Sunday, December 30, 2007
Boordy Vineyards, in Maryland, was the brain/lovechild of founders Philip and Jocelyn Wagner, who operated Boordy nursery in the 1930’s and introduced new varieties of French hybrid grapevines throughout the United States. Philip Wagner was almost singehandledly responsible for helping to sustain an east coast winemaking tradition, when many wine growers were ready to leave the region for dead. He was a staunch advocate for east coast winemaking - and french-American hybrids. The Wagners established Maryland’s first commercial winery in 1945.
Few people today, especially in the eastern wine business, realize the debt we all owe to Mr. Wagner. His winery was cutting edge in its day, and they was one of the loudest, strongest voices in wine fore more then three or four decades. As all things must happen, the winery eventually stumbled. Newer, younger winemakers take hold. The new becomes the old...real fast...especially in America.
The R. B. Deford family has owned the winery since 1980. Rob Deford, who received formal training in oenology at the University of California, Davis, manages Boordy with his wife, Julie, a graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art. Boordy’s winemaker since 1986 is Tom Burns.
In the last ten years they have upgraded and extended their plantings, and in the last four to five years they have completely transformed the winery, the wine, and their labels. What results is the classic major regional winery dedicated to quality and local involvement. And they are also business minded enough that while they drive a large amount of business form their winery operation, they have exceptional penetration into the liquor store market, one of the few wineries that have made friends with wholesalers, as their product can be found in almost every Maryland wine and spirits shoppe.
They have selected their wines into two groups - fine wines, and "just for fun wines." This addresses the needs of regional wineries who want to make fine wines, but face the need to develop more fun styled wines for popular consumption, greater volume, and wider distribution.
From the Landmark Series, their Chardonnay was a shocker. Clean, crisp. Half naked chard; half oaked chard, the hint of oak was nice without overpowering. Excellent.
The Syrah was a big red wine. Deep purple. Very dry. Made from California grapes, but made by them.
Eisling, Sweet Riesling Reserve was an incredible success as a dessert wine. Sweet with honey and apple and apricot, it also had enough acidity to balance it out. Very nice. Not too sweet. Perfect.
From the Icons of Maryland Series we loved their Seyval-Vidal-Chardonnay which Dominique both thought was refreshing and clean. The blush was lovely. The Riesling was also extremely nice.
From their Just for Fun wine series we liked the Wassail (which is an old Boordy favorite), and the Chilled Apple.
The DeFords and Mr. Burns have succeeded in not only saving a landmark in and of itself, but have excelled at advancing the business of the regional winery. They are a model for others to look at.
Congratulations to them. And congratulations to us...that Boordy's is a strong and vibrant player in this new century, just as it was in the last.
A good friend of mine, Bill Luckey, a New York native of many years, and a long time friend, and I happily found our way down to Vintage New York not long ago. We needed to kill some time before a formal event late in the city in late December. I told Bill I knew just the place.
Bill had not yet been, so I introduced him to the delights of their tasting bar and policy, and off we went on a oenological tour of New York state. We visited some of the unusual suspects, but of course, we found some pleasant surprises. Herein are a few of them:
We started off with the 2000 Chateau Franc Blanc de Blanc from the Finger Lakes. It was dry, fresh, and effervescent. It had a touch of citrus and lovely floral qualities. It's not inexpensive, but it is worth every penny.
Our next favorite among many was the 2006 Vineyard 48 Sauvignon Blanc from Long Island. As advertised, it was "zesty, vibrant, and clean." A lovely touch of lemon. Extremely nice! A new favorite!
Another stunner was the 2004 Paumanok Assemblage from Long Island. Big plums and dark berries. Nice hints of toast and vanilla. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a big, sophisticated red wine.
We left the shop feeling warm inside, bracing ourselves against the cold winter night, scarves, gloves, top coats, and bags of wine. We carefully and nervously handed over our bags of loot to the coat check person at our event, ever mindful to retrieve them when we left. And I brought them happily home to Dominique, who arched her eyebrow when I arrived late and with wine in hand.
All three can be found at Vintage New York. Enjoy!