Monday, March 30, 2009

Bin 604 adding to its 'all-state team'

It wasn't but a few years ago that Bin 604, my favorite Maryland wine shop, carried a list of wines produced in the state that included the following: Basignani Chardonnay. One and done.

That list has grown, and reads as follows today; this courtesy of an e-mail from assistant manager Jeff Cohen:

1. Elk Run Red Door $16.99

2. Fiore Chambourcin $16.99
3. St. Michaels Island Belle Sangiovese $19.99
4. Basignani Chardonnay $14.99
5. Basignani Cabernet Sauvignon $16.99
6. Black Ankle Chardonnay $21.99
7. Black Ankle Syrah $25.99
8. Black Ankle Passegiata Syrah $21.99
9. Black Ankle Crumbling Rock $39.99

Jen Burger is the general manager and wine buyer for Bin 604, located no more than a 10-minute walk along the water from Inner Harbor. She talked by phone last Thursday and said that there's a reason you can find more Maryland wines on the store's shelves.

"I've been definitely been seeing some improvements in the quality," Burger said, noting she has tasted through several Maryland winery portfolios over the past few months. One that caught her attention as much as anyone's was the complete line from Mt. Airy's Black Ankle Vineyards. "I was definitely wowed and impressed by the across-the-board quality of their wines," she said, "and the consistency and quality of all their wines, that it wasn't just a couple that I was drawn to. I found that all of them were very good."

Burger had special praise for Black Ankle's reds, in part explaining why Bin 604 is carrying three of them. "They're doing a real good job with their reds; Maryland doesn't have as good as a climate for reds as it we do for most white grapes, so I thought that was most impressive."

If anything gets in the way sometimes, Burger admitted to a question about the cost of the wines, is the price point. "There's a little bit of an issue sometimes where my favorite Maryland wines end up being the more expensive ones," she said, "with consumers in general being particularly price conscious lately . . . things are a little more sensitive. You have to be a little more conscious with price-to-quality ratio and actual price point of the wines. Only so many $35 Maryland wines are going to fly off the shelves, where when they're $16 and $20 it's a lot easier for people to grab them and take them home."

That interest in the Maryland wines comes from local residents, she said, who want to drink local or have visited the wineries and really enjoyed certain selections. With the wine shop located in Harbor East and nearby several hotels, including the Marriott, those wines also are appealing to out-of-towners looking to take home a couple Maryland wines as souvenirs. "Sometimes while they're here they'll want to try it, but usually they want to take back a Maryland wine home with them," Burger said. "That's where I also see a lot of interest in Maryland wines, with nonresidents just visiting."

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