a special red wine called Cru Cuvée once a year. It’s wine blended by club members for club members.

Other member advantages include 10% discount on all wine purchases, up to four complimentary tastings at the winery each visit, preferred access to small production wines, and of course, annual "En primeur" tastings.

For more information on becoming a cru club member, click here.

Our Cans: Delicious, Fun, and Maryland to the Core

Our Cans: Delicious, Fun, and Maryland to the Core

I have to admit – we had a moment of apprehension when we first thought to introduce canned wine into the marketplace. But we also recognized the potential for making delicious wine more accessible and unencumbered – for life’s adventures – and we believe people deserve to enjoy wines they love with people they love, anywhere. 

Accessibility is one thing. The palate is another. And we settled for nothing less than delicious, fun, and Maryland to the core. Our vision came to life on November 1, 2017, we became the first winery in the Mid-Atlantic to can wine. And not just any wine. Wines that are true to our principles: 100% local & natural. All the grapes are grown right here in Maryland, fermented on our farm with wild yeast and canned on-site without filtration or "makeup."

Fast forward four months to our second canning run and our core belief remains the same: these wines are intended for true wine-lovers on the go – living life to the full and enjoying delicious and expressive wines along the way. And I have to admit that these new gems exceeded even my own expectations. 

Here’s a rundown on our new lineup of wild, unfiltered canned wines: 

Farmer Fizz Rosé

This delectable sparkling rosé is a blend of Maryland-grown Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, and Petit Verdot. This wine is characterized by wonderfully fine bubbles, pleasant red fruit aromas, refreshingly light texture and crisp acidity. This Sparkling Rosé pairs with nearly everything! Think oysters on the half shelf, chargrilled salmon, sushi and anything on the Sunday brunch menu! 

Raw Rosé

This mouthwatering rosé is a blend of Maryland-grown Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, and Petit Verdot. Characterized by vibrant aromas of cherry, rhubarb, watermelon and rose petals, pleasantly soft texture and zippy acidity. Pair this wine with barbecued ribs, lobster roll, Chesapeake bay crab cakes, pan seared scallops, or simply enjoy it on the patio with friends! 

Vine & Vigor

This refreshing dry white wine is a blend of Maryland-grown Chardonnay, Viognier, Chardonel and Vidal Blanc. This wine offers aromas of golden delicious apples, mandarin orange peel, orange starburst, white flowers and mineral notes. On the palate, lively texture, bracing acidity and a lingering finish. Pair this wine with grilled fish, a slice of watermelon, and anything with fresh avocados, tomatoes, onions, olives and feta cheese. 

Bloom

This delicious semi-sweet white wine is a blend of Maryland-grown Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc and Muscat. This wine offers aromas of peaches, pears, mango and other tropical fruit with a touch of white flowers; baby’s breath and hydrangeas. On the palate, candied oranges, lemon-lime soda, green apples and soft, silky texture. Pair this wine with anything from the Chesapeake Bay – think crab cakes, oysters, shrimp salad, or sunny days by the water. On a sweeter side, enjoy it with desserts with fresh fruits, honey, crepes, tarts or even bread pudding. 

Farmer Fizz Rosé. Raw Rosé. Vine & Vigor. Bloom!

These new cans are coming to a wine shop near you on April 1! #nojoke

Follow us on Facebook & Instagram for breaking news and release info.

2018 Bottling Day!

2018 Bottling Day!

Rise and shine! It's Spring 2018 Bottling Day at Old Westminster Winery! 

Ever wonder how they get ships in bottles? So do we. And we have no idea. But we can tell you how we get this year's releases into our bottles so you can enjoy these wines all season long! 

Join us -- take a peak into our bottling process -- it'll give you a deeper appreciation for all that goes into each and every bottle of delicious Old Westminster wine. 

The sparkling wine you’ve never heard of.

The sparkling wine you’ve never heard of.

The sparkling wine you’ve never heard of.

In keeping with our love of putting local spins on classic European traditions – and our love of bubbles – we're making col fondo this spring.

That’s right. Col fondo!  

Col fondo is the O.G. of Prosecco

Prosecco is a sparkling Italian wine best served chilled and enjoyed on the patio with friends. It’s a ubiquitous go-to.

Today, most Prosecco is unfortunately mass-produced in a tank-fermented style designed to satisfy the modern demand for clear, fresh, easy bubbles. It’s become a generally homogeneous commodity manufactured by big firms. A real shame considering what it once was.

Col fondo is the real Prosecco. It’s the traditional, rustic sparkling wine made by Italian farmers for centuries prior to the tank method. And we think it’s prime for a renaissance.

Backstory

Our recent pétillant naturel (pét nat) wines have opened a path to new ideas. If you haven’t heard of pét nat, imagine Champagne’s hipster cousin. On summer vacation. It’s a naturally sparkling wine that’s handmade, raw, fizzy, a mix of clouds and sun, and thirst-quenchingly delicious. We wrote all about it last year and you can get that article here.

Experimentation is at the heart of our progression as winemakers. We set out on our journey simply imitating wines we liked. Over time, we began to develop our own style. And now, we’re evolving beyond it.

Our success with pét nat has inspired us to a new challenge: col fondo.

Col fondo, Maryland-style

If you love sparkling wine and authentic products, you’ll adore col fondo. And you’ll have a chance to get your hands on some real soon – Old Westminster style.  

Col fondo (“with its bottom” or “with sediment”), is an unfiltered, buzzy, effervescent bottle-fermented expression of Prosecco. And yep, it’s deliciously dirty.

With its second fermentation occurring in the bottle, col fondo (like Champagne) is drier and way more complex than most modern Prosecco. Unlike Champage, col fondo isn’t riddled and disgorged and never receives a dosage. Like pét nat, it’s served with sediment still in the bottom of the bottle.

It too will prove to be a summer fave. So make sure you stay in tune to get the low-down on our progress and coming release dates.

Something magical happens when history and tradition merge with locality and innovation. Like pét nat. And now, like col fondo.

Salute!

Our CANS Featured in Baltimore Style

Our CANS Featured in Baltimore Style

Sometimes it’s good to break from old norms. Sometimes it makes sense. When access to great wine is hindered by “we’ve always done it that way,” we have to ask ourselves, why wouldn’t we fix that?

It’s 2018 for crying out loud.  

Like say for instance you’re going hiking or on a romantic picnic. Or camping. Or a day at the beach. You want exceptional wine for the occasion, yes? Of course. But all of the paraphernalia gets to be a hassle for those settings. Corkscrews and stemware aren’t always convenient. And when the occasion is right, why allow anything to come between you and perfectly delicious wine?

So we came up with a counterintuitive solution.

Cans.

Since no winery in Maryland – or Virginia, or Pennsylvania – has ever canned wine before, of course we had to challenge the why of that. So we got busy making delicious wines accessible, travel-friendly, and ready to enjoy – anytime, anywhere.

But this isn't just about cans. Our cans are for wine lovers, adventurous souls, and those who seek out unique experiences. Canned wine has been done elsewhere before, but they're mostly mass-produced wines.

So we wanted to can wines that inspire you. So we did.

Jessica Gregg, in the latest edition of Baltimore Style, puts it this way:

“The perfect pairing for winter bonfires, summer picnics and fall tailgates has made its way to local shelves – wine in a can. Old Westminster Winery, the family-run vineyard that began bottling wine in 2013 and quickly made a name for itself, is now the first in the Mid-Atlantic to uncork, literally, this trend. ‘We don’t think wine should be reserved for dinner parties, celebratory gatherings or restaurant experiences,’ vigneron and winery founder Drew Baker says. ‘Glass bottles, corkscrews and stemware have all too often hindered us from drinking the wines we want to drink. We felt it was time to change that.’ Old Westminster offers three canned choices: Farmer Fizz, a sparkling Chardonnay; Carbonic, a Cabernet Franc; and Seeds & Skins, a skin-fermented Pinot Gris. Within a week of hitting the market, the cans were sold out on the winery’s website, but are available at select wine and liquor stores (STYLE staff found it Kenilworth Wine & Spirits). More local love: Baltimore artist Rebecca Smith designed the labels and Elkridge-based River City Cannery put the product in its portable containers. We predict something this fun and flavorful will change up the menu matching, and for once, send diners for the right foods to pair with their wine.”

Get the full story here: http://baltimorestyle.com/heating-up-2018/

Blending Day at Old Westminster Winery

Blending Day at Old Westminster Winery

Blending is a way to create wines that are more delicious than the sum of its parts. The reason we blend is to create distinctive wines that are balanced, reflect the vineyard and vintage, and of course, are a pleasure to drink.

When we sat down to the blending table this past weekend, there were four of us: Lisa, Ashli, Lucien Guillemet (our enological consultant) and me. Lucien is the winemaker at Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, a Grand Cru Classé Château in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux, France. He visits Maryland twice a year to taste, deliberate, and blend. His expertise acts as a sounding board – multiple skilled palates are a key to the successful blending process. 

In this video, Ashli takes us behind the scenes of the blending process at Old Westminster Winery! Are you excited to taste these new wines? 

 

The Art & Science of Blending Wine

The Art & Science of Blending Wine

Great wine is the sum of many details. Most people see a simple linear sequence: farming, fermentation, aging, and bottling. But true wine lovers peer deeper into the sequence and see more... 

Great wine is realized at the 3-way intersection of art, science, and hard work. 

Blending is a medium for creating a wine that is more delicious than the sum of its parts. The reason we blend is to create distinctive wines that are balanced, reflect the vineyard and vintage, and of course, are a pleasure to drink.

In the cellar, our winemaker Lisa Hinton and her talented team are careful to preserve the integrity of each lot of grapes and subsequently the wine to preserve its unique personality. Every barrel of wine is much like a puzzle-piece belonging to a beautiful and nuanced landscape -- a single thread woven throughout a brilliant tapestry. 

When we sat down to the blending table this past weekend, there were four of us: Lisa, Ashli, Lucien Guillemet (our enological consultant) and me. Lucien is the winemaker at Chateau Boyd-Cantenac, a Grand Cru Classé Château in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux, France. He visits Maryland twice a year to taste, deliberate, and blend. His expertise acts as a sounding board – multiple skilled palates are a key to the successful blending process. 

Each year we improve individually and as a team. We build on past experiences. We labor over the nuances. We sweat the details. We seek greatness. We taste and reflect on past vintages in a concerted effort to refine a vision for the next vintage. 

Outfitted with a few wine glasses, a pipette, a graduated cylinder -- and a spittoon -- we set out to assemble our Magnum Opus – our greatest work.

We taste each lot separately and take detailed notes on aromas, flavors, structure, and overall quality. We consider our goals for each blend and start blending a few wines we suspect will “play well together.”

We again take detailed notes. We tweak the blend. We ask, "Do you like the direction this wine is going?" We continue to adjust the percentages of each wine in the blend until we find proportions that sing – it’s often quite obvious! 

For example, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot are the usual suspects. These varieties are often blended – each variety bringing a unique characteristic to the table.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon contributes full-bodied wines with generous tannins and acidity that contributes to the wines’ aging potential

  • Merlot is full-bodied with lush, velvety tannins, plump texture, intense black fruit

  • Cabernet Franc contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends

  • Petit Verdot contributes abundant tannin, inky color, and violet and leather aromas to the blend

Blending each of these varieties in just the right proportions is essential to creating truly stunning wines.

The blending process isn’t finished until every individual lot has its home in a stunning wine. Rough blends are typically compiled over a few long days.

We then revisit these wines over the ensuing weeks, hypothesize, and make adjustments. We then share finished but-not-yet-bottled blends with our staff, friends, customers, and sommeliers for feedback.

Over the past five years, we have honed our blending skills and are quite proud of this year’s results. We can’t wait to share the fruits of our labor with you later this spring!

Burgundy's Saint Vincent Festival... In Westminster, Maryland!

Burgundy's Saint Vincent Festival... In Westminster, Maryland!

Each January in Burgundy, France, locals celebrate the Festival of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers. The celebration takes place in a different winegrowing village each year. Saint Vincent celebrations attract tens of thousands of people over the weekend. Visitors pay to tour the village where local winegrowers have opened their cellars for wine tasting, and join in the fun.

In the town square, the houses are decorated with paper mache flowers and many of the locals dress up in costumes from eras past. It's quirky. And beautiful. Winemakers pour special bottles of wine and offer samples of future vintages straight from the barrel. 

We decided to bring this tradition to Maryland! So on January 27-28, 2018, The Saint Vincent festival took place in the rolling hills of Westminster, Maryland. Get a little taste of Burgundy in this video! 

Cru Club Wine Release – February 2018

Cru Club Wine Release – February 2018

Every season has its own unique charm in the vineyard. Winter is no exception. From pruning dormant vines to caring for aging wines, there’s much to do. The vineyard may appear lifeless, but there’s tremendous energy beneath the surface preparing to burst with vitality. Vision, art, process – and especially winemaking – are all things that never rest. To this end, we’re excited to announce the first Cru Club allocation of 2018!

Reflecting Back & Looking Ahead

Reflecting Back & Looking Ahead

We have a simple mission: to put Maryland wine on the map. That makes it important for us to be fully aware of everything we do and how it plays into the bigger picture. The beginning of a new year is always a great time to reflect back and look ahead.

On New Year's Day, our family got together for our annual big picture meeting. We discussed everything from farming practices to winemaking techniques, new product ideas, finances, staffing, and events. What’s working, what’s not and where can we do better were the common questions regardless of the topic.

The only rules at our family meetings are:

  • Allow everyone to contribute

  • Be open-minded

  • Don’t interrupt the person speaking

  • Don’t start sentences with “No”

  • Be respectful

  • Cell phones off

  • Capture decisions and action items

At the end of the meeting we talked about what we were most proud of from the year past, and what we were looking forward to sharing with our community in the year ahead. That’s what we want to share with you.

2017 achievements

1. Top 101 Winery in America – For the second year in a row, we’ve found our name on this prestigious list. We honestly still can’t believe it. The number 87 winery in America is truly humbling given that there are nearly 9,000 wineries across all 50 states. To put that in perspective, Old Westminster Winery is in the top 1%. We’re happy that the criteria is rigorous and that any winery that makes the list has to pass tough muster. It’s an honor to make the cut. Here’s a link to the article and the complete list: 101 Best Wineries in America

2. Wine On A Mission – Shortly after hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas, we started a campaign to support the victims. This project quickly grew to include those affected by subsequent hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico. Our hearts broke for those faced with the epic task of rebuilding their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. We earmarked $1 of every bottle of wine we sold for the relief effort and ultimately donated $10,000 to The Red Cross hurricane relief efforts.

3. Featured in Wine Enthusiast – The Old Line State isn’t all that old in wine years. And it certainly isn’t known in the grand world history of wine. But that’s changing. And it’s always been our intent to be a part of the evolution. Fast forward to now. Wine Enthusiast just published an article that offers our little state a long-awaited nod of approval: “At 370 years old, the winemaking industry in Maryland is ready for prime time.” Minds... blown. Maryland is coming of age right before our eyes. And we’re so honored to be considered a “top winery” along with so many others that are doing things the right way. See the full story here: Maryland Wine Hits National Newsstands

4. Baltimore’s Best Winery – Every year, Baltimore Magazine publishes a list celebrating all things awesome in the Baltimore region. This year, we were honored with the title of Best Winery. The magazine wrote: “When three siblings are a farmer, a chemist, and a marketing whiz, the logical next step is to open a winery. Our ideal Friday night is sipping on fizzy Pét-Nat Albariño and listening to live music outside the beautiful tasting room.” See the full list here: Best of Baltimore 2017

5. Can Project – Everything we do at Old Westminster Winery focuses on making the best wines we can and challenging the status quo. In that spirit of innovation... we CANNED WINE. And not just any wine. These wines are true to our vision: 100% local & natural. Aaron Menenberg, founder at Good Vitis, said of our canned project: “Old Westminster, for all the fun they have, only put out serious wine, even if it’s playful.” Read more here: Noteworthy Maryland Wine... In a Can.

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New Year; new goals. It’s challenging to lay out all of our goals for 2018 in a single post, so instead we’ll share a few things we’re most excited about in the coming months:

2018 HIGHLIGHTS

1. Saint Vincent Wine Festival – We're putting a Maryland spin on an ancient Burgundian tradition! Each January, wine lovers travel to Burgundy, France to celebrate Saint Vincent, the Patron Saint of Wine. On January 27-28, 2018, The Saint Vincent Wine Festival will take place in the rolling hills of Westminster, Maryland! Join us for a festive weekend featuring winery tours, barrel sampling, live music, seasonal fare and roaring fire pits. Tickets are limited – get yours HERE!

2. New Pét-Nats – If you’ve been following us over the past couple of years, you know we’re ALL IN on pét-nats. Not only because it’s delicious and refreshing, but also because it’s natural and transparent. Pét-nat is an all-but-forgotten style of sparkling wine that made its debut in France’s Loire Valley half a millennia ago. Unlike its showy cousin, the Champagne method, which is precise and calculated, pét-nat is wild and spontaneous. That’s why we love it. This year we’ll be introducing new varieties into our repertoire. Think Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Muscat and Albariño. Stay tuned!

3. En Primeur, Maryland-style – We’re pleased to present a modern twist on a centuries-old Bordeaux concept. Cru members are invited to join us for an exclusive opportunity to taste and purchase new wines before they’re released to the market. During this 2-hour wine immersion, we will acquaint you to the diverse Maryland vineyards where the grapes are grown and Lisa will explain the particulars of each wine by illuminating the different processes and characteristics in the glass. Look for the first En Primeur event the weekend of March 17-18. Stay tuned for more details.

4. New Tasting Room Events – We believe that the only way to truly appreciate great wine is through a personal experience. And that’s why everything we do at our tasting room is centered on our overarching goal to connect our community to the land through a glass of wine. Join us to taste delicious, Maryland-grown wines and a variety of local cheeses, charcuterie, soups, and other seasonal fare – we support local farmers by sourcing local ingredients. We also love to showcase local musicians, artists, and chefs. From Food Truck Friday to Sunday Funday, it’s all about the wine. Wine that displays complexity, character, and – most importantly – is a pleasure to drink. So pack up some lawn chairs this spring and join us in the country for a relaxing, fun-filled experience.

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So here we are at the very start of a new year. Now is the time to prepare for a new phase in our growth. As local farmers and artisans, we absolutely love to share the fruit of the land with you. We can’t wait to see you at Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard this year!

Happy New Year!

The Saint Vincent Wine Festival Comes to Westminster!

The Saint Vincent Wine Festival Comes to Westminster!

This time three years ago my wife Casey and I were planning our trip to France.

One renowned region we were particularly excited to visit was Burgundy. We would call the small, beautiful town of Beaune home for several enlightening days.

From there we would travel the surrounding countryside visiting wineries and tasting many of the most sought-after wines in the world. A wine lover's aha experience and a vigneron’s paradise.

It was mid-January, just 10 days before we left for France and we only had one appointment scheduled in Burgundy. All the wineries we wanted to visit require an appointment -- which are sometimes difficult to schedule. The region I was most excited about was eluding us even before we arrived. Winery after winery told us that they weren’t offering appointments while we were in town. Then, the winemaker from Domaine Bertagna, a premier cru vineyard in Vougeot, was kind enough to give us the full scoop in an email:

“The cellar will not be open on Jan 24-25th because of the Saint Vincent celebration taking place in Vougeot. We are quite busy decorating the village and the domaine. This is a big event where people walk through the villages to discover and taste special Saint Vincent cuvees. I encourage you and your wife to attend this event. All are welcome.”

Wow, what great timing! So I started doing my research on Saint Vincent and here’s what I learned.

Each January in Burgundy, locals celebrate the Festival of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers. The Festival is organized by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (the brotherhood of Burgundy winegrowers). The celebration takes place in a different winegrowing village each year and includes a morning a procession of members of the Confrérie and local winegrowers, a mass hosted by the Grand Council of the Order, and a celebration of the President for the Saint Vincent village of that year. Saint Vincent celebrations attract tens of thousands of people over the weekend. Visitors pay to tour the village where local winegrowers have opened their cellars for wine tasting, and join in the fun.

We woke up on the morning of the Saint Vincent Festival to a cold snowy day in Beaune. At breakfast, we shared our plans to attend the festival with our Bed & Breakfast host. She assured us that the festival would be worth the effort no matter what the weather is like.

So we bundled up and drove 20 minutes from Beaune to the hosting village of Vougeot. As we arrived, the streets were teeming with people. The energy and enthusiasm of the celebration was palpable. Everyone was bundled up and ready to have fun celebrating great wine.

Moreover, in the town square, the houses were decorated with paper mache flowers and many of the locals dressed up in costumes from eras past. It was quirky and beautiful. The snow continued to fall. Winemakers poured special bottles of wine and offered samples of future vintages straight from the barrel. It was so much fun that in that very moment I told my wife that we need to bring this tradition to Maryland.

And so we are...

On January 27-28, 2018 The Saint Vincent festival will take place in the rolling hills of Westminster, Maryland.

Will you join us?


Here are some pictures from our trip...

The Burnt Hill Project: Chapter 1

The Burnt Hill Project: Chapter 1

We are chasing a dream to do something pretty much unheard of – to put Maryland wine on the world map. Sounds crazy, right? The Burnt Hill Project is a new chapter in our story and we'd love to have you come along for the ride! Here's some recent footage of a new and emerging iconic vineyard. 

Taking Time To Get It Right

Taking Time To Get It Right

It was a sunny November morning on the farm – garnished with a crisp breeze at a refreshing 40 degrees. Or what I like to call perfect work weather.  

Thanksgiving Eve was here, so the team met up at Burnt Hill. Fresh and ready for work were Lisa, Ashli, Casey & me, as well as Joey Fox, Jack Wells, and Ian Mansfield. We got started at 8:00 with coffee and another of our little strategic talks – swirled around biodynamics. What is it? Why is it important?

I wrote about it at length in a recent piece, Fostering a Relationship with the Land.

We talked about the biodynamic field spray we’d be applying – and also about timing, our tight-knit community, and all our collective energies. Ian spoke up at one point and said, “This is like a farm christening.” And he was exactly right!

There is something sacred about our human relationship with the land.

Coffee down, we all went to gather tools needed. Since our plan was to spread the field spray by hand, we collected branches from a nearby cedar tree – the perfect tool to dip in our bucket and broadcast mix to the ground. From there we filled our buckets with the activated mix, piled in the pickup truck and caravanned to the top of Burnt Hill.

Once atop we all stood in a circle – facing outwards, back-to-back – and each claimed the slice of land in front of them as their “zone.” Like a big pie. We each went out a step at a time, casting our elixir to the ground. Everyone had their own technique – Lisa, Casey, Joey and I were charged with covering the western side of the hill with the wind in our face. Lisa and I walked all the way to the bottom of the hill and worked our way back up, wind behind us. Casey and Joey opted to work into the wind, but zigzagging so as to not get covered with the compost mist. Which is a really good move. Jack, Ian, and Ashli were all working to the east with the wind to their back and simply marched forward. It took seven of us about an hour to cover the hillside.

Ashli’s video highlights:

At the end, we went back down to the house to debrief. We talked about what we had done and what the experience was like for each of us. Jack was trying to find the right mix of order and chaos. Ashli noticed how each of us had our own unique approach and felt like our personalities came through while we worked. Lisa shared how she started off focused on covering the ground in her “zone” perfectly, but at some point along the way realized there was more to it than that. For me, I loved the communal aspect. All of us out there working and learning together, caring for the land, and having fun.

I believe humans are uniquely capable of bringing a vision for developing a farm. And with that knowledge comes a sobering responsibility: It’s a farmer’s job to carry out their vision in a thoughtful and loving way. Not only is this the best way to create a healthy farm organism, it’s also key to personal sustainability. And to the best of my knowledge, that’s what biodynamics is really all about. And that’s why we are implementing biodynamics at Burnt Hill.

Farming is inherently an exploitative process. This is why we’re consciously “giving” to the land before we “take.” 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!

Fostering a Relationship With the Land

Fostering a Relationship With the Land

Think of a farm as a living, breathing organism. Like a human body with a system of organs, a farm is a complex system of interacting substances and processes. This understanding is the fundamental starting point of biodynamics.

Biodynamics is about thoughtful farming practices.

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 farming outcomes and these 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.

How does all this relate to wine?

The quality of a wine is determined by the quality of the grapes. And the quality of the grapes is predicated on the quality of the hillside where they’re grown. So our goal, then, as it relates to Burnt Hill, is to grow the highest quality grapes on the best possible hillside. 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 begin this journey by focusing on overall soil health.

Here are my own personal experiences (and videos) from Floyd, Va.

Field Trip to Floyd, Va

On the weekend of October 27-29, my mom and I traveled to Floyd, Virginia, 40 miles southwest of Roanoke, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

We spent a weekend at the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics learning and training. Biodynamic practitioners from around the country – Oregon, California, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Maryland – gathered to share ideas about developing healthy biodynamic farms.

My mom and I were the rookies of the group, but we were welcomed with open arms. We received a personal invitation from our friend and long-time biodynamic viticulturist, Joseph Brinkley. I wrote a bit about Joseph a while back in this piece: Superb Wine Requires Smart Farming

Day 1

On Friday we arrived at the picturesque JPI farm, tucked away in the rolling hills of Floyd. We were running a few minutes late, so when we arrived we hopped right into the afternoon lecture by Wali Via, a biodynamic practitioner who has farmed in western Oregon since 1985. He is past president of the Oregon Biodynamic Group, lecturer on sustainable agriculture and has been making and using the biodynamic preparations since 1976.

His lecture was titled Concepts Behind Developing a Farm Organism and he covered principles like crop rotations and biodiversity. He also shared philosophical thoughts like farming with “an attitude of gratitude” and some thoughts to ponder like, “Human beings have the unique ability to bring both vision and love to a farm. Without vision, no progress is made. Without love a farm is unsustainable – it becomes an endless list of chores.”

The one thought Wali shared that really stuck with me was “Biodynamics isn’t simply a method, or a list of practices. It’s about fostering a relationship with the land.” Good stuff!

After Wali’s lectures, we finished the day with a tour around the JPI farm with Pat Frazier, the president of the Board of Directors of the Josephine Porter Institute. Pat and her family have a biodynamic homestead, nursery, and family dairy in western Colorado. While touring the farm, she taught on looking through a biodynamic lens.

We also checked out the root cellar, where the cow horns are buried and uncovered some compost being stored in pots in the ground. Super cool!

That night my mom and I retired back to our Tiny House. If you’ve never stayed in a “tiny house,” I highly recommend it!

Day 2

The next morning, we woke up early and set out for the JPI farm early. When we arrived we had light breakfast and settled in for our first lecture by Pat Frazier. Pat is an incredibly passionate Biodynamic practitioner.

Something she said that really stuck with me: “Intention is key.” We’re responsible for farming according to what we know. Based on our experience and observation, we must create our own intention. No one else can demand you align with their intentions.

After lunch, we had a hands-on preparations lesson with JPI's prep-master, Larry Mabe. We made several biodynamic preparations: BD #500 (horn manure), which stimulates germination, root growth, and humus formation. BD #503 (chamomile), which stabilizes nitrogen within compost, increases soil fertility and stimulates plant growth. BD #506 (dandelion), which stimulates relation between silica and potassium in the soil.

That evening we had a delicious feast and time of fellowship.

Day 3

On Sunday morning, mom and I again woke up early to head to the JPI farm for a nourishing breakfast. Farm eggs, local apples, homemade toast, jam and a big cup of coffee. While we ate, we settled in for a lecture with Joseph Brinkley. Joseph is a viticulturist and biodynamic specialist who has managed the largest certified organic vineyards in the country. Prior to moving from Virginia back to California earlier in 2017, Joseph contributed to the initial plans on how to enliven Burnt Hill: Four ways we will achieve healthy soils and a balanced farm system.

Joseph’s lecture topic was: Practical Uses for Pfeiffer Field Spray. The particular application was developed in 1940’s by Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer who was a German soil scientist, leading advocate of biodynamic agriculture and student of Rudolf Steiner.

The Pfeiffer Field Spray contains the biodynamic agricultural preparations BD #500, #502, #503, #504, #505, #506, and #507, which give this product its unique effectiveness. It stimulates and attracts a full range of soil micro-flora and fauna beneficial to accelerate the breakdown of organic matter without tying down nitrogen and aids humus formation in organic materials already in the topsoil. One ounce of Preiffer can yield more than 5.6 billion colonies of beneficial organisms… A little bit goes a long way!

Following the final lecture, we all went outside and planted an oak tree before heading our own separate ways. The oak tree, considered by ancient cultures to be a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied within its towering strength, was symbolic of the lessons learned and relationships built; a great way to end the weekend!

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We’re chasing a dream: to put Maryland wine on the map.

A bottle of wine – perhaps more than anything else on earth – reflects the time and place where it’s grown. A healthy farm is a key element in every great wine. For this reason, we are spending years getting to know the rhythms of the land, applying biodynamic preparations, cultivating cover crops and prepare the foundation for our vineyard. Only when we believe the ground is ready, will we plant our vines.

We’re excited to embark on this journey and look forward to sharing our story with you!

The Future of Burnt Hill Vineyard

The Future of Burnt Hill Vineyard

The process of making great wine is simple: grow ripe, flavorful grapes and shepherd them carefully through fermentation, aging, and bottling. That's it. But as simple as it is, it's certainly not easy. Growing a new vineyard takes a lot of work and time -- no shortcuts. It's not as simple as getting some property and planting some vines. In this video, Drew explains the long process for lasting success and the necessary steps needed to do it right from the outset. Thoughtful farming starts by fostering a relationship with the land. 

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

It’s that time of year again! Time to make sure delicious Maryland wines are part of your holiday gifts. Holidays are about family, festivities, and your favorite traditions. They're also about the wines you share. So maybe you should celebrate with Magnums?!

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Magnum Style

Not to be confused with “gangnam style.” But seriously, it may make you want to dance like it. This is 1,500 mL's of Revelry, Third Edition. A lively combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah aged in French Oak barrels for up to thirty months. This wine is ready to enjoy now or add to your cellar collection.

50 bottles available. $75/btl.

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Solera!

This delicious, port-style dessert wine is perfectly sweet and purely heartwarming. Solera was bottled on October 26, 2017 after aging in French Oak barrels for five years -- it's our first ever dessert wine! This small batch wine offers rich aromas and flavors of all the C’s: cherries, caramel, chocolate, cinnamon and chestnut.

112 cases available. $40/btl.

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Wine Barrel Décor

Once used for aging Old Westminster wines, these French Oak barrels have found new life. Repurposed, polished and bedazzled – this beautiful and functional piece of furniture is perfect in the home or wine cellar. Hand-crafted by our resident carpenter (and dad), Jay Baker.

Made to order.

 

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Gift Certificates

One of those shoppers? Don’t worry. We are too.

The most versatile gift of all, select this gift card with the desired amount and let your love one treat themselves. You can never go wrong here.

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We wish you and yours happy holidays filled with cheer!

Harvest 2017

Harvest 2017

Fall is a remarkable time of year. Days are getting shorter, nights are growing colder, and the leaves have fallen from the vines. Harvest has finally come to an end.  

Before we relax – or in my case, get ready to welcome my first child into the world – I want to take the time to reflect on the 2017 vintage. And Thanksgiving seems like an appropriate time to do just that.

Documenting my observations is a new habit I intend to form. I’m hopeful that these notes will inform future decisions, serve as a reminder of the past, and provide nostalgic reading material someday down the line. So, here it goes!

2017 Was a Wild Ride

The season began with an unseasonably warm March. I recall pruning Chardonnay in mid-March wearing jeans and a tee shirt; the vines were bleeding sap with every cut. This is a worrisome sign that the vines are de-acclimating and, subsequently, at a heightened risk of damage should we experience a cold snap. Fortunately, the weather mellowed out in April and bud-break was right on average: April 14th for Chardonnay.

We had a patchy frost event on the morning of May 9th that moderately reduced our crop in our home vineyard Muscat, but nothing else. The Muscat is always at the greatest risk because it buds out early and it’s situated on our lowest site where the cold air drains. Fortunately, damage was minimal overall and we were off to the races with what turned out to be a record crop.

In late-May the weather was idyllic and flowering was quite fruitful. Full bloom in Chardonnay hit on June 8 and Cabernet Franc came five days later. June and July were fairly typical: hot, humid, sporadic thunderstorms, but nothing problematic. One of our partner growers experienced a devastating hailstorm on July 17 at exactly 2:40 PM. Thankfully this event was localized and didn’t affect most. A stern reminder that we are all mere farmers at nature’s mercy.  

August was as cool and wet as I can ever remember. I recall spotting veraison (the onset of ripening) in Syrah relatively early, around August 1. But because of the lousy weather, color change was fairly sluggish. Regular rains meant that mildew pressure was heightened and we had to be particularly diligent with our vineyard management. At this point, pessimism was rampant. Little did we know this was the turning point of the vintage.

September was exceptionally good to us. High-pressure systems shielded us from hurricanes Irma and Jose. We went 3+ weeks without a single drop of rain. It was warm and dry in the last days of summer. And for that we are so thankful!

Wine Nerds Will Appreciate This

Harvest began with a bang on September 10th. Chardonnay and Albariño for sparkling wine were first up. The fruit was not only beautiful, but yields were high. We carried our typical crop load of 18 clusters per vine, but found the clusters were heavy. Like .25 lbs each, instead of a typical .2 lbs. While it might not seem like much, a .05 lb increase per cluster in a high density vineyard adds 1 ton of fruit per acre! This increase was likely due to the nice weather during bloom. Not at all a problem, just an observation.

Natural acidity was high and sugar levels were relatively low. Chardonnay and Albariño were 19 and 19.5 brix with pH’s in the 3.1’s on the first pick. This is perfect for sparkling wine, but we needed to continue hanging the rest for still wines.

We picked more home vineyard Chardonnay on September 22. The chemistries had advanced considerably in 12 days: 21.5 brix, 3.4 pH. We soon realized high yields, high acidity and low-ish brix would be a common theme for the whites. Viognier, Pinot Gris and Grüner Veltliner all followed suit. And we’re not complaining, because this equates to a bounty of bright, fresh whites to be bottled next year. Muscat was the only outlier because of the early season frost; it yielded 1.8 of the projected 4 tons.

By late-September the grass was browning and excitement for a banner year was growing. We continued to be diligent with our chores in the vineyard as we monitor the physiological ripeness of our red grapes to determine the optimal time to pick. Sure, we track sugars and acidity – but we do much more than that – we visually inspect the vineyard, we kick the vine's trunk and see if berries drop to the ground, we taste the fruit, chew the seeds, note the texture of the pulp and toughness of the skins; we assess the flavor development and aroma and pontificate about the wine to come.

Merlot and Malbec were the first reds up on September 23; the fruit looked immaculate with great color and flavor. Syrah was next and we picked all three vineyards in succession – home, Pad’s View and Harmony – between October 3–7. Cabernet Franc was the most varied: we grow this grape in our home vineyard and also source from numerous vineyards throughout northern Maryland. Soils, clones, rootstocks and weather all impact harvest dates; we picked Cook’s vineyard on September 20 while our home vineyard hung until October 16. Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon were the last varieties hanging. Usually PV is ready before CS, but this year both were picked together on October 21–22, marking the end of harvest.

Simple, But Not Easy

Overall, 2017 has the early makings of a great year. The aromas are vibrant, acidity is high and alcohol is relatively low.

The process of making great wine is simple: grow ripe, flavorful grapes and shepherd them carefully through fermentation, aging, and bottling. That's it. But as simple as it is, it's certainly not easy. At the end of the day, we're farmers. We battle weather, fungi, insects, and wildlife. We are tireless because we know a great bottle of wine reflects its maker's hard work and creativity.

So, what should we expect from the wines? I’ll save that for a future post. And we look forward to sharing the results with you.

We wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving!

Wine for Dinner Pop-up!

Wine for Dinner Pop-up!

This Tuesday on “Wine for Dinner” we're teaming up with our good friend Jeff Snow from Glou-Glou Wines! We’ll lead a LIVE & interactive wine tasting with viewers on Facebook & Instagram.

Glou-Glou (pronounced glue-glue) is a french term which implies that a wine could be chugged. It does not promote excess drinking, rather it tends to happen naturally based on a certain taste profile. We already know of this concept with our favorite beers that we throw back, but wines can and do fit the same level of hyper drinkability.  Glou-Glou is used exclusively in the natural wine world and focuses on freshness, purity and liveliness. This does not mean that wines have to be light bodied. I drink plenty of natural wines with body and weight; however, the common denominator is freshness. We will explore a selection of these wines from Jeff's portfolio.

Here’s a list of the featured wines. Also, we’ve listed a handful of wine shops & restaurants in Baltimore that have a selection of these wines.

CHAPUIS & CHAPUIS: Tuesday, November 14 @ 7:00 PM

  1. "2014 La Bulle" Grape - Pinot Noir, Origin - Pombières-lès-Dijon | Domaine de la Cras
    Age - 35 year old vines, Vinification - 10 days maceration with a few light pigeages. No
    dosage. No added SO2, Ageing - Disgorged June 2017
  2. "2016 Orange Blossom" Grape - Aligoté, Origin - Bouzeron, Age - 35 year old vines with southern expsoure, Vinification - 15 days maceration with no added SO2, Ageing - 5 months in neutral barrel. Malo done in barrel.

  3. "2016 Grenat" Grape - Grenache, Origin - Cote du Rhone | Sabran | Domaine du Moulin de Descattes, Age - 40 year old vines, Vinification - 10 days maceration, Pressed rose juice was added during fermentation to bring more freshness to the wine. No added SO2, Ageing - 5 months in neutral barrel. Malo done in barrel.
  4. "2016 La Folle Noire" Grape - Négrette, Origin - Fronton | Château Bonnet
    Age - 30 year old vines, Vinification - short 6 day maceration to keep the wine fresh. SO2 was added at bottling, Ageing - 5 months in neutral barrel. Malo done in barrel.
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A selection of these wines are available at the following shops & restaurants in Baltimore

  1. The Wine Source (Hampden)
  2. Remington Wine Company (Remington
  3. Bar Clavel (Remington)
  4. Pen & Quill (Bolton Hill)
  5. 101 Wine Bar (Federal Hill)

Go buy them! And if you'd like to see them in your local shop, let us know. We can help. 
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Tune in – and weigh in – on “Wine for Dinner” every Tuesday at 7:00 PM LIVE on Facebook & Instagram.

Noteworthy Maryland Wine... In a Can.

Noteworthy Maryland Wine... In a Can.

Everything we do at Old Westminster Winery focuses on making the best wines we can and challenging the status quo. 

So in that spirit of innovation... we’re CANNING WINE.

And not just any wine. These wines are true to our vision: 100% local & natural.

All the grapes are grown right here in Maryland, fermented on our farm with wild yeast and canned on-site without fining, filtration or "makeup."

So why are we putting it in a can?

Experimentation is at the heart of what we do. Since no winery in Maryland – or Virginia, or Pennsylvania – has ever canned wine before... of course we have to get the party started!

Seriously, this project is all about making delicious wine accessible, travel-friendly, and ready to enjoy – anytime, anywhere. Wine shouldn’t be reserved for dinner parties, celebratory gatherings or restaurant experiences; it should be what you grab for the day at the beach, on the boat, by the pool, or hiking and camping. And leave the glass, corkscrew, and stemware behind!

These cans are for wine lovers, adventurous souls, and those who seek out unique experiences. Canned wine has been done elsewhere before, but they're mostly mass-produced wines. We want to challenge that notion and can wines that inspire you.

Since this isn’t just any wine, we decided that it shouldn’t be just any can, either.

We teamed up with a talented artist from Baltimore, Rebecca Smith, who designed our stunning labels. Each one is a creative representation of what’s in the can. We love them and hope you do, too!

Our inaugural canning date is November 1, 2017. Follow us on Facebook & Instagram for breaking news and release party info.

Pre-order cans here:

 

 

*Free shipping on full-case orders (24 cans, mix and match)

Drew Quips On November's Wines!

Drew Quips On November's Wines!

Drew Baker takes us through the line up of November's new and exciting wines! Fun fact: If you created a hashtag for every single descriptive phrase Drew uses to describe these wines, you would break the internet. Seriously though -- these wines inspire!

Follow us on Facebook & Instagram: @oldwestminsterwinery