Friday, May 17, 2013

Chef Spike Gjerde's Farm-to-Table Food of Woodberry Kitchen and Sarah O’Herron's and Ed Boyce's Premium Organic Wines of Black Ankle Vineyards, Maryland, USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Chef Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, and Owners Sarah O’Herron and Ed Boyce, Black Ankle Vineyards, at Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland

In connection with the 5th annual Drink Local Wine Conference in Baltimore in Maryland, USA (May 14, 2013), about 40 wine bloggers, columnists and writers toured wine country Maryland. One of the highlights of the pre-conference trip was the second stop at Black Ankle Vineyards. We were visiting Black Ankle Vineyards to both taste wine and to eat lunch catered by the Woodberry Kitchen of Baltimore, a restaurant devoted to farm-to-table cooking.

See also:
At the Fifth Annual Drink Local Wine Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, USA 
Touring Wine Country Maryland, USA
Grand Tasting of Maryland Wines and Twitter Taste-off - Drink Local Wine Conference 2013 in Maryland, USA

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.

Picture: Black Ankle Vineyards

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.

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.

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

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.

Woodberry Kitchen

I have yet to visit Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. Let me quote Huffington Post: “Nestled in a long-closed mill in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood Woodberry Kitchen is a bastion of local and organic cooking.

Pictures: Owner and Chef Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, and his team at Black Ankle Vineyards in Maryland

Since opening in fall 2007, the place has won acclaim for dishes by chef and owner Spike Gjerde. The Washington Post's Tom Sietsema enthusiastically endorsed it, writing "One part Fannie Farmer, one part Alice Waters, Woodberry Kitchen is all heart. Go, Baltimore!" In Washingtonian magazine's list of the 100 best restaurants in the region for 2012, Woodberry Kitchen is the only Baltimore spot profiled.

Here, the wait staff is equipped with answers to a multitude of questions: Where is the meat from? How is it prepared? Is this fish wild or farm-raised? Is this sour cream homemade? (The answer to that last one is yes.)”

Chef Spike Gjerde told us: “Woodberry Kitchen relies on longstanding relationships with the growers of the Chesapeake to provide the ingredients that nourish and delight our guests. At our table, you join us in supporting sustainable agriculture that respects the abundance and traditions of the region while helping to ensure its future.”

The Lunch

We had lunch in the Black Ankle tasting room. Completed in 2007, the tasting room—built to reflect the owner’s belief in sustainability—was constructed from the farm’s wood, straw, soil, rain and sunshine, and from as many locally green materials as possible.

The Food

Seasonal Tartines

Grilled Chesapeake Oysters - Spring onion-horseradish verjus, fish pepper butter

Next Step Organic Wheat Berry Salad - Yogurt, radishes, pea shoots, pecans

Whole Maryland Suffolk Lamb - Grilled chops over grapevines, confit belly, fresh sausage, scallions and potatoes with herbs

Beiler’s Heritage Acres Cornflour Cake - Grape preserves, buttermilk sherbet

The Wines

2012 Black Ankle Vineyards, Gruener Veltliner – (Barrel Sample)

We were greeted by a glass of a excellent 2012 Gruener Veltliner that complemented seasonal tartines.

Hogsheadwine: “The nose revealed white fruit then some weight yellow fruit aromas.  In the mouth the floral fruit had both good acidity and mouthfeel.  There were flavors of honeysuckle in this wine with good length and round aftertaste. Nice.”

2011 Black Ankle Vineyards, Bedlam

With grilled Chesapeake oysters we sipped the floral 2011 Bedlam, a blend of Chardonnay, Albarino, Muscat, Viognier and Gruener Veltliner.

Hogsheadwine: “There was a fresh, bright nose with herbs and the slight texture of white fruit.  In the mouth the flavors were of drier white fruit which was tart and mixed with acidity that made my tongue salivate on the sides.  There was a yeasty note in the middle.”

2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Rollings Hills

This wine is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot which was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Alcohol 13.6%.

Hogsheadwine: “The nose was of light red berries.  In the mouth there were berry flavors and a hint of something bright.  The flavors had density with acidity at the back of the mouth.  There were some grapey tannins along with fine-grained tannins in the structure.  There was a cool finish.”

2010 Black Ankle Vineyards, Leaf Stone Syrah

This wine was aged for 18 months in 65% new French oak. Alcohol 14.6%.

Hogsheadwine: “The beautiful nose had depth with floral fruit that smelled proper and was evocative of the Northern Rhone.  The flavors were young and tight but still enjoyable.  There was some grainy texture to the fruit and a creamy feel to the blue, grapey, and red flavors.  There was a touch of lipstick in the finish.  The acidity was well-integrated along with a deft touch of ripe oak tannins.  Nice.”

NV Black Ankle Vineyards, Terra Dulce II

A fortified wine, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Chardonnay, Albarino, Gruener Veltliner, and Muscat.

Hogsheadwine: “The color was a tawny garnet.  There was tangy red fruit in this fortified wine.  Herbs and acidity came out at first with the red fruit.  Then tea, tobacco, and more tobacco.  It was a little spirity at this point and could use some age for integration.”

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