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

Harvest 2017: A Day In The Life

Harvest 2017: A Day In The Life

Perhaps this will give all our friends a new and higher level of appreciation for what goes into a bottle of wine! Yes, contained in that bottle is many hours, days, weeks, and months of living the art of winemaking 24/7 & 365. Planning, planting, nurturing, harvesting, testing, tasting, tweaking, etc and on and on it goes! Hope this video gives you a little window into the daily world of winemaking! 

Wine for Dinner – Season 3

Wine for Dinner – Season 3

Welcome To Season 3!

Season 3 of “Wine for Dinner” will feature our good friend Marc Payne from Monument Fine Wines! Each Tuesday in October at 7:00 PM, we’ll lead a LIVE & interactive wine tasting with viewers on Facebook & Instagram.

As the temperature starts to cool and we head into the fall season, we decided to do a Pinot Noir + Chardonnay experience. This series will showcase the diversity of these two varieties & California. We’re highlighting Napa, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara. A regional theme is a great way to explore Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – specifically how soil and climate creates different styles of wine.

Here’s a list of the featured wines and themes. Purchase the wines in advance to taste with us! Also, we’ve listed a handful of wine shops that are well stocked with the wines on this list.

Week 1, Central Coast Chardonnay: Tuesday, October 10 @ 7:00 PM

  1. 2015 Carmel Road, "Unoaked" Chardonnay, Monterey. Stainless steel fermentation, crisp clean representation of chardonnay a great starting point to ascend up the ladder of oak in this series. Retail Price $15.99-18.99

  2. 2015 Nielson by Byron, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara. Burgundy styled chardonnay from an historic producer, first commercial winery planted in SB in 1964. Retail Price $12.99-16.99

  3. 2014 Cambria, Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley. Great showcase of terrior and older vines in SMV. Retail price $16.99-19.99

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Week 2, North Coast Chardonnay: Tuesday, October 17 @ 7:00 PM

  1. 2014 Freemark Abbey, Chardonnay, Napa Valley. Classic producer, was in the 1976 tasting in Paris, non-maloctic. Retail Price $25.99-28.99

  2. 2015 La Crema, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast. Crisp sonoma style, concentrated AVA from a great producer known for Chardonnay. Retail price $16.99-20.99

  3. 2015 Hartford Court, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley. Fuller bodied chard style, getting into a more specified AVA from the La Crema sonoma from a producer that focuses on Single Vineyard production. Retail Price $29.99-35.99

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Week 3, Central Coast Pinot Noir: Tuesday, October 24 @ 7:00 PM

  1. 2014 La Crema, Pinot Noir, Monterey. Fruit forward style that retains great acidity and balance, great starting point for Pinot Noir. Retail price $15.99-18.99

  2. 2013 Cambria, Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. A single vineyard site next to Bien Nacido further inland. Great starting point to create the conversation of micro-climates. Retail Price $20.99-23.99

  3. 2013 Siduri, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills. Similar to Hartford Court with a producer that focuses on SV production. This is a blend of key SV's in the region. A great contrast to SMV. Retail Price $29.99-33.99

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Week 4, North Coast Pinot Noir: Tuesday, October 31 @ 7:00 PM

  1. 2015 Copain, "Tous Ensemble", Pinot Noir, Mendocino County. Part of IPOB, lean style of Pinot Noir focusing on Mendocino and Anderson Valley sourcing. Retail Price $23.99-29.99

  2. 2014 Hartford Court, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Pulling from different micro climates within the Russian River Valley, this is a great example for the region. Retail Price $36.99-42.99

  3. 2014 La Crema, Pinot Noir, Carneros. Fun conversation about how Carneros is split between Napa and Sonoma AVA's, and how the cooling effects of the Bay influence the region. Retail Price $34.99-37.99

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Participating Wine Shops:

MARYLAND

  1. Bay Ridge W&S

  2. Pine Orchard

  3. The Wine Source

  4. Ye Old Wine Shop

  5. The Wine Merchant

  6. Hunt Valley W&S (Wegman's)

  7. Cranbrook Liquors

  8. Cranberry Liquors

  9. College Square Liquors

WASHINGTON, DC

  1. Bassin's

  2. Wagshal's NW 

  3. Calvert Woodley

  4. Rodman's

  5. Batch 13

  6. Whole Foods

Go buy these wines & taste with us!
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Over the next four weeks, we'll explore each of these wines together. 
Tune in – and weigh in – on “Wine for Dinner” every Tuesday at 7:00 PM LIVE on Facebook & Instagram!

Old Westminster Winery Harvest 2017 Update

Old Westminster Winery Harvest 2017 Update

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Harvest is a remarkable time of the year. It’s the reward for all our hard work in the vineyard.

But the work isn’t over.

We harvest our grapes and shepherd them through a metamorphosis from raw fruit into bottles of wine that we can confidently deem worthy of our labels.

2017 has been a wild ride so far. I’ll save my final thoughts for a later post, but here are the cliffs notes to date:

The season began with an unseasonably warm March. I recall pruning Chardonnay in mid-March and the vines were bleeding sap with every cut. This is worrisome because the de-acclimated vines are at heightened risk of damage should we experience a cold snap. Fortunately, the weather mellowed out in April and bud-break was right about on average: April 14th in the Chardonnay block.

Then we had a patchy frost event on the morning of May 9th that moderately reduced our crop in Muscat. The Muscat block is always at the greatest risk because it buds out early. Add to this that it’s situated on our lowest site and cold air drains downhill. Fortunately, damage was minimal overall and we were off to the races with what is turning out to be a record crop.

Because things were wet early in the season, we were particularly diligent with our canopy management. Sun and wind are nature's antibiotics.

August, too, was cooler and wetter than usual. On September 2nd (my birthday), I recall being fairly pessimistic about the vintage. The only wish I made on my 30th birthday was for some dry weather for the vineyard! And so far, so good!

September has been exceptionally good to us. The vines are clean and healthy and the grapes are vibrant and flavorful. High-pressure systems shielded us from Irma and Jose and we’ve been warm and dry in the last days of summer.

At this point, the white grapes are in the winery and the table is set for reds to finish ripening in the field.

The Whites

The whites are perfect. Harvest began with a bang on September 10th. Chardonnay, Albarino, Pinot Gris, Viognier all came in heavier than typical. To be exact, 42 tons of white grapes from nine Maryland vineyards! The theme of this season's crop is high yields, high natural acidity, low pH’s and moderate sugar levels. This equates to a bounty of bright, fresh whites to be bottled next spring. The fermentations are ticking away wildly and the aromas are vibrant, acidity is high and alcohol is low… Like I said, perfect!

The Reds

We continue 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, Malbec, and Syrah will be picked any day now. I suspect Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are 2-3 weeks out. Overall, we're projecting 40+ tons of red grapes from ten Maryland vineyards.

2017 has the early makings of an astonishing year at Old Westminster.

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.

We look forward to sharing the results with you in due time.

See y’all soon.

What Is Orange Wine?

What Is Orange Wine?

Ha ha nope, it's not made from oranges. Wine in the classic sense is usually classified in the typical terms of red, white, or rosé. But there is another gradation between red and white. Orange. On the palate, it's big and dry with tannin like a red. But there's more to it so allow Ashli to explain in this short video! She explains how orange wine is produced (a little something for you wine nerds), what it pairs well with (for you foodies), and why you should totally check out our latest release: Alius. 

Texas Strong, Florida Strong

Texas Strong, Florida Strong

We started this campaign just after Harvey, but now we'll have to include Florida as well.  

Our hearts go out to all those who are suddenly faced with the epic task of rebuilding their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. We want you to know that we have your backs with as many bucks as we can raise. Please consider helping us reach our goal of $10,000 to support those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. All donations will go to The Red Cross.

Wine for Dinner – Season 2

Wine for Dinner – Season 2

Wine For Dinner, Season 2

Old Westminster Winery announces Season 2 of our hit show, “Wine for Dinner” featuring our good friend and sommelier, Andrew Stover! Each Tuesday in September at 7:00 PM, the sibling trio + Andrew Stover will lead an interactive wine tasting with viewers on Facebook & Instagram LIVE.

All featured wines and themes are listed below, giving you the opportunity to go out purchase the wines in advance. Also, we’ve listed a hand full of wine shops that are stocked with ALL of the wines on this list. Go to these shops and say you’re looking for “Wines for Dinner” and they’ll look at you funny and then point you in the right direction :). Those who acquire the featured wines can taste along with us and weigh in. It’s a great opportunity to grow in your appreciation and knowledge of wine. This is mid-week wine tasting for the 21st century!

Week #1, Northeast: Tuesday, September 5 @ 7:00 PM

  1. Galen Glen Grüner Veltliner, Pennsylvania ($19)

  2. Veritas Cab Franc/Merlot Rosé, Virginia ($18)

  3. Bedell 'First Crush' Merlot/Cab Franc, Long Island ($16)

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Week #2, Midwest: Tuesday, September 12 @ 7:00 PM

  1. Stone Hill Blanc de Blancs Vidal, Missouri ($20)

  2. Chateau Grand Traverse Whole Cluster Riesling, Michigan ($17)

  3. Stone Hill Estate Norton, Missouri ($23)

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Week #3, Southwest: Tuesday, September 19 @ 7:00 PM

  1. McPherson Cellars Chenin Blanc, Texas ($17)

  2. Merkin Vineyards 'Chupacabra' Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre, Arizona ($26)

  3. McPherson Cellars 'Windblown' Carignan/Cinsault/Mourvedre, Texas ($17)

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Week #4, Off The Wall: Tuesday, September 26 @ 7:00 PM

  1. Court Garden Classic Cuvee Brut, England ($42)

  2. Turasan 'Selda' Kalecik Karasi/Syrah/Okuzgozu/Bogakere, Turkey ($12)

  3. Bulgarian Heritage Mavrud, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria ($14)

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Participating Wine Shops:

  1. Cranberry Liquors, Westminster MD

  2. Glen's Garden Market, Washington DC

  3. Pinky & Pepe's Grape Escape, Gaithersburg MD

  4. Unwined, Alexandria VA

  5. Wagshal’s Deli Mass Ave, Washington DC

Go buy these wines & taste with us!

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

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

3 Things To Anticipate This Fall

3 Things To Anticipate This Fall

We hope you’re enjoying summer thus far! As harvest quickly approaches we’re excited to share a few things you can expect from us this year!

My sisters and I set out to put Maryland wine on the map. So everything we do focuses on making the best wines we can and challenging the status quo. Our hope is to shine a national spotlight on the cool things taking place here.

In that spirit, here are three delicious and experimental projects you can look forward to this fall…

1. Pét-Nats

If you’ve been following us over the past couple of years, you know we’re ALL IN on pét-nat. 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.

Punch Magazine’s Jon Bonné describes pét-nat as a “tectonic shift away from raised-pinky pretensions to a casual, freestyle era, one that borrows a page or two from the craft beer world.” In another place, Bonné writes, “The gang at Old Westminster, in Maryland, is having almost too much fun with their range of pét-nats, including a beautiful sparkling albariño. (Anyone who doubts that America is, indeed, great again need look no further than a fizzy albariño made outside Baltimore.)”

Pét-nat is enjoying a revival in America and we’re here to keep the party going.

This fall we plan to introduce new varieties into our repertoire. Think Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Albariño. Stay tuned.

2. Vin Doux Naturel

Vin doux naturel, or “naturally sweet wine”, is bright, fresh, naturally sweet and lightly fortified. A delicious combination, if we say so ourselves.

Vin doux naturel traces its origins back to the late 13th century in southern France. More specifically, the Languedoc-Roussillon area has long been famous for the production of top-notch vin doux naturel made from white Muscat grapes or red Grenache grapes. The wine is fortified with a neutral grape spirit to stop the yeast before fermentation is complete and all sugars have been converted into alcohol. Thus the wines retain some naturally occurring sugar, perceived as sweetness on the palate. 

So, what inspired us to try our hand at this centuries-old French tradition? Two things: 1. we’re harvesting our first crop of Muscat grown right here in our home vineyard. 2. We teamed up with Lost Ark Distilling in Columbia, MD to create grape spirits from our home-grown grapes.

Home vineyard Muscat grapes + home-grown grape spirit = estate “Vin Doux Naturel”! 

Oh, and did we mention vins doux naturels are delicious? We’re excited.

3. “Solera”

We’re releasing our first Port-style dessert wine this fall! 

This isn’t just any dessert wine – it’s a blend of barrel-aged wines dating back to 2011, our very first vintage. So a portion of this blend has been aging in French oak barrels for five years. 

We’re calling it “Solera” because of how it's made. Solera is a process for aging a wine by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. Solera literally means "on the ground" in Spanish, and it refers to the lower level of the set of barrels or other containers used in the process; the wine is traditionally transferred from barrel to barrel, top to bottom, the oldest mixtures being in the barrel right "on the ground”. Products which are often solera aged include Sherry, Madeira, Port and Brandy. 

Another cool thing to note about our “Solera” is that – like our Vin Doux Naturel – it’s been fortified with estate spirits made in collaboration with our good friends at Lost Ark Distilling! We transported several barrels of home-grown wine to Lost Ark where they distilled it to 190 proof – the perfect proof for fortifying wines. How cool is that? Again, true to our vision: 100% local.

We’re fascinated by the solera method because it’s a way to produce a delicious wine that will age with every new bottling AND it keeps a small portion of our first vintage alive forever!
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Follow along on Instagram as we document harvest 2017.
 

Maryland Wine, Maryland Pride

Maryland Wine, Maryland Pride

We have this mantra at Old Westminster: putting Maryland wine on the map. It used to sound crazy, but it looks a lot more like reality every passing year.  

When The Daily Meal published their list of the “101 Best Wineries in America” for 2017, we felt this overwhelming sense of two steps forward. Listed at No. 87, we could not be more excited or honored.

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We believe that wine reflects its maker’s passion. It has a mystical ability to represent the land, time, and hands that made it. Producers always tell of the terroir that makes the wine. It’s not just romanticized wine-nerd talk. It all starts with soil & climate! And places in Maryland have truly beautiful soils and unique climatic conditions that enable us to create wines worth writing home about.  

But what about the culture? What is a culture’s influence on wine? Specifically, what is Maryland wine?      

Maryland’s nicknames exemplify her perfectly. She is diverse, full of history and represents freedom and a bright future: “America in Miniature,” “Old Line State,” “Free State.” Surrounded and chock full of waterways, Maryland is known for its blue crabs, oysters and other Chesapeake Bay specialties. Baltimore, the largest city, floods its streets with support from local sports teams, businesses, and more recently, farmers, makers, and restaurateurs. Maryland is about her roots, community, and future.

The fresh white wines (and pét-nats!) best grown in clay and greenstone or limestone soils pair with Maryland’s classic seafood dishes, summer festivities and afternoons gazing over the inner harbor. Think Albariño & pan-seared bay scallops. 

The complex and concentrated red wines best grown in poor gravelly soils pair with Maryland raised red meats, charcuterie, vegetables and evenings by the fire. Think Cabernet Franc & a marbled ribeye from Evermore Farms.

We are proud to fashion Maryland products and produce wines that reflect the State we love. Maryland wine is not only about her diverse soils and wide-ranging climate, but also her people.

Maryland wine. Maryland pride. Join the movement!    

Field Trip to Tired Hands Fermentaria

Field Trip to Tired Hands Fermentaria

Join us as we take a little field trip to Tired Hands Fermentaria in Ardmore, PA.

Built over the course of thirteen months in an 85 year old building that once housed a trolly repair shop, Tired Hands Fermentaria offers up to 12 beers on tap and also serves as a production facility capable of producing as much as 10,000 barrels a year.

So we took a trip to check out some of their beers and we thought we’d tell you what we think!

What is ‘Green Harvest’?

What is ‘Green Harvest’?

Join us as we do a “green harvest” at Turkey Point Vineyard in North East, MD.

So what’s green harvest? Basically, it’s last-minute fruit-thinning. We visually select-out lagging grapes that we don’t want to carry to full ripeness. We find sections where clusters are heavier and we visually select these green harvest grapes to produce verjus (“green juice”). Verjus is used to acidulate drinks and produce dressings or glazes for restaurateurs. Chefs love it! Read more about "the new east coast acid," verju, here.

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!