I spent Saturday at the 5th annual Drink Local Wine Conference (DWL13) in Baltimore immersed in a day of learning about all things Maryland wine. The DLW13 organizers did a fantastic job of packing the day with educational panel discussions that included some of the most notable vintners in Maryland. The event was capped off with a grand tasting and Twitter taste-off at Camden Yards featuring the wines of Maryland’s top cideries and wineries.
The Twitter taste-off provided wineries — like Black Ankle Vineyards, Port of Leonardtown, Millstone Cellars, Boordy Vineyards, Old Westminster and Elk Run Vineyards — the opportunity to showcase their wines to a group of wine enthusiasts/influencers that may not have otherwise tasted them, and of course, the tasting also provided attendees the opportunity to taste wines many of us would not have otherwise tasted.
One of the stand out wines of the tasting was the 2012 Chardonnay produced by one of Maryland’s most promising new wineries, Old Westminster Winery. The Old Westminster Chardonnay received my vote for favorite white wine during the Twitter taste-off event (followed very closely by Black Ankle’s Albarino).
Today’s View from the Punt interview is with Drew Baker (on Twitter: @DrewHBaker), co-founder of Old Westminster Winery.
Drew with sisters, Ashli and Lisa, who is the winemaker (on Twitter: @LisaBakerr). This young trio will play an important role in the future of Maryland wine.
DWYL: How did you get into winemaking?
Drew Baker: I jumped in head first! My family made the decision to get into the business of growing the best wines we could in 2009. Since then, my initial interest has turned into a true passion to craft benchmark wines in central Maryland.
DWYL: Can you describe your philosophy in the vineyard and cellar?
DB: In the vineyard, everything is done by hand. From winter pruning to summer hedging, weed control to harvest- it’s all powered by sweat, not oil. This method of farming makes possible a level of care few other vineyards experience. No singular style is found our wines; the only mission is to ensure balance and allow the wines to reflect their vintage.
DWYL: What should consumers think/know when they think about Maryland Wine?
DB: What our industry would like consumers to think/know and reality are, unfortunately, very different things. That said, Maryland has great potential and I believe that the quality bar is rising quickly. Soon, poorly made wines will be the exception in an otherwise great region.
DWYL: Where do you see the Maryland wine industry in 10 years?
DB: My family would not be in the business of growing the best wines we can if we did not truly believe that there is demand for well-made Maryland wines. I think we will continue to see growth in the number of local producers and rising quality in the coming years.
DWYL: If you weren’t in the wine business, where would you be working?
DB: That’s a great question… I can’t see myself doing anything else! I’m blessed to have a job I love.
DWYL: What is a wine that you currently do not make that you want to make and why?
DB: Right now, I’m planning to get some Viognier in the ground. I think it will do well in our gravelly soils and I enjoy many of the wines being made in Virginia. We also grow Syrah, so I’d love to do a bit co-fermentation with Viognier.
As a big fan of this oft-overlooked Rhone white, I’m glad to hear of Old Westminster’s plans to plant Viognier. And, I look forward to trying other wines from Old Westminster.
A big hat tip to Drink Local Wine co-founder, Dave McIntyre (on Twitter: @DMWine), DLW President Mike Wangbickler (on Twitter: @MWangbickler), Kevin Atticks (on Twitter: @KAtticks), Maryland Wineries Association Executive Director, the entire MWA team and all of the wineries that put together a great event!