The seventh annual East Coast Wineries Summit, organized by Paul Vigna, editor at Penn Live, took place on July 31st at Crossvines, an incubator winery in Poolesville, MD. The facility is part of a county and state agriculture district aiming to foster the development of Maryland agriculture, which happily includes a vineyard and winery.
John Levenberg is the winemaker at Crossvines, and explained that the “incubator” model allows those considering starting a winery to begin on a very small scale at the facility, and gradually move on to their own premises. His own winery, a member of the is the Wine Collective.
This year there was a mix of winemakers from Maryland and nearby states: Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York’s Finger Lakes, North Carolina, and even Hermit Woods Winery of New Hampshire, making world-class wines using native-grown fruits and even vegetables like rhubarb and flowers like rose hips.
Founder and organizer Paul Vigna explained that the Summit was founded to give industry winemakers a venue in which they could bring and share wines, but also talk and socialize. Fourteen wineries poured two wines each, a white in the morning and a red in the afternoon, in a flight with another wine of a similar style.
Multiple Four-star Wines
Quality was mostly in the three-star range (very good and with fine typicity), but I even found a few four-star wines (excellent, outstanding). Here they are in order of style:
Anthony Road Blanc de Noirs 2017 (Seneca Lake, NY)
Winemaker Peter Beecroft explained that this fine sparkling wine was made exclusively from the Mariafeld clone of Pinot Noir, noted for its high acidity. Nose: very nice bright red cherry notes and yeast. Palate: WOW! Large palate volume, ripe red cherry flavors, high acidity balanced by yeasty lees, but the vivid acidity persists through the finish. Four years on the lees. $39
Loew Vineyards Chardonnay 2021 (Mt. Airy, MD)
This wine didn’t earn four stars because it was “yuge”, but because it was taut, poised, full-flavored but also well-balanced. Nose: light, lemony and fresh, with an herb/mint component. Palate: vibrant lemon flavor, lees and fine acidity. Excellent balance, varietal character; elegant. Winemaker Rachel Lipman reveals that she adds a proprietary blend of tartaric, malic and citric acids pre-fermentation which seems to give the wine a bright freshness without seeming contrived. Aged nine months in barrel. $26
Hermit Woods Lake House White 2020 (Meredith, NH. Not vintage labeled since that’s illegal for fruit wines).
This fine fruit wine is from 80% locally grown peaches, with rose hips and rhubarb. Color: light gold. Nose: rich, ripe peach aromas. Palate: vivid acidity like a sea breeze balances the full, ripe peach flavor. Texture combines a rich viscocity with a brisk freshness. Impressive fruit/acid balance and long finish. Impressive quality and selection of ingredients and ratios; a rare treat worth the price ($39)
Waltz Winery Crow Woods Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (SE PA)
Nose: fruit-driven, no obvious oak, delicate but masculine, black cassis with a bit of smoke. Palate: Wow! Concentrated, intense, yet fruit-driven. Ripe tannins and firm acidity, shows fine varietal character. Needs time but well-balanced. ***>*, with additional aging. 13.5% alc.
Loew Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 (barrel sample)
Nose: juicy, fresh red cassis! Palate: naturally fruit-forward as it’s a barrel sample, but still very juicy and forward, with very smooth tannins. Needs more time and oak aging, but wonderful fruit-packed infant Cabernet! ***>* with additional aging (alc. 13.5%)
Arterra Tannat 2019 (Delaplane, VA)
When you think about what a great vintage 2019 was in Virginia, you could wonder what a fully dry Tannat could taste like. Well, this is likely as good as it gets, and for all the tannin lovers out there who want a gutsy red Virginia wine, this is the real deal, but I’m glad to say as big as it is, it’s also balanced. Color: inky dark. Nose: complex mix of black fruits and earth/stone. Palate: high tannin level, with rich, spicy black fruits. Still young, needs 2+ years to tame it but clean, intense and a great way to showcase this grape in Virginia. With time in the glass, the ripe black fruit flavors emerge, and the tannins become increasingly smooth. I didn’t realize how high the alcohol was until I read the spec sheet: 17%! This isn’t technically a table wine anymore, but the high alcohol is masked by the big fruit, acids and tannins. This is skillful winemaking, but don’t quaff a flagon of it; as Eric Idle said in his monologue on Australian wine, “Eight bottles of this and you’re REALLY finished.” $50
Barrel Oak Winery and Brewery has New Owners and Winemaker
Last year, Barrel Oak Winery and Brewery in Delaplane was sold to Kavelle and Ken Bajaj of Potomac, Maryland. The new winemaker is Jeremy Ligon. I stopped by for a visit and tasting on my way to the wine summit in Maryland. Jeremy explained that BOW is condensing its product line to remove redundant labels, and looking to up its quality; for example, they plan to introduce a high-end red blend based on Tannat.
BOW fans should know that the popular, cleverly-named BOWhaus white and red, both hybrid-based and off-dry, will continue to be offered.
BOW is located in the recently-delineated Middleburg Viticultural Area, and BOW tries to source as many grapes grown within it as possible.
Wines of the Week: Barrel Oak Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Rose’
One example of using MIddleburg grapes from other growers is their excellent 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, with grapes sourced from Maggie Malik Vineyard in northern Loudoun Co. Nose: very Loire Valley-like, reminiscent of Pouilly-Fume’ or Sancerre, with lots of flint and mineral notes. Palate: vibrantly dry, with a Loire-like flintiness and citrus fruit. ***
Barrel Oak Winery Rose’ 2021
Mostly Chambourcin, the color is light red, and it was co-fermented with Vidal juice, which I’ve seen work very well in the Finger Lakes of NY. Nose: fresh, creamy cherry. Palate: fun, juicy but dry, with loads of cherry and apple fruit. An original and hedonistic style. ***
Ratings key: * = good, ** = very good, *** = classic style and quality, **** = exceptional, outstanding, + = given rating plus, > = will increase in quality with time.