Saturday, January 16, 2010

Serpent Ridge owners savor first year, start getting prepared for reopening Jan. 23

Carroll County, Md., winery Serpent Ridge closed for holiday on Dec. 23, 2009, and will be closed one more week before reopening Jan. 23. Owner Greg Lambrecht said it's a good chance to get a lot done around the winery in a short four-week burst, although they might not repeat this exact scenario.

"We may not do it next year; it may just be Christmas week we're closed," he said recently. Because we're small and because we still do everything by hand . . . we don't have have bottling line, we don't bring in a bottling line, everything is still done by hand. I think we can maintain that. We've upped our production by about 50 percent [to 1200 cases] this year and probably another 50 percent [in 2010] and then I'll have to consider where we are." With all that work, he continued, it just helps to have the unimpeded stretch of time to get things accomplished.

Lambrecht said he they're looking at bringing in someone else to work the tasting room and possibly an assistant to assist him with making the wine. And he said he thought that they would open on Fridays this year in addition to the weekends, maybe add a bit of Friday night entertainment.

Currenly they are producing six wines; he said they'd add a Pinot Grigio to the line this year, "one I've been holding back. It's actually from 2007. And we would like to do . . . I have a Vidal that I'm doing in more of a late-harvest style. We harvested it the second or third week of November, just before Thanksgiving. But it's going to be a small run. Testing the water with that one. My grower who is growing that; we're both kind of playing with a late-harvest style. I think it's going to be nice, but I think it will take some time before it's ready to go."

Overall, once he and his wife Karen opened the place in April 2009, things went smoothly. Business, he said, was so good that [the wines] moved veyr quickly, where almost to the point by the end of the year we had to start limiting the sales of some just so I could extend my inventory."

He laughed when asked what, in retrospect, they might have done differently leading up to opening.

"I need a bigger building," he said. "The actual wine production building. Everybody always told me when we started preparing to do this at least five, six, seven years ago, they always said build things better than you think you need them. And I always said I know exactly what I need. And now I'm telling all the new winery committees [to] 'build it bigger.' You know, bigger overall, just everything. I wish in the beginning I wouldn't have spent the money on smaller tanks, I wish I would hav spent the money on bigger tanks to begin with. I wish I had built a bigger building. Bigger everything, because you are going to grow."