- Published: Monday, 22 September 2014 22:17
Chesapeake Wine Country making its mark.
Synopsis: The big question about Chesapeake Wine Country these days centers on economic growth, the broader branding of the region and the reputable wines to be had. Read the report from shorevines below.
Five years ago many on the shore doubted that good wines could be had. The common playbacks were can one grow grapes on the humid Eastern Shore? Is there a decent red to be had?
The questions posed today center on the promotion of a new era of wine industry growth on the shore described as “explosive” by Kristen Wright Owen, Loan Officer at Chesapeake Bank & Trust, avid follower of the wine industry and a member of the Upper Shore Regional Council shorevines Advisory Board. The Eastern Shore has become a “wine basket” for Maryland Wine industry growth. According to Jennie Schmidt, Vineyard Management Owner, Farmer, Ag Specialist and former head of the Maryland Grape Growers Association, there are 450 acres of grapes planted in Maryland. She herself estimates planting 110 acres up and down the Eastern Shore via her Vineyard Management business. With Eastern Shore grapes fueling a large percentage of Maryland Wine production and with sales increases reported each year by state wineries, clearly the shore with its rich agricultural history stands to benefit.
Not only do we see more acres on the shore being planted for wine grapes, many of the vineyards are evolving to wine production businesses. In 5 years, the number of wineries on the Eastern Shore has doubled; from 10 in 2009 to 20 in 2014. (source: shorevines) The latest evolution from vineyard to winery is Triple Creek Winery, owned by the Spies Family who have specialized in growing grapes for close to 10 years. The vineyards provide beautiful vistas for the Chesapeake Wine Trail which begins north of the Chesapeake Bay moving southerly in an arc paralleling the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. The trail, a program of the Maryland Wineries Association, now has 14 wineries and is expected to gain several new members in the next year. The Chesapeake Wine Trail will also achieve enhanced tourism visibility due to its inclusion in the new 4 state wine region. The Vintage Atlantic Wine Region is the first multi-state region and encompasses six trail wineries in four states in a 90 mile radius connected by the Cape May Lewis Ferry.
Eastern Shore Wineries collectively medal
Bordeleau Vineyard & Winery became the first
The critical mass of winery growth on our shore is centering around historic Chestertown which could well become the Napa of Chesapeake Wine Country with its arts and cultural orientation. There are five wineries now located within twenty minutes of Chestertown. The Sultana Organization is already leveraging this wine capital status for Chestertown with plans to host a Chesapeake Wine Trail Pavilion during their Downrigging Weekend in early November. And, a wine and cheese bar business is potentially on deck for the town.
Another marker of growth is the number of farmers markets and local garden and produce vendors featuring wines on their roster of local goods. Vic Priapi, Owner of Priapi Gardens in Cecil Country, Maryland will often host wine tastings on weekends. “Having a business on scenic MD Route 213 has it’s challenges. Most folks that travel this route are going to work or are coming to a boat or second home from the north. The hard part for our business, as a retail garden center and farm fresh market, is to get folks to stop (when they may be in a rush to get where they are going) to shop and explore. With more and more vineyards along this route, people will be much more inclined to stop and smell the roses or taste the wine.”
The big news on wines from Maryland’s Eastern Shore is the recent collective showing of Chesapeake Wineries garnering medals at this year’s 2014 Maryland Governor’s Cup which is likely to create more notoriety for the region. For the first time ever, an Eastern Shore Winery was awarded Best in Show. Bordeleau Vineyard & Winery south of Salisbury not only garnered the Best in Show medal for its Cabernet Sauvignon Amarone 2008 it also achieved Gold Medal status for its Chambourcin and a Silver for its Malbec. A close contender was Super Talbot Best in Class Red Blend from Warren Rich of Little Ashby in Talbot County. New winery Clovelly Vineyards won two silvers for its Vidal Blanc and Rose made from 100% hand harvested Clovelly grapes grown on their 4th generation farm minutes from Chestertown. Crow Vineyard continued its notoriety for producing fine Barbera wines and captured a Silver for its first Barbera Reserve while garnering Bronzes for its Barbera and Barbera Rose. Layton’s Chance outside of Cambridge also Silvered with its Farm White wine. Great Shoals the most southerly vineyard won bronzes for its popular fruit and sparkling wines, but as well was awarded silvers for a Chardonnay and its Bayside Mist. And veteran Dove Valley with 16 year old vines, situated at the north of the Chesapeake Bay, won two Silvers and three Bronzes.
International Winemaker Consultant John Levenberg works with several wineries on the shore including Crow Vineyard, Clovelly Vineyards and Chateau BuDe - the historic Bohemia Manor Farm now reborn as a winery and vineyard. He sees great potential for the region and for the production of distinctive reds. The climate and soil conditions are similar to the Bordeaux region in France. According to Levenberg what really makes the area a notable wine region is the strong work ethic of the wineries pioneering the industry. Levenberg sites Crow Vineyard as a prime example of this. With a lot of work in just a short time, The Crows have created a successful model as to how to sustain a farm with a winery business that includes award-winning wines, retail sales, a wine tasting room, B&B and year round events.
When the Crow’s dawn-colored Barbera Rosé achieved Best in Class for the Rosé category at the 2013 Maryland Governor’s Cup, the critics’ perception meter for Eastern Shore Wine Quality started to shift. Coming off last year’s Governor’s Cup Awards, well-known wine critic Al Sopler commented that “…there was a great showing for our youngest wineries. Crow Vineyards and Winery, in Kent County (operating only since 2010), dazzled the judges with a delicious Barbera Rosé. Cascia Winery on Kent Island produced a magnificent Nebbiolo that contended strongly for the top prize and Layton's Chance Vineyard and Winery continued its strong run of Chambourcins, snagging yet another gold medal for one of the state's signature grapes.”
Chesapeake Wine Country is on its way to establishing a reputation for quality wines. Medals aside, as someone who travels up and down the shore visiting our wineries and promoting them via the Upper Shore Regional Council sponsored shorevines, I observe that now when you go to regional winery events, festivals and farmers markets the refrain is no longer “not worth a try” but rather “local wines have gotten really good.” They are also good for the economic health of our region on many levels. According to one local liquor purveyor “The movement has given us a chance to breathe new life into our business with weekly tastings and the chance to support local.”
Article by: Lotte Bowie, loblolly.biz for shorevines
Photos taken by: Lotte Bowie, loblolly.biz
"shorevines Experience Chesapeake Wine Country" is an initiative of the Upper Shore Regional Council of Maryland a sponsor of the Maryland Wineries Association Chesapeake Wine Trail.
For more information please refer to these websites and links
shorevines: Experience Chesapeake Wine Country
Upper Shore Regional Council of Maryland
Maryland Wineries Association
Jennie Schmidt "The Foodie Farmer growing a Chesapeake Wine Country"
John Irving Levenberg "The winemaker who loves working in the vineyards of Chesapeake Wine Country"