Saturday, February 24, 2018

Route 15 Wine Road: Maryland Wine's Catoctin Breeze Vineyard

The 530 plus miles of Route 15 transverses through several wine regions at it helps transport people and products from Durham North Carolina to New York's Finger Lakes. This is not a recent conduit as there are many historical sites along it's path from Presidential birthplaces to Civil War battlefields. In fact, in Maryland General Meade used the thoroughfare to pursue Lee to and from Gettysburg. You can read a historical marker about this event at Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, a relatively new Maryland winery that has gained recognition for producing several distinguished estate wines.

The winery was founded in 2010 when Voytek Leon Fizyta planted two blocks of vines along a hill slightly east of the Catoctin Mountains. These blocks consisted of  Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Viognier.  The well draining, loose, alluvial soil contains some quartz deposits which assist in preventing frost prevention as well as the ripening of fruit.  The estate also receives a consistent breeze from Owen's Gap - keeping the vines ventilated helping to prevent mold formation - which is also limited by abundant morning sun. Today there are 7,000 vines carefully maintained by Vineyard Manager, Larry Sipe. The winery also augments their portfolio with fruit grown from a vineyard in St. Mary's Maryland - a sandy coastal region.

I paid a quick visit while heading to Liberty Mountain Resort - only 20 minutes away. For hikers, Cunningham Falls State Park is even closer, 10 minutes to the south. Visitors are offered three tasting packages: Signature ($10), Premier ($12), or Sweet ($8) - the later including three Mead wines. However, I chose the Premier tasting in order to sample their estate wines. For whites, this included the 2015 Serenade Sauvignon Blanc ($24) and the 2015 Estate Chardonnay ($24). And seeing my interest in their estate portfolio, the staff member provided a sample of the wine club only 2016 Estate Chardonnay ($24). The two Chardonnays exhibit completely contrasting styles as the 2015 is more full bodied (my preference) and the 2016 racier with cleaner fruit.

For reds, the Premier tasting started with the 2015 Estate Cabernet Franc ($36) a relatively big Cabernet which was a little choppy with noticeable dark cherry fruit, tannins, and spices. I'd like to return to this wine after a few years in bottle. 2014 Concerto Bordeaux Blend ($35) is a blend of four Bordeaux grapes and is ready to drink now - a more textured character with a juicy clean tail. For several years Dr. Joe Fiola has encouraged Maryland vineyard owners to plant Barbera and Catoctin Breeze has leveraged that suggestion by producing that 2015 Oratorio Barbera ($38). This wine possesses the stereotypical high acids and low tannins while proving a decent fruit profile. The high end of the price range for sure. Finally, my attendant poured a sample of the case club only 2015 Estate Syrah ($34) - one of the wines they featured at the 2018 Winter Wine Showcase. Let's just say, I joined the case club in order purchase a couple bottles of this wine. This is by far the nicest wine coming from their estate. Cheers and as always theCompass Craft Beverage Finder will guide you to Catoctin Breeze Vineyard.
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