Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lots to like about trip to Black Ankle

Even Sarah O’Herron looked a wee bit surprised last Saturday afternoon at the number of visitors buzzing around the bar in the Black Ankle Vineyards tasting room in Mt. Airy, Md.

Having been forced to push back the opening a couple of months, she and husband Ed Boyce had finally cleared the final hurdle and turned the lights on at noon the previous Saturday, Oct. 4. But you wouldn’t have known that the estate winery, one that uses only grapes it grows on the 146-acre farm in Frederick County, had just opened for business by the size of the crowds that kept O’Herron and two others jumping from one end of the bar to the other, greeting people, pouring samples of a few of the wines that Black Ankle produces, and then stepping over to the cash register to ring someone else out.

While the delay might have been agonizing, it probably was a blessing. Black Ankle already had started to reap the benefits of positive publicity from those who had visited the winery and saw firsthand the investment and energy of the couple. Then came the Maryland Governor’s Cup competition in September and, lo and behold, the winery that hadn’t officially opened for business yet was seeing its top-of-the-line red, a blend called
Crumbling Rock ($40), finish atop the list as the grand-prize winner. Indeed, look up on a shelf above the bar and there’s the Cup, standing amid bottles of Black Ankle wine.

Tastings were $5 apiece, and we were served several splashes of three reds -- the Passeggiata ($22), the Syrah ($26) and the Cosecha ($26) – and three whites – the Gruner Veltliner ($30), the Chardonnay ($22) and the Bedlam 2006 ($22). We followed up by purchasing glasses of the Albarino ($30) and
Bedlam 2007, ($30, winner of the 2008 Winemasters’ Tasters Choice Award) just to sample a couple more whites.

We had the choice of finding a seat inside the cozy, high-ceilinged tasting room that was built primarily of materials found on the farm, or in an adjacent breezeway that is designed to cool guests in the summer and warm them in the winter, or at one of the outdoor tables, where we could admire the rolling countryside that stretches out in every direction from the tasting room. On a cloudless day with temperatures in the 70s, outside seemed like the perfect choice. And it was.

From York it took a little over an hour, zipping down 83 and west on Mt. Carmel Road and into Westminster, then south on Route 27 and, after a few twists and turns that included driving past 25-year-old
Elk Run Vineyards, we drove up Black Ankle Lane and turned right onto the long driveway that leads to the winery. It's one of four wineries with a Mt. Airy address that sit within a few miles of each other, and all should benefit as Black Ankle continues to gain more regional and national exposure.

And as that coverage expands, expect more days like we had there: enjoying not only the wine and the view but the joy of people-watching as they made themselves at home in a room that has a passive solar design and a masonry fireplace that should add a capital "C" to the word comfortable when folks visit through the winter months.

Posting a few photos with this account of both outside and inside the tasting room. If you’re interested in seeing the various stages of construction, click
Oh, what did we take home? Well, it was hard to quibble with any of the samples. Determined to take along a white and a red, we settled on the Albarino -- as much because of the uniqueness of finding an East Coast winery that even makes it in addition to how good it tasted (the Gruner Veltliner was a very close second) -- and the Passeggiata, a wine that's 100 percent Syrah and 110 percent delicious.

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