Saturday, November 06, 2010

Fiore Winery Distilling A Big Success

Mike Fiore is one of those guys I have been writing bout for almost a decade now. Wow, am I getting old. He is expereinced, funny, a great storyteller, and a man who makes you want to enjoy life - especially with a bottle of wine. But he continues to be a leader in the Mid-Atlantic region. And with this new piece, in Winery & Vineyard Management, it seems like theres nothing he can;t do. Grat story in the Otober 2010 issue of the magazine.

Fiore Winery Gets into the Spirit
A Maryland vintner distills new revenue with grappa and limoncello
By Sam Meddis
Vineyard & Winery Management October 2010 issue
When Maryland state Sen. Barry Glassman sought to persuade his skittish colleagues to support a bill permitting distillery operations at wineries, he brought along Exhibit A.

That would be Mike Fiore, a Harford County vineyard and winery owner whose winemaking memories go back to his childhood on the family farm in Italy.

"He immediately captivated the committee with stories of the old country," Glassman recalled.

"He shares a lot of the success for getting the law passed and easing their concerns."

That law, enacted in 2005, allowed wineries to distill up to 200 gallons of beverage per year. Three years later, after persevering through a long licensing process and finally finding two Portuguese copper stills he could afford, Fiore made his first batch of grappa, and later limoncello - two specialty drinks that fit in nicely with Fiore's theme: "The Maryland wine with an Italian accent.""I wanted to show my Italian roots as much as possible," said Fiore. "My family was always in the wine business - wine and olive oil."

Fiore left the economically distressed southern Italian region of Calabria in 1962. Emigration was taking a heavy toll on vineyard workforces, so he sold the family's store of wine and impetuously bid farewell to his widowed mother: "I took the money, put it on the dining room table, and I said, ‘This is it, I'm leaving.'"Several weeks later, at age 17, "I was staring at the Statue of Liberty," he said. He quickly found work at a family friend's produce-packing business in Boston, where he soon met his future wife, Rose.

In 1975, attracted by northern Maryland's open spaces and rolling hills, the couple bought a 14.5-acre farm for $20,000 amid the cornfields of Pylesville. To his surprise, Fiore discovered that the land had some of the same characteristics as the fine winegrowing regions of northern Italy.

Fiore decided to plant a patch of cabernet sauvignon for personal consumption - 600 vines, which stand to this day. With at least one foot back in the winegrowing game, he began meeting growers and agricultural experts who "put wind behind my sails to bring me back to the wine business," Fiore said.


The impetus for Fiore's distillery idea came from the hardscrabble experiences of his youth in Calabria, which taught him to abhor waste.As his vines burgeoned, he realized there was something else they produced: increasingly huge heaps of skins and dropped fruit - far more than he needed to fertilize his vineyard - and he recoiled at paying good money to have that waste composted elsewhere.

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