Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Three Maryland Winemakers

Here are three notable winemakers from Maryland courtesy of Kevin Atticks.

Don Tilmon, Tilmon's Island Winery
Winemaker Don Tilmon is a native of Missouri, raised on a cotton farm in the Southeast part of the State. From the start, he was committed to agriculture, and received degrees in Animal Science (U. Missouri), Production Management (U. Delaware), and Ag Marketing (Purdue University). From 1971 to 1978 Don was a professor of Business Administration at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia. He chaired the department from 1973 through 1978. In 1978 he returned to the University of Delaware as Farm Management Specialist and Professor with the Delaware Cooperative Extension Service. He has served in that capacity for the past 29 years.

In the spring of 1999 Don moved to Sudlersville, Maryland and subsequently planted 15 Concord vines for “home made” wine. By 2003 small amounts of wine were being shared with neighbors who seemed to like it and hinted for more...and so the process of becoming a winery began.

By December 2005, Tilmon’s Island Winery was officially the first commercial winery in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. Tilmon’s Island Winery purchases local vinifera grapes where possible in Caroline, Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties. The winery is small, producing about 500 cases of wine annually in a basement garage of his home – and is open for tastings Sat 12 - 5 p.m.

Tim Lewis, Cove Point Winery
Cove Point Winery winemaker Tim Lewis a man of many talents. He is a successful computer systems engineer by day, and award-winning winemaker by night. While both careers are passions of Lewis, it's the winemaking that keeps him occupied during every non-9-to-5 hour.

Lewis began by making his own basic beers, then graduated to whole-grain brewing. At some point, Lewis recalls wanting to try something different, so he started making wine. He found it was more challenging than making beer – citing the thousands of options presented by choices in yeasts, enzymes and aging techniques. Plus, there are also many more things that can go wrong with wine – so many variables at every turn.

Cove Point Winery has a wide variety of wines. Lewis' personal favorites (both to make and to drink) are big, bold red wines. But, the market wants variety, and Cove Point Winery provides it – 24 wines at any given time. Lewis prides himself on making wines not found readily in the region, like Symphony, Blaufrankish and Vignoles.

Lewis' next big challenge is getting his new building built. "We're out of space," said Lewis, who has every inch of his basement occupied with tanks, supplies and bottles filled with wine on its way to market.

Paul Roberts, Deep Creek Cellars
It was as an apprentice at California's prestigious Chateau Montelena that Paul Roberts leaned how to make superb wine: start with quality grapes, and exercise imagination. Roberts sources fruit locally, regionally, and nationally, and also grows his own.

After 10 years of growing grapes in Deep Creek's Alpine climate, Roberts has learned that his Cabernet Franc are suited best to pink wines. He's particularly proud of his 2006 estate-grown Cabernet Franc rosé, due out in late spring. "You'll think it's from the Loire Valley."

The winery reflects Roberts' casual, rustic style, and the wines, nearly all dry, are bottled without filtration. From the quaint tasting room, to gravity-flow bottling and hand-labeling equipment, the focus is on nature and its resources. He is one of the nation's few winemakers to spell out his philosophy in a book — From This Hill, My Hand, Cynthiana's Wine (1999).

"Paul typifies what a growing industry needs; he's an innovator, and he's not afraid to take chances," says Dick Penna, grape grower and chair of the Maryland Wine and Grape Advisory Commission.

Retailer Mitchell Pressman, owner of Baltimore's top-rated Chesapeake Wines, says: "Paul is a brilliant winemaker who happens to have a small vineyard in western Maryland… The wine is delicious and unique."