Maryland. It’s a state with more than 80 wineries and a mission of showcasing what the state can do. Living in Texas, I haven’t had the opportunity to explore Maryland wines, so it was a gift to be introduced to Old Westminster Winery in June. Not only was it a glimpse into Maryland, but also an introduction to a small boutique family winery with a mission to create wines that express a sense of place from vineyard to the glass. Drew Baker serves as the vigneron, and he planted the first 7,600 grape vines on the family farm at age 22. His sisters are also deeply involved in the business. Lisa Hinton serves as the winemaker, and Ashli Johnson is the special events director. The three are on a personal mission to showcase the reputation and potential of Maryland wines one taste at a time.
In our #winestudio June program with Old Westminster Winery, Drew talked about how redefining American wine involved taking a fresh look at indigenous/native/hybrid/mixed-heritage varieties and producing incredible wines with minimal intervention. He contrasted the “soulless beverages industry as compared with wines that display complexity, character and, most importantly, are a pleasure to drink.”
We learned about how the family is using wild yeast fermentations, sparing additions and minimal intervention that produces wines that are expressive of the soil, climate and geography that are farmed sustainably. Everything in the vineyards is done by hand and I was super impressed with the three wines that I tried, which truly ran the gamut.
I also had the opportunity to put these on table for friends without providing a pedigree or details and watched people fall in love with the wines. And the most fun was the reveal when they found out these wines came from Maryland.
2017 Old Westminster Cabernet Franc Home Vineyard – it was earth, spicy, fruit and kept developing in the glass over the three days that we kept it open. It was surprising and delicious.
2018 Old Westminster Heirloom Vineyard Home Vineyard – Old World meets New World, it’s nuanced and interesting. You’ll find fruit, depth and minerality. It’s a sip by sip experience as you keep wondering what you will taste next. What a delightful wine!
2017 Old Westminster Vin Doux Naturel – a dessert wine that reveals itself layer by layer – honey, stone fruit, nuttiness, honeycomb and citrus. It is produced from estate-grown Valvin Muscat & fortified with estate spirits.
At the end, we also talked about Old Westminster’s involvement in the wine festival at Burnt Hill Farm, which focused on natural and skin fermented wines as well as regenerative farming. Winemakers came in from all over the United States, and from all accounts, it was a celebration of small production, natural wines and the people who embrace them.
Having had my first sip of Maryland wines makes me thirsty to keep tasting more. I can’t wait to explore more of what the state has to offer and very much appreciate #winestudio and Old Westminster Winery for the wonderful introduction.