A look at some award-winning wines from Maryland.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers October 28, 2009
Wine is now being produced in all 50 states, even in Alaska where some daring souls in Homer, Kodiak and Anchorage are using fruit and purchased grape concentrate to create them. Often starting with meager resources, as well as ample enthusiasm, winemakers located in lesser-known wine-producing areas struggle for acceptance even as the quality of their product continues to improve.
But this is slowly changing. Increasingly, wines from locales other than California, New York and the Pacific Northwest can be found on retailers’ shelves and restaurant lists far from their point of origin. They are often less expensive than their better-known cousins without sacrificing quality.
These smaller wineries are usually family-owned and seldom have the resources to market their wines adequately. In support of these smaller producers and lesser-known wine regions, wine writers from across the U.S. showcased local wines in their columns, articles and blogs during the second annual Regional Wine Week earlier this month. The brainchild of two wine journalists, Maryland-based Dave McIntyre and Texan Jeff Siegel, this year’s edition included contributions from nearly 50 journalists who encouraged their readers to expand their wine-drinking horizons by staying close to home.
Maryland’s winemaking history began in 1648 with Tenis Palee who made wine from native American grapes. The first European varietals were planted 14 years later near the St. Mary’s river by then-governor Charles Calvert, but they never amounted to much and eventually the project was abandoned. Maryland winemaking lay essentially dormant until 1945, when the state’s first bonded winery, Boordy Vineyards, was established. The ensuing decades showed slow yet continuous growth of Maryland’s winemaking industry with the establishment of new wineries, designation of specific viticultural regions and the state’s first wine festival in 1984.
There are now 38 wineries in Maryland and many competed in this year’s annual Maryland’s Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, which accepts entries in a number of categories. The highest honor is reserved for the best wine created from grapes exclusively grown in Maryland. For the second year in a row, Black Ankle Vineyards won the Best in Show award. Its Black Ankle Vineyards Crumbling Rock 2007 is a Bordeaux-style blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grown in Frederick County. The 2006 version was last year’s winner and the Black Ankle Vineyards Leaf-Stone Syrah 2007 recently triumphed at the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition. The Black Ankle Vineyards Bedlam 2008 was the 2009 Governor’s Cup Best White Blend. Black Ankle’s record is impressive for a winery that bottled its first wines in 2008.
Another winner was Elk Run Vineyards located in Mount Airy. Established in 1979 by Neill Bassford, and Carol and Fred Wilson, as the state’s first winery dedicated entirely to vinifera varietals, Elk Run’s wines have shown consistent improvement with each vintage. The Elk Run Vineyards Cold Friday Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was the Best Red Wine at the Governor’s Cup and a Gold medalist at the International Tasters Guild Competition, while the Elk Run Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2007 was a Gold Medal winner at the World Wine Competition.
Mike and Rose Fiore opened Fiore Winery on a farm in Hartford County in 1986. They produce dry reds and whites, some off-dry and sweet wines, a sparkler and even some Limoncello in homage to Mike’s Italian heritage. The Fiore Winery Chardonnay 2007 was chosen Maryland’s 2009 Best White Wine.
Other 2009 winners included the Best Dessert Wine, Dove Valley Winery Late Harvest Vignoles 2007, and the Best Off-Dry Wine, Cygnus Wine Cellars Manchester Hall 2007.