Sunday, July 06, 2008
Dick Seibert and Knob Hall Coming On Strong in Maryland
New vintner is thinking big
60-acre operation will be largest in Md.
June 9, 2008
CLEAR SPRING - Row after row, vine after vine, a former lobbyist with a taste for fine wine is creating Maryland's largest vineyard in the Appalachian foothills of Western Maryland.
Richard Seibert moved his family last year from Annapolis to Clear Spring to plant 60 acres of grapes on the 175-acre farm that has been in his family for generations. In the fall of 2009, Knob Hall Winery will start bottling wine from the merlot, cabernet franc, vidal blanc and chambourcin grapes he started planting last year.
When fully planted by 2010, Seibert's vineyard will the largest in Maryland, eclipsing Linganore Winecellars' 50 acres in Frederick County, said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.
Knob Hall won't be the largest winery, though. Both Linganore Winecellars and Boordy Vineyards of Hydes produce more than 100,000 gallons a year, much more than the approximately 30,000 Seibert projects for Knob Hall. He said he expects to buy grapes to supplement what he grows, just as the state's other large wineries do.
Seibert, 56, worked for the National Association of Manufacturers and founded the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, a think tank dedicated to energy, environmental, health and safety issues.
While he enjoys wine, he concedes he's no vintner.
"We are not experts in making wine, which is why we have hired an expert winemaker," Seibert told The Frederick News-Post.
The vintner, John Levenberg, studied at the University of California-Davis and has worked in France and California, Seibert said.
"He did a merlot," Seibert said. "I'm not a big merlot fan, and it just knocked my socks off. If we can do this, we'll have no trouble."
Seibert's vineyard signals a renewed push for winemaking in Washington County. Joe Fiola, a small-fruit specialist with University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension, told The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail that the county's well-drained soil includes some of the best grape-growing areas in the state. Yet Washington County has had no commercial wineries since the Ziem Winery in Downsville closed about nine years ago, Fiola said.
Vineyards offer big profit potential for those who can afford high upfront costs, which Seibert estimated at $12,000 to $13,000 an acre.
Fiola said an average acre of grapes yields $1,000 to $2,000. Turning grapes into wine can multiply the yield by 10 or 12, he said.
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Here's another article about Knob Hall