April 28, 2018!
This day was a beautiful Saturday morning. It was somewhat chilly to start with, but the promise of what was to come during that day’s activities was just amazing. First off, members of the Susquehanna Winemakers Guild met at Tractor Supply in Carlisle, PA to board a Van(15 person seat) to proceed to Black Ankle and New Market Plains Wineries in Maryland. We will learn what it takes to run a Winery these days as well as to find little secrets in helping our own wine-making process. The trip was arranged by the SWiG Travel Committee and paid by the members who elected to go on the trip. I would like to thank our driver, Jim Compton, a member of the Wine Guild who chose to drive and not drink on this trip, and a nice job of driving I might say too. Thanks to the Travel Committee for putting this trip together as well. Great Job. Also, I would like to point out before we go any further, if you are going to plan a trip to Black Ankle or New Market Plains, please choose a van or two, rather than getting a huge bus because of the trip into this area is more accessible by a van.
So our trip started out by heading to Black Ankle Winery in Mt Airy, Maryland. We arrived at about 10:30 am. When we arrived, we were introduced to our Tour Guide Dennis. He spent the next several hours answering numerous questions by the members. He gave all the details of the Winery from its start. They started out planting 22 Acres of 145 Acres with grapes in 2003-04. From that time, they have grown and purchased several other areas. They are working the same process of producing wine at these purchased areas. They were planting vines at the moment with a new procedure where the machine would spread the ground, creating a hole and dropping the vine in the hole. This equipment would save many man-hours that it would have taken before to do. Black Ankle Winery is a very Eco-friendly driven Winery. Everything that is done here, comes from this 145 Acre grounds. They fall just short of an Organic Farm due to outside area situations that are required by the State. At any rate, this place is a must-see on your next trip.
Some of the things that are of interest with this Winery are, they use no chemicals in treating these vines. They have devices (called Frost Protection Device) that draw moisture from the ground and it puts the moisture in the air. This provides Frost-Free protection over the areas. All fermentation is natural from the skins themselves. They have yeast on-site but choose not to use it. Because of their ground composite, it makes it easier to do certain things others might not. Because the ground is about 70% Rock and sandy type dirt with a little clay mixture, it is able to provide enough moisture for the vines. The hills are just right to keep air flowing over the vines so no issues with diseases can come into contact with these plantings.
After that great Tour and the Wine Tasting that Dennis gave us we purchased wine to take home. We then headed to a place to eat. This place is called “Carter Que” in the New Market area. It was a little small place but they have outdoor seating as well. This place is very well recommended and indeed it lived up to the recommendation. There were 15 people and although it seems to take a while (due to all ordering at the same time), the food and hospitality displayed by this place exceptional. I recommend this place as well.
After eating it was on to New Market Plains. We were met by Howard and his wife who own and operate the Winery. Howard as we quickly noticed, loves to talk about his experiences in his Winemaking business. I was listening to every word he was saying and feeling it too from the way he expressed himself while detailing his way up to today. After his tour, we had a wine tasting that was downright beautifully done. Both Black Ankle & New Market Plains talk and help each other as well as other wineries. This is to help in keeping their businesses operating at peak performance. Neither use chemicals for treating diseases. So after the tasting members made their way to purchase some wine and we headed back home from there.
One of the most important things that I took from the visit, is the way that Howard and Black Ankle are concerned about the vineyards but also the environment as well. Everything affects the grapes. It comes down to which leaves do you pluck or not. Where does the sunshine fall and the effect it has on the grape processing sugar? Every little detail no matter how minor helps in producing a great harvest which in turn makes a GREAT WINE.
A few photos from this trip are at the bottom of this article. If you have photos you wish to share from this field trip please send them to email@example.com
I would like to thank Black Ankle Winery, including our tour guide Dennis and Howard of New Market Plains for their hospitality. We thoroughly enjoyed learning about their daily life as a Winemaker and Winery Owner.