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Boordy Inaugurates New Winemaking Facility

Culmination of seven-year 'landmark project' makeover for pioneering Maryland winery

by Hudson Cattell and Linda Jones McKee
boordy vineyards
Guests tour the new production facility at Boordy Vineyards on Thursday.
Hydes, Md.—Maryland’s oldest winery, Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, took a major step into the 21st century with the official opening of its new wine-production facility Thursday. More than 100 invited guests attended the grapevine ribbon-cutting ceremony, toured the building, watched as the first Chardonnay grapes were pressed and tasted the resulting juice. Robert B. Deford III, the winery’s president and owner, said in his opening remarks that this was the largest undertaking in Boordy’s long history, and the culmination of the winery’s “landmark project.” The goal of this project, conceived in 2005 and launched in 2006, was “The production of the highest quality wine from Boordy vines and those of other Maryland growers,” Deford said.

Speakers at the inaugural event included local legislators and Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association, all of whom commented on the importance of Boordy Vineyards, the state’s largest winery, to the Maryland wine industry. Another speaker, Rick Slaughter, vice president of Reliable Churchill, Boordy’s distributor for more than two decades, noted that their sales of Boordy wines had increased by 700%—from 6,000 cases to more than 35,000 cases today. He also estimated that over the years, Boordy Vineyards had contributed more than $5 million in taxes to Maryland’s economy. Peter Franchot, Maryland’s comptroller, chief regulator of the state’s wine industry and an enthusiastic booster of the Maryland wine industry, offered a summation: “Maryland’s greatest resource is its entrepreneurial spirit.”

State’s first winery
Boordy Vineyards, now in its 68th year, was founded in 1945 by Philip and Jocelyn Wagner, pioneers of the wine industry in the eastern United States. In 1941 the Wagners had started a nursery operation primarily based on the sale of previously unavailable French hybrid grapevines, and their winery in Riderwood was the first commercial winery in the state. Robert B. Deford Jr., a personal friend of Wagner, planted a vineyard on his family’s Long Green Farm in 1965 and sold the grapes to the Wagners. Over the years, the Wagners and the Deford family developed a friendship that led to the purchase of Boordy Vineyards by the Defords in 1980. Robert B. Deford III, who had studied enology and viticulture at the University of California, Davis, became the winery’s president and winemaker.

With the arrival of the new millennium and the 55th anniversary of the founding of the winery, the management team at Boordy began a review of the company. Deford realized that in order to become a top operation, a total makeover of the winery would be required. The first step was to make a radical shift in the winery’s graphic identity, and Deford hired Ian Kidd, an Australian designer. Kidd and his team created new labels in three distinct groups to reflect different segments of the market; they also redesigned Boordy’s packaging and promotional materials.

Replanted with 1-meter spacing
The vineyard component of the project began in 2006, when Lucie T. Morton, a consulting viticulturist, initiated a complete replanting of Boordy’s 45 acres of vineyards at two locations, Long Green Vineyard in Hydes and South Mountain Vineyard in western Maryland. Morton chose clones and rootstocks to match site characteristics of the vineyards and planted vines with close inter-vine spacing of 1 meter in order to achieve balanced growth and more flavorful wine.

At the same time, an upgrade of winery equipment began, along with the design of a new 11,500-square-foot wine production building. After financing was arranged (the total project cost an estimated $2.8 million), construction began in November 2012 and was completed this September. In addition to improving control over every step of the winemaking process, the new facility increases the winery’s production capacity by 57%—from 108,000 gallons to 170,190 gallons. While Boordy currently produces about 120,000 gallons per year, Deford emphasizes that the primary goal of the winery is increased quality rather than growing larger. In addition, the facility was designed to improve work efficiency and worker safety as well as environmental quality, partly through the installation of a bio-retention area for winery waste water. The north-south orientation of the building will allow solar panels to be installed at a future date.

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