“In those early days there were things I learned from Philip Wagner and things I didn’t learn from him,” Deford told me. “ What I did not learn from Wagner was how to make wine, grow grapes, or sell wine. This was the mid-1970s and the California boutique winery movement was starting to make headway. They were using new techniques and trying new things. Wagner was out of touch – he was not a fan of stainless steel or temperature control. He was not interested in recent innovations or emphasis upon varietals. If I had heeded the Wagner philosophy we probably would not have survived another five years.”
A watershed for Boordy and the Maryland wine industry occurred in 1984, when seven wineries came together to form the Association of Maryland Wineries. Rob was elected to serve as the new group’s first leader and presided over the Maryland Wine Festival’s inaugural event held at the Union Mills Homestead in Westminster. The festival was an overwhelming success, and moved to the Carroll County Farm Museum the next year where it is still held today, attracting crowds in excess of 20,000.
By 1986 Boordy had grown sufficiently to merit bringing on a dedicated winemaker, and Tom Burns was hired to fill the position which he holds to this day. Continual improvements in equipment and viticultural practices were made to support Tom’s work. His efforts soon began to bear fruit. Wine critic, Robert Parker wrote in his Wine Buyer’s Guide: “The most successful Maryland winery from a commercial and critical point of view is Boordy Vineyards whose wines have moved from strength to strength in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” Baltimore Sun wine columnist, Michael Dresser, wrote, “Buying Maryland wine is not just a matter of home state pride. Boordy Vineyards, the state’s oldest, is an especially good source of whites for under $10. If your purpose is to confound a wine snob, you couldn’t do better.”
As Boordy celebrated its 55th year and calendars rolled into the new millennium, Boordy's management undertook a complete review of the company. The first order of business was to update the winery’s image to reflect the many improvements that had been implemented over the past fifteen years; contrary to conventional wisdom favoring incremental change in an established brand, it was decided that a radical shift in the winery’s graphic identity was warranted. Ian’s designs divided Boordy’s wine offerings into three ranges: “Landmark”, “Icon”, and “Just for Fun”, each fulfilling a distinct role in the market. The redesigned labels were affixed to bottles in the spring of 2004, and the results in the marketplace were immediate and dramatic.