Local Wineries Deserve More Respect



A look at some Maryland wineries.


By Louis Marmon


Gazette Newspapers  October 14, 2008


Black Ankle Crumbling RockMany regionally produced wines are as good as their West Coast cousins, although consumers often overlook them. With wine being made in all 50 states, it is fitting that attention be paid to the accomplishments of these small wineries.


Mostly family-run affairs in enchanting settings, regional wineries are delightful day-trip destinations for picnics and tastings. Besides the customary Cabernets and Chardonnays, they are places to try obscure varietals such as Seyval and Foch or even some wines made from blackberries, apples or peaches. The owners are invariably enthusiastic and energized to show their facilities and share their wines. Meeting the person who created a wine you enjoy makes the bottle more personal, and nearly all the wineries will sell directly to visitors.


Maryland’s wine industry has grown rapidly in the past several years. Quality is on the rise, and more selections appear on retailers’ shelves. Several statewide competitions are held annually to showcase these improving wines. The most recent Governor’s Cup winner was the Black Ankle Vineyards Crumbling Rock 2006. Owners Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce make wine exclusively from grapes grown on their property near Mount Airy, modeling themselves after France’s Bordeaux region rather than California.


“We started by looking for successful winemaking regions that have a similar climate to ours,” O’Herron says. “Our rainfall, humidity, winters and sunshine are more like Bordeaux than anywhere else, so we began our winery with that as our ideal. We keep our plants small and planted close together to reduce the amount of fruit each vine produces. That results in more flavor and complexity. We get about one bottle per vine, while the more traditional yields are five per vine.”


Black Ankle Viognier 2007, the Black Ankle Bedlam 2006, a blend of Gruner Veltliner, Albarino, Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat, and the Black Ankle Syrah 2006 are available for tasting in their recently opened tasting room.


Another gold medal winner was the Basignani Winery Erik’s Big Zin 2006. Located in northern Baltimore County, the winery was bonded almost 23 years ago. Bert Basignani started by making wines for his family from vines on his property. Numerous awards and accolades from friends convinced him to become a commercial winery.


Basignani describes his philosophy as “minimalist.”


“I try to let the wines develop by themselves as much as possible,” he explains. “The real work is done in the vineyards where our goal is to get the best fruit possible.”


Basignani brings in whole fruit from Lodi in refrigerated trucks to create his Zinfandel, and juice from New York’s Finger Lake region to make the Basignani Riesling 2007. The rest of the wines are produced from Maryland grapes; well worth trying are the Basignani Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 and Basignani Harmony Vineyard Merlot 2005.


Boordy Vineyards has become a consistent gold medal winner by “investing heavily in talented people, choice vineyards and modern equipment.”


The approach, says owner Rob Deford is “no fear winemaking. We have a long-term view and are ready to embrace change to create the finest wines possible from our region, even if that means pulling up and replanting a vineyard.”


Both the Boordy Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2006 and Boordy Riesling 2007 are lovely efforts as is their sweet dessert wine Boordy Eisling 2007.



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