Saturday, July 11, 2009

Profile: Warren Rich of Ashby Vineyards in Maryland

The first licensed winery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Little Ashby Vineyards, is located on the banks of the Miles River in historic Talbot County, near the quaint colonial towns of Easton and St. Michaels. The winery can be reached by boat as well as by car or bicycle. Its elevated riverbank position gives the vineyards their own distinct microclimate, cooled by river breezes on hot summer nights and moderated by the warmer water temperature during the winter.

Charles Baudelaire, prominent French poet, once wrote, “Beauty is the sole ambition, the exclusive goal of Taste.” Taste is what Warren Rich has framed his life around. Warren Rich, owner and winemaker of Little Ashby Vineyards, is a modern Renaissance man. Educated in the school of chemistry, a confident lawyer with his own practice, a sophisticated winemaker, a loving dog owner—you name it, this man has it covered.

“I’ve always been a wine lover—I always loved Italian wine—and I was always interested in chemistry,” says Rich.Warren Rich began his search for wine property back in 1992, traveling throughout California’s Napa Valley to Oregon, where he initially thought he’d begin his winemaking career. But his wife, Lynne (co-owner of Little Ashby), encouraged the purchase of land belonging to an old estate in Talbot County. Warren and Lynne first planted their vineyard in 1992 before their house was even renovated.

“There are two things I’m concerned about as a winemaker, that every winemaker is really concerned about—humidity and temperature,” Rich explained, “Here on the Eastern Shore, in Talbot County, there’s a great microclimate for the production and persistence of grapes. “ If Rich’s attention to detail and demand for sophistication and specificity doesn’t attract you to his vineyard, his wine will. “I think that wine deserves an educated palette and a great nose,” Rich said, “and I produce wine for that educated palette.”

Rich developed his superior tastes during his travels throughout Italy and Europe. While he was developing his law career, he worked in Italy with a few friends, experimenting during his time away from the office with cooking and tasting wines from the local vineyards.

“That’s around the time that I really began to develop my appreciation for Italian wine, and between cooking with really fresh ingredients, and sampling different wines, I knew that I wanted to try and make my own,” Rich said. So after coming back to the States, Rich continued to work in enviromental law, but pursued winemaking at UC-Davis, where he took a short course to learn more about owning and maintaining a winery.

Rich wasn’t always focused on becoming a winemaker. Before his experiences in Italy and with law, he intended to go on to medical school, but decided that family was more of a priority. Instead of working long hours, and having to relocate, Rich chose to stay with Lynne and his children and find their own place to live and create wine.

“Warren has impeccable—almost immaculate—taste,” His wife, Lynne commented, “He knows how to make a superb, dry wine.”

Little Ashby's owners, winemaker Warren Rich and his wife Lynne, live on the property with their labrador retrievers, Chester and Teddy Bear, and their labradoodle, "Lola", whose portraits grace the labels of the wines.

Surrounded by water on three sides, Little Ashby benefits from a serene setting with spectacular sunsets and over flights of Canadian geese.

In 2003 Little Ashby produced a bordeaux-styled wine called "Super Talbot", named for the county in which the winery is located. This wine was awarded a gold medal at The Maryland Wine Festival, with the highest score in the 2005 Governor's Cup competition. The winery has received numerous other awards for its merlot, pinot noir, chardonnay and port.

The Super Talbot is the big red wine you're looking for. It's a big, red, deep and delicious wine. Nice tannins. Nice dry finish. A proven winner in a region that is making better and better wine.

In 2007 Little Ashby will offer a cabernet sauvignon blend, its new "Super Talbot", and a silver medal winning cuvée, "Ashby Red".

Due to limited production, this boutique winery limits sales to regional wine shops, superior restaurants, festivals and winery visitors.

Call ahead, because they are by appointment only. But don't let that scare you off! Go!

Little Ashby Vineyards
27549 Ashby Drive
Easton, MD 21601

410-819-8850 or 410-822-6027
Fax: 410-819-8849

July —Wed - Sun. Other times by appointment only.