The Drink Local Wine 2013 wine conference is over. Two
mightily packed days of fun and information all downloaded with a glass of wine
or two. Of course, Maryland wine was the big winner. It was the recipient of
much love and affection, and rightfully so. It was an absolute triumph for
Kevin Atticks and his crowd. The wines, for the most part, showed beautifully
And what really shown was that Kevin and his marketing team have the message
and the showcasing well in hand. And the winemakers are growing in number, and
making better wine than ever before.
But for me one of the really fantastic moments was a small
one a lot of other people ignored. When Robert Deford was on stage talking
about the history, the legacy of Maryland wine. He mentioned all the appropriate
Robert Deford of Boordy Vineyards
Bob has been at the head of Maryland’s oldest and largest
winery for 33 years. He has over seen a massive transformation. He has been at
the forefront of conservation and sustainability. But he’s also been deeply
engrossed in fighting the legal system in Maryland that held sway for a long
time, and really proved to be the barrier for the state’s wine business.
Bob said that Maryland wine had come a long way during his
tenure. And he had four “legs” that Maryland winemakers had identified as being
key to turning around their industry.
Science and research were key. Without these,
winemaking was still in the dark ages, and quality would never improve.
or organization of the wineries was key. You could fight like family behind
closed doors, but when you went out side, everybody had to smile and be on the
The wineries needed a political voice. The laws
were set up to prevent the wine industry from growing, and it took a lot of
political wrangling to get the state onboard with growing the wine business as
an extension of the agratourism movement.
Last was that he industry had to learn how to
market their wine together.
No matter if your wine industry is in Maryland or Kalamazoo,
these legs are all super important. But more importantly, Deford had an
epiphany at the conference, when he realized that 2001 was a watershed year for
Kevin Atticks with Sarah O'Herran of Black Ankle
That was the year the Maryland Wine Organization hired Kevin
Atticks and Joe Fiola. Kevin Atticks took care of the marketing. He’s smart,
savvy, funny, and has a sharp, light footed marketing team around him. Atticks
has helped promote the industry by promoting festivals, trails, and awards.
He’s done a great job being cheerleader to a winning team. Attick’s troopers
know twitter, facebook, and keep the media going at all times, sending out
electronic news letters to wine writers, and parading a steady stream of
successful wineries out every month of the year.
The other accomplishment was in hiring the winemaking-est
Wine Prof on the east coast, Joe Fiola. Fiola’s arrival, like that of Mark
Chien in Pennsylvania, created the chain reaction Deford was talking about. Fiola is an odd hybrid of Extension expert (he
can assist in site selection, planting selection, and vineyard planning) as
well as a master winemaker (he makes more experimental wines, with more
practical applications than any other wine prof on the east coast). He is
These two combined hirings amounted to a watershed moment in
Maryland wine. One helped create the best practices for vineyard management and
winemaking, and the other for promoting the accomplishments of the industry.
I thought this was an important thing to impart. It’s the
kind of thing that gets lost…that a region…and wine start in the same place.