Clear Spring, Md.—
A ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at Knob Hall Winery signified the opening of the new Antietam Highlands Wine Trail.
Ten years ago, no wineries existed in Maryland’s Washington and western Frederick counties. Then Dr. Joe Fiola, viticulture and small fruit specialist at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville, Md., undertook a study of the suitability of soils for grapegrowing in Maryland and found that the state—and especially the region around Hagerstown, Md.—had excellent potential. After seeing Fiola’s work on soils, Don Munson, Maryland state senator from Washington County, became an enthusiastic supporter of the state’s wine and grape industry (specifically in Washington County) and helped build awareness at the state level and buoy the industry through funding.
According to Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association
, “Washington County and western Frederick County have seen big growth in less than 10 years. It takes one winery to open, and then others follow.” Today, four wineries have opened in the region, a fifth is about ready to open, and another four may open in the next 12-18 months.
On April 16, those four wineries took another major step toward marketing the area as a wine region with the official establishment of the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail
. The launch of the trail began with a presentation to the Washington County Board of Commissioners, thanking them for their support in getting new wineries started in Washington County and noting the potential importance of the wine and agri-tourism industries to the area.
The festivities then continued to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Knob Hall Winery
in Clear Spring with Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau serving as master of ceremonies. Atticks reported that the ceremony was attended by representatives from the four wineries on the trail as well as representatives from U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s office, U.S. Rep. John Delaney’s office and state Sen. Chris Shank’s office.
Dick Seibert, managing partner of Knob Hall Winery and president of the Maryland Wineries Association, hosted the event. “It is great to have the wine industry expanding into western Frederick County, Washington County and western Maryland,” Seibert told Wines & Vines
. “We have some unique soil—actually some of the best soils and places to grow grapes in Maryland—that will help us produce excellent wine.” The last point has been confirmed by results from various wine competitions including 2012 Maryland Winemasters Choice Awards, where Knob Hall Winery won the Best of Show award for its 2010 Prestige, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chambourcin.
The first winery in the region, founded in 2006, is Orchid Cellar Winery
of Middletown, Md. Owned by Murzanna and Andrzej Wilk, Orchid Cellar was Maryland’s first premier meadery. It now offers Merlot as well as a variety of meads.
Rob Miller and Patty Power, owners of Distillery Lane Ciderworks in Jefferson, planted their first apple trees in 2001 and made their first cider in 2006. The cidery opened in 2010 and now has 9 acres planted with more than 3,000 trees, many of them heirloom apple varieties.
The most recent newcomer is Red Heifer Winery
, which opened in November 2012. Located in Smithsburg on a 20-acre farm, the winery is owned by Kevin and Yvonne Ford.
Atticks reported to Wines & Vines
that Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville will probably open later this spring or early summer, and two additional wineries in Washington County and two in Frederick County may open within the next 18 months.
The wineries on the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail plan to do wine trail events similar to those offered by other wine trails after they finish current bottling projects. In the meantime, the trail will give visitors another reason to stay longer in the area. The Antietam Highlands Wine Trail area includes five national parks, 10 state parks and more than 30 museums.
Six wine trails now meander through Maryland: Carroll Wine Trail in Carroll County; Chesapeake Wine Trail on the Maryland’s Eastern Shore; the Frederick Wine Trail in the central region around Frederick; the Patuxent Wine Trail on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay; and the Piedmont Wine Trail that includes the wineries of Baltimore and Harford Counties. More information is available at marylandwine.com