Monday, May 10, 2010

Interview with Anthony Aellen of Linganore Winecellars in Maryland

An interview with Anthony Aellen, Linganore Winecellars at Berrywine Plantations
Located northeast of New Market, Maryland, Berrywine Plantations/ Linganore Winecellars is a family-owned and operated vineyard and winery. The first acres were planted in 1971 and the winery was established in 1976.

Anthony Aellen has always been a part of the family business, but this was not the path he planned to take. After graduating from high school in 1977, Anthony attended college as a pre-med major. While studying for an exam in his second year, he decided that he wanted to pursue a different career. Anthony started to take courses at UC Davis to learn about wine and winemaking. In the early eighties Anthony took over the winemaking responsibilities from his father, Jack.

In 1972, Linganore Winecellars started with 6 acres and 30 different varieties of grapes, to experiment with what varieties worked and did not work in Maryland. In the early ‘80s Linganore became a test site for Cornell University and began growing many hybrid varieties including Melody and Cayuga grapes.

“This was a neat learning experience with a new grape,” says Aellen, “It was a new opportunity to hone my skills.”

“As a winemaker I am continually learning, continually expanding what you know and what you do,” says Aellen, stating that learning is a key element to life at Linganore, allowing the winery to be a leader in the wine industry. In 1978, Linganore was the first winery to produce a semi-sweet wine. And in 1990, Berrywine Plantations introduced the first dry fruit wines.

Aellen’s favorite wine to make is a barrel-aged dry red wine. He likes these wines because it takes three to four years to make. The building excitement is his favorite part of the process. It forces the winemaker to slow down and focus on the wine. Aellen says, “The coolest thing is to go through and develop a new wine. Having it sit and all along wondering if customers will like it. Then when it is ready bringing it to the tasting room and letting customers try it. You learn to read faces and can immediately see if they like it.”

(The Aellen family of Berrywine Plantations and Linganore Winecellars was named the 2008 Farm Family of the Year at The Great Frederick Fair on Friday night. From the left are Nicholas Aellen, 15, Melissa Aellen, 17, Mary Ann Aellen and Anthony Aellen.)

This connection with customers distinguishes Linganore. Many of their customers get to know the family and become repeat customers. Part of this connection is that the customers are “walking away with a part of the family.” Knowing the family who makes the wine adds pressure to make sure that the quality is there. “We have built a reputation of producing nice, enjoyable, drinkable wines,” says Aellen.

At Linganore, they know that people drink what they like. Due to this they provide a wide variety of different wines for different palate and levels of maturity. By providing different wines, Linganore aims to reach all types of customers.

According to Aellen, Maryland provides for a unique and great location for growing grapes and producing wines.

“Maryland provides a nice location with many potential customers and a climate that produces good fruit. Good fruit produces good wine,” says Aellen. “There are many different regions in Maryland providing a wide variety of grapes in a relatively small geographic area. The moderate climate allows it to be cold enough to make whites, but not too warm to produce reds. The only draw back is that there is limited land, which makes it more expensive than other states.”

Linganore started as a hobby in a basement in Brooklyn where Aellen’s grandfather produced 200 gallons of wine. Today Linganore Winecellars/ Berrywine Plantations is a much bigger operation producing 50,000 cases in 2009. Linganore has become known for a nice, relaxed atmosphere producing “great times and fun wines.”

Learn more about Linganore Winecellars.