Happy New Year! 

It's a peaceful time of year here at Old Westminster Winery. The rush of harvest is behind us and the vines are settling in for a long winter's nap. Before we begin our preparations for the season ahead, we felt a bit of reflection was needed...

2016 was a good year at Old Westminster Winery. We learned a lot and we made significant progress in our vision to put Maryland wine on the world map.

Here are 4 things that stand out:

1. ‘Top 101 Wineries in America’

We honestly still can’t believe we found ourselves on this list. The number 99 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 list.

2. Old Westminster Got ‘Punched’

Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor for PUNCH and author of The New California Wine, recently wrote about Pétillant Naturel (Pét-nat) and made it a point to give Old Westminster Winery a sparkling review in PUNCH.  

“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. The Baker family is trying to make a case for serious mid-Atlantic wine. Trained in chemistry, winemaker Lisa Hinton may not be an obvious pét-nat poster child, but her efforts are refined and subtly flavored, impressive for anywhere and downright groundbreaking for Maryland."

This is super encouraging for us because PUNCH is serious press from authoritative writers that offer the kind of critical truthfulness we need to hear in order to realistically measure our progress. See the full article here.

3. Best Wine In Maryland?

Old Westminster Winery won “best in show” at the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup for our 2014 South Mountain Vineyard, Malbec. This Malbec, grown in the rocky foothills of Maryland’s South Mountain, offers an authentic expression of this variety’s richness and complexity.

In the Washington Post, wine writer Dave McIntyre told a beautiful story about his favorite wines & experiences from around the world in 2016. In the piece he references this same wine:

"Four wines stand out as exemplars of local wine... Old Westminster’s Malbec showed that Maryland can offer savory reds of world-class quality."

More than anything, this is a sign of many more amazing wines to come. 

4. We Found It.

After many months of searching, we found it: Burnt Hill Farm. 117 acres located high in the hills of the Piedmont Plateau – 30 miles northwest of Washington, DC in Montgomery County, MD. At the end of a long day digging backhoe pits to examine the soil, our geologist concluded:

“This place has the potential to yield brilliant wines.”

So we bought the land and we’re rolling up our sleeves.

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We will continue to raise the bar in 2017.  While our overarching vision is unwavering, each year we set short term goals.

Here are 4 things we're particularly excited about:

1. Planting New Varieties

 We're planting Ribolla Gialla.  

This is a grape variety I fell in love with last spring when my wife and I visited Friuli, Italy and Brda, Slovenia. Ribolla makes beautiful wines in many styles -- bright, aromatic wines fermented in steel, richly textured wines fermented in oak, and delicious bubbly. We'll be the first to plant it in Maryland, and one of the first to plant it in the mid-Atlantic. I have reason to believe it will make beautiful wines here in our greenstone soils.

2. Producing New Wines

We have several new wines in the works. While I won't show all our cards in this blog, I'll give you one wine to think about: Pét-nat Barbera Rosé.

Experimentation is, and always will be, at the heart of what we do. 

3. Going Green

We’re excited about installing solar panels on the pavilion of our tasting room to power the facility. Having a "solar pavilion" has always been part of our vision and now we’re thrilled to make it happen.

4. Burnt Hill Vineyard

We will focus on one thing on our new farm: Growing iconic wines.

The next few years will be spent getting to know the rhythms of the newly purchased farm. We will till the earth, cultivate cover crops and prepare the foundation for our vineyard. When we believe the ground is ready, we will plant an initial 30,000 vines. The exact varieties, clones, and rootstocks aren’t yet known – in time the site will tell us that. This hillside – with all its elements in harmony – has the capacity to yield wines unlike anywhere else on earth.

Burnt Hill Vineyard is an exciting new chapter in our story.

Have a great new year and stay in touch!