Sunday, October 31, 2010

Interview with Charlie Daneri, Frederick Cellars, Maryland

Frederick Cellars is located in a wonderful old brick warehouse, originally built in 1904 as the Crystal Ice House. Our winery has seen many uses over the years; still, we’re pretty confident in saying this is the first time it’s been a winery. A former building tenant—we won’t name names—says it’s haunted. Time will tell. Through a century, it’s undoubtedly seen many souls come and go. If it is haunted, we’re hoping for amiable ghosts who can appreciate a fine Cabernet.

Frederick Cellars recently purchased Catoctin vineyards, one of Maryland’s oldest and most award-winning wineries. Catoctin’s operations have been moved to Frederick. Previous Catoctin owner Robert Lyon will serve as Frederick Cellars’ Wine Master.

Trails End wins Best in Class at the 2010 WineMasters Competition.
The 3rd Annual WineMasters Competition was held on May 20th, at the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott. The competition is open to all Maryland wineries and is judged by both winemakers and selected retailers. The purpose is to judge the winemakers skills. Frederick Cellars did well, winning medals for all six of the wines that were entered:

Trail's End: Best in Class and Gold Medal
Riesling: Gold Medal
Eye of the Oriole: Silver Medal
Mer de Glace: Silver Medal
Heritage Red: Bronze Medal
Frederick Red: Bronze Medal

Interview: Charlie Daneri, Frederick Cellars
Charlie Daneri, owner of Frederick Cellars, has a goal. “There are a lot of different things you can do as a winemaker, says Daneri. “Our approach is to make a good wine that people can enjoy.”

Frederick Cellars does things differently. The winery is located in historic downtown Frederick, a deviation from the rural setting of most Maryland wineries, so it was a challenge to find zoning ordinances that allowed for a winery to exist within Frederick’s city limits. But Daneri followed the advice of a friend who told him, “Put the winery where the people are.” That advice has gone on to benefit not only Frederic Cellars, but also the city of Frederick. "As a unique urban winery in historic downtown Frederick, Frederick Cellars has been instrumental in the revitalization of the east side, bringing in new patrons, pedestrian traffic and investment,” says Richard Griffin, Director of Economic Development for the city of Frederick. “Frederick Cellars has added value to Downtown Frederick and has strong support from its followers."

Daneri and his wife, Emily Williams, got into the business after their children had grown and left the house. Williams’ father was a farmer most of his life so, as Daneri put it, “Farming’s in her blood.” In 2003 the two went in search of a piece of land they could do some growing on. They visited Catoctin Vineyards and spoke with owner, Bob Lyon. They explained to him what they were looking for and were directed to a vineyard in Middletown, Maryland.

Formerly owned by three doctors, the vineyard was started in 1992 and sold grapes to Catoctin Vineyards. Shortly after buying the Middletown property, Daneri bought Catoctin Vineyards from Lyon, who was getting ready to retire. Although Daneri loved Catoctin Vineyard’s location, it was too far from home, so essentially he bought the equipment, inventory and brand name.

Daneri credits Lyon with being a mentor when it comes to winemaking. He decided, however to change Catoctin Vineyard’s name. “So even though we were a new winery in 2006, we decided to change the name because we were going to be a city wine,” says Daneri. “We are a new winery with a vintage background.” Frederick Cellars was born.

Aside from balancing his careers as a software developer and winemaker, Daneri is also active in the legislative aspect of the wine industry. He joined the Maryland Wineries Association in 2006 and has served as Vice President for the past two years. He has also been active in the Government Affairs Committee for the past three years. “We’ve done a lot of work in Annapolis,” says Daneri. “We’re very proud the Wine Modernization Act of 2010 was enacted.”

Even though Daneri has plunged headfirst into the business, at the end of the day, it’s all about the vineyard. “The love is the vineyard,” Daneri says, “Your goal and your first love is always the vineyard. That’s what started us on it, that idea of being able to grow something that you can then turn into a product.” That product is Frederick Cellars’ award winning wines. During this year’s Governor’s Cup Competition, Frederick Cellars won 6 medals, including Best in Class for Trail’s End. “There’s a lot of love and effort that goes into the vineyard, and a lot of hard work,” says Daneri. “You can work very, very hard but it’s only going to be as good as the year is going to give you.”