Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Serendipity, indeed, at Loew Vineyards

Based on the number of wineries in the vicinity of Mt. Airy, Md., you might think that you’re somewhere in the middle of Napa instead of eastern Frederick County.

There are four located to the north and south of Maryland Route 26, all members of the
Frederick Wine Trail and all within a 10- or 15-minute drive from each other. One is Loew Vineyards, owned by Bill and wife Lois, who bought their 37-acre farm and planted their first vines in 1982. By 1986, they were bottling their first wine.

In all, they produce 17 wines, a combination of appealing to varied palates and Bill’s candidly admitting that “whenever I come up with a new wine my wife wouldn’t let me terminate any other wines.” They offer types that most would recognize: a Caernet, Riesling and Chardonnay. And others called Celebration, Twilight and Classic Red that virtually no one would recognize without a bit of an introduction. But Bill said last night that he doesn’t think unfamiliarity is such a bad thing. “You know, people do like something different to taste and to take home rather than the stuff they recognize,” he said. “So we have different wines.” One is called Country Classic that, he said, “is a very nice red wine blended with blackberries. It’s a delightful drink. I came up with that wine five or six years ago, and it has been very successful.”

So have what he calls his two signature wines, one called Serendipity and the other called Raspberry in Grape. Serendipity is made out of a grape called
Reliance, which is seedless and pink when fully mature. Released in Arkansas in 1982, Bill Loew said he was communicating with the grape’s developer the following year. “You know, I got maybe like 30 vines at that time and I planted it and, I tell you, after three years we had really nice grapes. That grapes was so wonderful by itself that I just had to make some wine out of it. Since that time I’ve planted more than an acre of that grape . . . it really has a lovely taste . . . a grapefruit aftertone and maybe some melon. Very nice, very palatable. Just nice sipping wine.”

That’s what he also calls the Raspberry in Grape, which blends Vidal Blanc with raspberries into a sweet and tasty mix.”

Meanwhile, what was a “count-em-on-one-hand group” of wineries for many years has turned blossomed into a list in the mid 30s across Maryland. Yet it doesn’t seem to be crimping business. A ride down to Black Ankle Winery a couple Saturdays ago, for instance, took us past Elk Run Vineyards, which at a glance appeared quite crowded. A couple miles away, the same was the case as just-opened Black Ankle.

“I attend two wine festivals,” Bill said, “and of course when we started we had like seven or eight wineries. All of a sudden [that has] mushroomed to 22 wineries at one wine festival. So, yes, we do have more competition and I suppose things will kind of adjust itself as it goes along. I cannot tell you with any prediction how things will end, but so far it’s working pretty well.”