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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Black Ankle Vineyards

We have been receiving reports lately about the Grand Opening of Black Ankle Vineyards, but really took interest when we learned that the winery was awarded the Maryland Governor's Cup in their first vintage. The winery was founded by Ed Boyce and Sarah O'Herron, who decided to craft their own wine after years of being consumers. They research grapes, the wine-making process, terrior, and discovered a farm in central Maryland that met their criteria. The duo decided on several traditional grapes - but also planted a few unique grapes - primarily the Spanish grape Albarino, the Austrian favorite Gruner Veltliner, and the ancient Muscat. The other estate white wines are made from Viognier and Chardonnay, whereas the reds consist of Syrah, Pinot Noir, and all five Bordeaux red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It was a blend of these five grapes that won the 2008 Governor's Cup, their 2006 Crumbling Rock.

Black Ankle Vineyards is located just outside of Mt. Airy and is situated near several other wineries. However, Black Ankle differs from these wineries in that they produce only dry wines - if you care for sweet wines - then visit the other wineries afterward. The tasting room is a large stucco building with enough comforts to encourage a long stay - particularly the fireplace and indented table. And the wines were terrific. Ms. O'Herron explained that they attempt to make wine in the style they enjoy - dry, but with flavor and structure. Their Viognier and Gruner Veltliner were good examples of this approach. They both were earthy with honey flavors and a slight nutty finish. Odd for wines aged in stainless steel. The Viognier was much different than the traditional Virginia versions - more old world than new world. The Albarino was also excellent - much more citrus than the other whites. The final white wine we tasted was the 2006 Bedlam - a blend of all their white grapes. It is a refreshing acidic wine with good lineage: the 2007 version was awarded the 2008 Maryland Winemaster's Choice Award.

The red wines were just as intriguing. We started with the 2006 Passeggiato - made from 100 percent Syrah. It is unique in that it is made with a light body - but full of raspberry flavors. The more traditional Syrah spiciness is evident in their 2006 Syrah, which includes 10% Pinot Noir. Even with the spicy finish, it is a smooth wine - we noticed cherry flavors and some vanilla. The first Bordeaux styled blend was the 2006 Cosecha - made from all five of the Bordeaux grapes. It is medium bodied and very drinkable now - in fact - it was our choice for dinner that evening. It is earthy and smooth - with some cherry and raspberry flavors. Finally we tried the 2006 Crumbling Rock - and yes, we can see why it was awarded the cup. Interestingly it has a higher percentage of Cabernet Franc than the Cosecha and contains no Malbec. It is made full bodied - earthy, with enough tannins that Ms. O'Herron suggests will age very nicely. The wine also differs from the Cosecha in that the flavor is more evident of black fruits and not red fruits. This is a nice wine - that proves that vinifera grapes can make excellent wines in the mid-Atlantic. And that was it. No semi dry wines nor dessert wines. Just an excellent addition to the Maryland wine community.

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