Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Maryland Newspaper Trumpets Wines of Southern Maryland

Zacharia's Crossing

Southern Maryland has plenty to wine about
Growers offer oenophiles wide variety of tastes to please the palate
Friday, Oct. 30, 2009
By LAURA BUCK
Staff writer
The Enterprise (Southerland Maryland Newspapers)


Behind every bottle of wine there is a grape. Behind every grape there is a vineyard. Behind every vineyard, there is a grower.

Todd Connick of Hughesville has never had a particular affinity for vino, and yet he has been growing grapes for four years, a habit he got into when his family stopped growing tobacco on their farm at Zacharia's Crossing.

His uncle suggested the family take up growing grapes, which Connick said seemed like the most viable replacement for tobacco at the time. "Three hundred turned into 600 and 600 turned into 1,000," Connick said of the grapevines, which now take up about an acre of his farm.
He sells to Fridays Creek Winery in Owings.

Connick currently grows about five grape varieties on his farm along with his father, Tucker Connick, and is planning to add an additional acre.

"Some are sweet … but you wouldn't eat any of these; they're designed to make wine," said Connick, adding that growing grapes has not come close to replacing tobacco in terms of income.
"They claim if you're making wine and selling wine, it can be lucrative, but I'm not a winemaker," he said. "It's a hobby and it's paying for itself, but you're not getting rich off of it."
Connick said that growing grapes takes a large amount of time and energy. That includes checking the sugar content of grapes, spraying them for pests, ensuring that they're growing properly and finally picking them at the end of August and through September.

"It involves tractors, sprayers, clippers … birds are a problem, too. If you're not careful, birds can come in one day and clean the whole vineyard out; luckily, that hasn't happened to me," Connick said.

Off season for grape growers, he said, is between the first frost of the fall and the last frost of the following year. That is usually late October to mid-March.

Once the weather warms up, Connick said, it's time to start all over again with new grape shoots.
In order to grow grapes for wine successfully, certain condition have to be met, Connick said.
"The land has to be right. The layout has to be right. The type of grape has to be right," said Connick, who explained that dry land is needed.

"A grape will grow on a rock," he said.

Connick said his vineyard is laid out in straight lines going from north to south, "so when the sun comes up, it'll be on the east side of the grapes and when it goes down, it's on the west side."
He said he learned most of this knowledge, as well as what grapes to grow, from the University of Maryland Extension.

Though Connick has dabbled in some winemaking of his own — and has received rave reviews from family and friends — he said he is in no hurry to start his own winery on the farm that has been owned by his family since 1909.

Both he and his father said that though they have considered it, the operation has always seemed a bit expensive. And Connick is not a huge wine drinker.

"I've tried every kind of wine and I'm like ‘nope, not that' … but I drink it because it's good for you," said Connick, who also grows barley on his farm.

"Of course, barley is used to grow beer, but I haven't gone there," he laughed.
He said there is enough adventure in growing grapes for wine. "It's never-ending. You're always learning something."

‘We hope to please everybody a little bit'


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