Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nothing Old About Old Westminster – Great New Wines From This Young Trio!

So I was at the Grand Tasting/Twitter Off at DLW 2013, and the room was abuzz. There were many wonderful wines. But there were some that rose above the rest. Old Westminster had a great vibe going on for it, as writers and bloggers tasted Maryland wines in a huge room overlooking right field at Camden Yards.
There is something odd about Old Westminster that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until the time of this writing – and I just figured it out. “Old Westminster” sounds….well…old. Now, in terms of brand building, that’s great, because it makes you sound established. But there’s an odd juxtaposition – the three people who are pushing headlong into the wine world at Old Westminster are all under 30! And they are doing a terrific job! Baker siblings Drew, Lisa, and Ashli manage the vineyard, make wine, and market respectively (above).

Old Westminster’s proprietors are the Baker family. The property is situated on a rocky plot of ground just south of historic Westminster, MD. The Baker family believes this winery represents the American Dream: strong family, faith, sustainability and entrepreneurial spirit. They are making hand-crafted wines produced in an environmentally conscious way, building relationships and genuinely connecting with the land. The farm has deep, gravelly soils coined, “Channery Loam,” overlaying a bedrock of greenstone schist. They believe this lends character to their wines.

In their vineyard, everything is done by hand. From winter pruning to summer hedging, weed control to harvest- it’s all powered by sweat, not oil. In addition to managing their 7,600 estate vines, they work closely with regional winegrowers to source grapes such as Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.

Before I wrote another word, I have to admit, I went in prejudiced. Several wine writers and bloggers were already buzzing about Old Westminster. At a big tasting like this, that’s great news if you’re a winery.

Todd M. Godbout of The Wine Compass wrote, “And Lisa is getting plenty of practice in the winery. Last year the Maryland Assembly passed a law legalizing the equivalent of a custom crush. So this year, Old Westminster Winery became such a facility and Lisa assisted consultant John Levenberg in making wine for two other Maryland start-ups, Crow Vineyard and Winery and Vineyards At Dodon.”

And of course, Washington Post wine scribe Dave McIntyre wrote of the two wines we tasted at the Grand Tasting, “These wines catapulted Old Westminster Winery and its young winemaker, Lisa Baker, to the top of my “Ones to Watch” list.” I couldn’t agree more!

Old Westminster Chardonnay Pine Grove Vineyard 2012
So first I tried the Chardonnay. This is a single vineyard wine. The Chardonnay grapes are from a vineyard perched atop a sandy bank overlooking the Chester River.  McIntyre continued, “Old Westminster makes a bracing chardonnay that contrasts perfectly with so many flabby examples from the east – this is chardonnay in the Linden, Boordy, and Michael Shaps category.” Again, I couldn’t agree more with Dave.  Dave wasn’t the only one! Lenn Thompson, Editor-in-Chief of the New York Cork Report scribbled, “It’s not news that I’m not the biggest fan of American chardonnay. I probably wouldn’t have even tasted this if a fellow attendee who knows that most chardonnay bores me hadn’t suggested that I try it anyway. I’m glad he did. Minerally and focused with just a kiss of oak, it leans to Chablis but doesn’t quite get there — and that’s okay.” This wine was light and bright. Great mouthfeel. Refreshing. Beautiful green apple and ripe pear with traces of tropical fruit and melon, with a beautiful crisp acidity. A lip smacking wine!

Old Westminster Links Bridge Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011
Again, this wine was a single vineyard wine as well. This Cabernet Franc is from a vineyard on a silty-clay bank of the Monocacy River in Maryland. McIntyre raved, “There was also a delicious cabernet franc that was all the more impressive because it came from the incredibly rainy 2011 vintage.” Again, I agree with Dave. The wine had bright and dark cherries on the nose, along with vanilla, spice, and a hint of chocolate. The fruit laid on the tongue like jam, and the flavor lasted a nice long time despite a noticable soft acidity. The tannins were soft. This Cab Franc was made the wine classic in a European-East Coast style. This is Cab Franc! This was lovely!!!  Wrote Godbout, “The final wine was a Maryland Cabernet Franc, where they grapes were sourced from a vineyard in Thurmont Maryland. In general, this wine is coming along nicely. It had.. much fruit flavor… but with less tannins.”

These two wines showed tremendous promise for a new winery on the up-swing. Congratulations and good luck!!! Given we were behind the right fields stands of Camden Yards, I’d say these wines were a home run!

Here’s Dave’s notes on Old Westminster and a few others I’ll be writing about:

Here’s Todd’s post:

Here’s Lenn’s notes: