Friday, September 27, 2013

Al Cassinelli of Cassinelli Winery and Vineyards

Located on 110 acres of woods and rolling, open land, Cassinelli Winery & Vineyards is located off of Route 213 on your way to Chestertown, Maryland on the Eastern Shore. They are located at 3830 Church Hill Road in Church Hill, Maryland. The entrance to the winery is marked with flags as well as their Cassinelli Winery & Vineyards sign.
A white vinyl fence is their calling card from the road. Beyond this, they are actively planting and maintaining their vineyards including Chardonnay, Merlot, and Viognier grapes as well as hundreds of apple, peach, pear and plum trees that they hope families will soon visit to pick and enjoy. They share the productive land with several livestock including cows and buffalo. 
While still a fairly young business, Cassinelli Winery and Vineyards has already created a profound and distinguished name for itself. Founded in 1998, the business really started to take off in 2002. Now, just eight short years later, it produces an impressive assortment of wine varieties, including Chardonnay, Merlot, Viognier, Sangiovese, and Malbec.

For Al Cassinelli, owner and founder of the winery, an interest in harvesting and winemaking sprouts from his strong Italian background and heritage. Although Cassinelli and his wife Jennifer founded the winery, his grandfather—who immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1946—sparked his interest in the wine business.

“He had a big influence on me—on business and wine,” says Cassinelli. “I wanted to farm and be able to grow something that could be turned into a valued added product.”

With a total of 13 acres planted and 720 plants per acre, it is clear that Cassinelli will continue to expand the breadth of wine varieties and flavors available. Currently, only the mature Chardonnay and Merlot plants have been producing, but Cassinelli plans for other varieties to come on line by next year. Among the wines available at Cassinelli Winery, Cassinelli highlights the Chardonnay as his wine of choice.


“I prefer the Chardonnay. It really wants to grow here on the shore and the wine is very nice.”

While Maryland is among one of the newer states to enter the winemaking industry, Cassinelli comments that many winemakers in the area do their part to contribute to the growing industry, showing enthusiasm and interest in the success of Maryland wine.

“As a young startup industry trying to find its feet and direction, we have a lot of producers who are genuinely concerned about putting Maryland on the map with quality wines,” he comments.

Seeing as how the industry continues to thrive, the time and effort Cassinelli contributes to his winery and products is well worth the endeavor. For him, the rich and luxurious nature of the business proves to be a rewarding process.

In a profile of Al, Erik Yount wrote in Host Our Coast, "A winery isn't just a pub in a field, and visiting a winery is about more than drinking wine. It's about the process of wine-making, and the culture behind it. It's agro-tourism. You can try the wine and then go out to see the same grapes on the vine. Revealing the craftsmanship behind wine-making creates a sense of appreciation for what comes out of the bottle. Al Cassinelli is very passionate about making quality wines. He wants to see MD catch up with Virginia and Pennsylvania as a winemaking state, and quality is the secret to staying on that track. If a batch of wine didn't make it, he'll dump it, rather than sneak it along to vendors as some wine-makers might do. "

Of the medals they've already won, at a young age, Al told Patti Hamsher of, “These awards, especially the gold medal on a red wine, show that the Eastern Shore is very capable of growing high quality fruit and then turning it into a top of class wine. I know that Cascia Vineyards on Kent Island and Crow Vineyards in Kennedyville have also produced award-winning wines. This is significant because we are all working with young vines that will only get better as they mature.”

“The most rewarding aspect of owning a winery is actually working with the vineyard all year to get it to produce quality grapes, then turning them into a nice wine,” he cites. “Nothing beats walking through the vineyard with a glass of wine from the grapes that you personally grew.”

Read the other profiles: