Maryland’s first post-Prohibition winery, Boordy Vineyards located in a very peaceful, undeveloped corner of Baltimore County, began as a vineyard in 1945 where Philip Wagner, the editor of the Baltimore Sun, had succeeded the great H.L. Mencken. Wagner experimented with French hybrid grapes, planting and making wine from them and promoting the more successful ones to others who wanted to plant sustainable (i.e. cold-hardy and disease-resistant) wine grapes in Eastern North America.
The DeFords planted the first vineyards at their Long Green vineyard in 1965 and moved winemaking operations there in 1980 when they bought the Boordy name from the Wagners. They have placed their farm in permanent preservation with the Maryland Environmental Trust. Sustainability has been a priority for the DeFords since before it became a trendy and basically mandatory mantra on the West Coast. “Our electricity is sourced from wind generation, and winery waste water is treated by an innovative system of bio-retention ponds. We nurture wetlands on our farm as havens for wildlife, and we leave margins of fields un-mowed to promote bio-diversity,” says proprietor Rob DeFord on their website.
In 2016, Boordy won the Maryland Governor’s Cup with their 2015 albariño, a brilliant and true-to-type racy, dry white wine (see tasting notes) and it was an upset for a white to win in that competition. It had been a few years since I’d been to Boordy so I tasted through their wines with a focus on the “Landmark” series (100% estate or vineyards controlled by Boordy in Maryland). The consistency of high quality with stylistic diversity over several vintages was impressive (this line is all vinifera except for a chambourcin port-style wine and a sweet vidal). Tasting notes:
Pinot Gris 2015: Nose: racy grapefruit and bright citrus. Palate: round, clean, fresh, flavors of melon and peach, dry but just enough skin contact for the Gris (not “grigio”) style, although still lively and fresh.
Sauvignon Blanc 2016: Nose: impressive minerality and lime notes, much like Sancerre (includes 25% viognier due to crop loss from the April frost of that year) and a hint of floral notes. Palate: solid, round, dry but texture much like that of the pinot gris, not as edgy as the nose suggests (25% viognier?).
*Albariño 2016: Nose: whiff of white pepper, grapefruit and kumquat. Palate: HUGE volume of flavor, very dry but also round on the mid-palate with flavors of pink grapefruit and kumquat. Very stylish, elegant and balanced; world-class.
* Albariño 2016 (barrel sample, French oak). Nose: peachy with orange citrus, kumquat and tangerine, with intriguing hints of juniper and white pepper. Palate: round texture at first, then tight and focused; flavors of white peach, apricot, tangerine and juniper. Something like a cool climate chardonnay, gruener veltliner and riesling all combined. Very stylish and promising and a nice variation on the non-oaked version.
Rockfish 2015: a wine from the “Chesapeake Classics” line; a blend of 72% seyval, 14% chardonnay and 14% vidal. Nose: pink grapefruit aromas. Palate: off-dry, round, nice grapefruit flavors with fresh clean finish, very versatile food or sipping wine.
*Dry Rosé 2016: from cabernet franc. Nose: lovely fresh red cherries! Palate: juicy, round, dry, fresh, zesty red cherries. Provençal style, and very stylish!
Chardonnay Reserve 2014 (South Mountain Vineyard). Nose: obvious oak and lees influence, with almond and butterscotch, ripe apple, and fresh cut hay. Palate: fat, round texture, ripe apple flavor, nice zesty minerality on the finish. A large style, but well balanced with a welcome fresh finish.
Petit Cab 2015: one of the Chesapeake Classics series, this is a dry but mostly unoaked cabernet sauvignon. Nose: fresh cassis! Why don’t more wineries think of this? Palate: red and black fruits, dry but not oaky, moderate tannins, versatile and easy to drink, I love the true cassis fruit of the grape.
*Syrah 2015: Dark, cabernet-like color. Nose: black cherry with some nutmeg. Palate: forward, juicy, round, solid black cherry flavors, dry with moderate tannins, some mocha/chocolate on the finish. Pretty impressive for East Coast syrah.
*South Mountain Red 2014: 60% merlot, 25% cabernet sauvignon, 9% cabernet franc, 6% syrah. Nose: dark fruits, with soy, plum and white pepper; at just 6%, the syrah dominates aromatics. Palate: juicy, forward, round, not tannic, red and black plum flavors with clean earth hints. Kind of northern Italian style; versatile and original.
Lost Order #191 2014: Named after the Civil War battle that took place on the ground of the South Mountain vineyard. 45% cabernet sauvignon, 28% merlot, 14% petit verdot, 13% syrah. Nose: spicy red fruits, some oak and earth. Palate: round, juicy, forward, smoky red fruits, reminiscent of sangiovese with fresh bright acid and red fruits on finish. Stylish, versatile food wine.
*Cabernet Franc 2013: Nose: lovely red/black cherry and smoke, some spice. Palate: mature, with black cherry and plum flavors, fresh and vibrant, nice acidity mid-palate, crisp finish. Classic East Coast style; drink now.
**Cabernet Franc Reserve 2014: Bright red cherry and nutmeg, fresh and lively. Palate: plump, ripe red cherry and plum, cardamom and cinnamon spices. Fruit forward, oak in the background. Stylish and elegant. Notably pricey for cab franc at $40, but if you seek out top examples of this grape from around the East, this is the real deal.
*Landmark Reserve 2013: 59% cabernet sauvignon, 22% merlot, 7% cabernet franc, 7% syrah, 5% petit verdot). Deep ruby color. Nose: mature black fruits, cedar/oak notes, dried cherries and plums. Palate: plush, mature, but solid spicy black fruits with firm tannins and acid. Vibrant and fresh finish. Starts mature but ends young, still needs some time. Complex, worth waiting another 2-4 years.
*Port of Chambourcin 2013: 18 months in oak. Color: v. dark garnet. Nose: mocha black cherry, just a hint (appropriate) of volatile acidity. Palate: spicy cherry, plush but zesty spice, excellent balance of fruit and age. Complex and balanced, with a sexy mocha finish.
* = very good