I’ve heard that wine is made in every state in the union. Or is it the contiguous 48? Frankly, I don’t remember. But I do know that good wine is made in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. So why not Maryland? I focus on Maryland because my brother, my mother and I recently visited there and stayed with my cousin – thanks again for the hospitality, Bob & Holly! Who knew there were wineries within 20 minutes of his house? He did, and we visited a couple of them.
These wineries are not mere curiosities. They make some very good wine there. My cousin is not an experienced wine drinker, but he manned up and we tasted 14 wines that afternoon. Both the wineries we visited are in Mt. Airy, Md. Here is what we found at the first one:
Black Ankle Vineyards Founded in 2002, the winery started planting the following year, and wines were available for sale in 2008. The name comes from the road that goes by the winery, Black Ankle Road. Before the road was paved, workers were said to get black ankles when the road was muddy. Not sure how that happens with the red dirt in Maryland, but that’s the story.
2011 Viognier – 96%Viognier, 4% Syrah. A spicy, floral nose shows hints of peach. The wine is crisp with minerality and peach. A very nice summer wine.
2011 Bedlam Rose’ Primarily Viognier, with Gruner Veltliner, Merlot, Albarino, Chardonnay and Muscat. This dry rose’ was made in 2011 only, and the nose shows sweet red fruit typical of dry rose’. Crisp strawberry and cherry flavors make this refreshing dry wine a great summer sipper.
2011 VGV 50% Viognier, 50% Gruner Veltliner. The Guner Veltliner (GruVee to wine geeks) makes the pear/nectarine nose richer than the Viognier alone. Less rich on the palate, it has a crisp refreshing style. Another good summer wine.
2011 Albarino. Very fragrant, with grapefruit aromas. Peach and tropical fruit characterize this crisp wine.
2011 Chardonnay 96% Chardonnay, 4% Muscat. This is a barrel fermented wine, but this didn’t come through on the nose at first. You get very nice pineapple and citrus. We bought a bottle to have with crab cakes and shrimp. After being open a while the toasty oak began to show. It is not a California Chard, and the citrus and peach flavors are backed by crisp acidity.
I asked if the crisp style of the whites was a conscious choice, and I was told that it is primarily due to terroir (a wine geek term meaning a combination of climate, soil and topography).
2011 Passeggiata If you add another t, this is Italian for “leisurely stroll”. The wine’s composition varies from year to year. This one is Syrah, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cab Franc. It was barrel fermented in French oak. The nose is very fruity. In the mouth, it shows red fruit with a bit of cedar. Would be great with grilled chicken or sausage.
2009 Rolling Hills Primarily Merlot – 44% – with Cab Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah. The nose was a bit astringent initially, but that blew off quickly in favor of dark fruit and cocoa. The wine continues with dark blue fruit, soft tannins, some toasty oak. Long finish; good stuff. This was my favorite wine from Black Ankle. I brought a bottle home with me. I used one of the winery’s shipping boxes and checked it as baggage on the plane.
2008 Leaf Stone Syrah 81% Syrah and a little of 6 other grapes including 3% Viognier. It has a very rich nose of musky dark fruit. In the mouth it has smooth, earthy, dark fruit along with some spice from the Syrah. It has good structure, so it should age well.
These are all Estate Bottled wines, meaning they grow all their own grapes. They are able to manage a lot of different grape varieties, and this is not a huge facility. Keeping everything separate around harvest time is bound to be a challenge.
We also visited Elk Run Vineyards, and I’ll have another article about that. These vineyards are an hour or less from Washington, DC, depending on traffic. If you like wine, and you are in the area, stop by. You can learn more about Black Ankle Vineyards at www.blackankle.com