Monday, September 22, 2008

Maryland Festival sees glass completely full

The perfect weekend turned into the perfect attendance storm at the Maryland Wine Festival in Westminster, according to the executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.

Kevin Atticks wrote in an e-mail earlier today that the 25th annual event drew more than 15,000 on Saturday, a record, and that the final number for the weekend was 23,695. And the PREMIER tent, which cost visitors an extra $25 (the festival fee was $20) to enter, lured in more than 600 guests. There, they could partake of gourmet food and premium wines, including some library wines from Catoctin Winery (now Frederick Cellars). Atticks said that “Black Ankle's wines were a hit, and Orchid Cellars' historic-recipe mead was very well-received.”

Twenty-three of Maryland’s 34 wineries participated, and both the new guard and what Atticks called the historic wineries – those such as
Basignani, Boordy, Fiore and
Woodhall that have been around for 20 or more years -- were represented. You would think the new competition from, among others, Sugarloaf Mountain and Black Ankle and the awards they’ve been winning might cause some panic among the more-established wineries. If that’s the case, no one is sharing that fear. After all, they have been holding out their hands to assist these fledgling proprietors.

Talk to the newcomers and they’ll all tell you that they’re indebted to the old guard for their assistance and encouragement as they went through the process of getting set up. No one set up roadblocks; instead they answered questions and shared information, and that seems to be happening across the state line in Pennsylvania, too. Consequently, Atticks said in a phone conversation this afternoon, that group now feels like they can share in some of the quick success that the new wineries have enjoyed.

“All of us came away from this festival very proud of what we were offering,” Atticks said. “I think what you’re seeing with the success of these new wineries . . . is kind of a revived industry pride. The older wineries, historic wineries as they’ve asked me to call them, I think really do feel and I think it’s appropriate, that the success of the newer ones came from the groundwork laid by these old wineries. [They see] that we would not have gotten the state support and the educational opportunities and the funding for these new start-ups and the high-profile marketing for these new starts-ups had there not been for the success and the perseverance of the historic wineries.

“It sure makes my job easier that the new wineries coming out are of high quality; well thought out, winning awards, getting grants, have solid business plans, are trying new things, are cutting edge. It’s hard for anyone to debate that.”