Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Grand Tasting of Maryland Wines and Twitter Taste-off at Drink Local Wine Conference 2013 in Maryland, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Michael McGarry, Co-owner of Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard, with the Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard 2010 EVOE that won the best red wine award

The 5th annual Drink Local Wine Conference in Baltimore in Maryland (May 14, 2013) was a day about Maryland wine. The highlight was clearly the grand tasting of Maryland wines and twitter taste-off, in which more than 400 wine lovers participated.

Thanks to Kevin Atticks, Executive Director of the Maryland Wineries Association along with Marketing Director Briana Berg and Events Director Jade Ostner, for an outstanding conference and great twitter taste-off.

At the Fifth Annual Drink Local Wine Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Touring Wine Country Maryland, USA

Wine in the USA

The USA has become the 4th largest wine producing country in the world, after France, Italy, and Spain (and the largest wine consuming country in the world). Wine is now produced in all 50 States, with California, Washington State and Oregon leading the way. However, some states outside the Northwest do not grow vitis vinifera grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay easily, and some wineries in the smaller wine-producing states buy juice or grapes from other states. For reviews of wines from all 50 states go to here for an excellent Time Magazine article.

Wine in Maryland

Blue crabs are iconic in Maryland (see below), but few wine/food aficionados know premium wines from Marylandof. In fact, Maryland has long had the reputation of being a mediocre wine producer. But Maryland winemakers are successfully changing that. Increasingly, winemakers in Maryland are moving away from fruit wines and non-European grape varieties that have long plagued the East Coast to produce wines that can compete with the best wines in the world.

Picture: Map of Maryland

As Drew Baker of Old Westminster Winery explained to Frank Morgan, a popular wine blogger, “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.” Old Westminster Winery, led by the three siblings Drew, Lisa, and Ashli, who manage the vineyard, winemaking, and marketing, respectively, has not yet released any wines, but is already generating a buzz. Other promising newcomers include Black Ankle, Slack, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Port of Leonardtown. Add to that the Maryland classics Boordy, Basignani and Elk Run, to name a few.

Maryland’s modern wine history dates to the 1970s, but grapes have been planted in the area since the 17th century. Most of the state’s 60 plus wineries are in the Piedmont Plateau in central Maryland, but grapes also thrive in the Eastern Shore, Southern Plain, and Western Mountains: (1) A majority of the state’ vineyards are planted in Piedmont Plateau in central Maryland. (2) The Chesapeake Bay has always been among my favorite regions, but the Eastern Shore is also a fantastic growing region. The soil is sandy and well-drained, and the climate is moderated/protected by the water, perfect for warm days and cool nights. (3) In the Southern Plain in southern Maryland it can get rather hot. And stay hot during the night. Barbera, Sangiovese, and Chardonnay dominate. (4) Western Maryland is mountainous, and while there are only two wineries, there’s a number of vineyards.

Maryland Blue Crabs

Last year in May, wine guru and Maryland resident Robert J. Parker tweeted: “Maryland’s greatest culinary delicacy – blue channel soft-shelled crabs are starting to arrive … lightly floured and sautéed in butter.” Maryland – with the large Chesapeake Bay – is indeed blessed with Blue Crabs which came in different forms, when you eat them at a Crab Shack. Unfortunately, Maryland’s delicious seafood was on the backburner during the conference.

The blue crab is a crustacean found in the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Coast of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs undergo a seasonal migration; after mating, the female crab travels to the southern portion of the Chesapeake, fertilizing her eggs with sperm stored up from the last mating months or almost a year later. In November or December, the female crab releases her eggs. The crabs hatch in a larval form and float in the mouth of the bay for four to five weeks, then the juvenile crabs make their way back up into the bay.

Four Ways to Eat Chesapeake Blue Crabs

Hard Shell Blue Crabs

Blue crabs are most often eaten in the hard shell. Steaming them in large pots with water, vinegar and seasoning is the norm on the East coast. You need the whole experience: the smell of steamed crabs in the air, a pile of large steamed blue crabs covered with Old Bay Seasoning, ready to be cracked with wooden mallets, accompanied by corn on the cob, plus a roll of paper towels and a metal bucket for tossing the empty shells.

Picture: Hard Shell Blue Crabs

Soft Shell Crabs

The Chesapeake Bay is famous for its soft-shell blue crabs. As crabs grow larger, their shells cannot expand, so they molt the exteriors and have a soft covering for a matter of days when they are vulnerable and considered usable. Crabs caught just after molting are prepared as soft shell crabs: first cutting out the gills, face, and guts; the crab is then battered in flour, egg, and seasoning, then fried in oil until crispy. The entire crab is consumed, legs and all.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller eating Soft Shell Crabs

Crab Cake

Crab cakes is another delicacy. Crab Cakes are basically Hamburgers made out of crab meat. We ate it recently as a starter with tomatoes and avocado on the side.

Picture: Maryland Crab Cake

See more:
Wine and Crab Cakes: Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish win the 6th Annual Crab Cake Competition in Washington DC, USA 

Maryland Crab Soup

Usually I start my crab dinner with a Maryland Crab Soup. This is a kind of an Italian Minestrone with crab meat.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, wine tours by ombiasy, eating Maryland Crab Soup

See more:
Maryland Crabs and Wine
Schiller's World of Seafood

Grand Tasting of Maryland Wines and Twitter Taste-off

The Twitter Taste-Off was the grand finale of the DLW Conference. Held at The Warehouse at Camden Yards, it featured 20 Maryland wineries. 425 wine enthusiasts, vintners and bloggers came to taste Maryland wines and learn more about the local industry.

“Of course, Drink Local Wines is always a social media event and our tweets and updates quickly became the leading trend on Twitter — above even Tiger Woods and his two-stroke penalty at the Masters or Kobe Bryant’s ruptured Achilles tendon,” writes DrinkLocalWine.com co-founder Dave McIntyre on his blog.  “We realized something was happening when advertisements began popping up on #dlw13 and #mdwine.”

Twitter Taste-off Winners

The winners were:

White: Black Ankle for its 2011 Albarino

Red: Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard for its 2010 EVOE! $39. This wine is a blend of 51% Cabernet Franc, 22% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged 24 months in 25% new French oak. Alcohol 14.5%.

Other: Millstone Cellars for its Ciderberry, a tasty cider made of Rome Beauty and Stayman Winesap apples and flavored with raspberries.

Black Ankle Vineyards

Black Ankle sets the new standard for what is going on in Maryland wine. Black Ankle has won numerous awards for their wines, including recent Maryland Governor’s Cup Awards.

Pictures: Black Ankle Owners Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce, with Annette Schiller from wine tours by ombiasy and Christian G.E. Schiller in Baltimore

Owners Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce (both former management consultants) planted their first vines in 2003 after a lengthy search looking for farms with the worst soil. They succeeded, buying a 142-acre farm on Black Ankle Road in the rolling hills of Carroll County near Mt. Airy.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Owners Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce, Black Ankle Vineyard

During my recent visit, Ed and Sarah explained that the meager 1 1/2 feet of soil is 60 percent rock with a solid layer of rock below. Although this soil environment would be a nightmare for a farmer planting traditional agricultural crops, it proved perfect for their vision of a world-class vineyard growing vinifera grapes.

Currently, Black Ankle has 42 producing acres. Since Ed and Sarah purchased the property, they have made and applied compost in place of chemical fertilizers and they have never used herbicides of any kind. “Although we are not yet able to farm 100% organically, we are optimistic that with more research and ingenuity we will get there before too long,” say Ed and Sarah. “We have also made the decision to farm with the principles of Biodynamics. Black Ankle’s barrel room holds 300 French oak barrels. It is constructed with hay-bale walls coated with a plaster made from the farm’s earth and wood harvested from their acreage.

The business has been a bit of a juggling act for Ed and Sarah, who have kept their house in Silver Spring and, except at harvest time, alternate days at Black Ankle with working from home. They have five children, one in college and four at home.

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard is only a 45 minute drive from Washington, DC. The 92-acre farm abuts the scenic Sugarloaf Mountain conservation and recreation area. The winery is easily identifiable by its signature red barn, silo and windmill, built in the early 1900s.

Pictures: Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard

Purchased by Dan and Polly O'Donoghue in 1962, the farm has been a working farm and family retreat ever since. Today, it is owned and operated by their four children – the McGarry, McKenna and two O’Donoghue families. The transformation from a traditional farm to a vineyard broke ground in 2002. A wine making team was formed, and soon vines were planted and being nurtured. By 2005, the winery was complete and Sugar Loaf Mountain was making its first vintage.

Pictures: Dave McIntyre from the Washington Post and Michael McKenna and Michael McGarry, both Co-owners of Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard

In 2011, Benoit Pineau took over the wine-making responsibilities. He hails from France and has been educated in oenology and viticulture in Bordeaux and Toulouse. As of January, 2013 Manolo Gomez has become the official winemaker, with Benoit Pineau the consultant winemaker.

Pictures: Mike Wangbickler, President of Drink Local Wine, Michael McGarry, Co-owner of Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard, Manolo Gomez, Winemaker at Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard and Annette Schiller, wine tours by ombiasy, in Baltimore

Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard specializes in Bordeaux style wines. They grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot; and three white varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Viognier.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller, Michael McKenna, Co-owner of Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard, and Manolo Gomez and Ben Pineau, both Winemakers at Sugar Loaf Mountain Vineyard

Participating Wineries

•         Basignani Winery
•         Big Cork Vineyards
•         Black Ankle Vineyards
•         Boordy Vineyards
•         Catoctin Breeze Vineyard
•         Cygnus Wine Cellars
•         Distillery Lane Ciderworks
•         Elk Run Vineyards
•         Fiore Winery
•         Galloping Goose Vineyards
•         Knob Hall Winery
•         Linganore Winecellars / Berrywine Plantations
•         Millstone Cellars
•         Old Westminster Winery
•         Port of Leonardtown
•         Royal Rabbit Vineyards
•         Serpent Ridge Vineyard
•         Slack Winery
•         Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
•         Thanksgiving Farm
•         The Vineyards at Dodon
•         Woodhall Wine Cellars

schiller-wine: Related Postings

At the Fifth Annual Drink Local Wine Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Touring Wine Country Maryland, USA

Wine and Crab Cakes: Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish win the 6th Annual Crab Cake Competition in Washington DC, USA

Maryland Crabs and Wine

Schiller's World of Seafood

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