Monday, June 17, 2019

Old Westminster Winery, Burnt Hill Farm, & The Summer Solstice Festival

“We’re going to challenge current beliefs with unique and transparent wines – wines that offer balance, nuance, and character. We’re going to farm thoughtfully, using biodiverse cover crops, biodynamic principles and incorporating animals. And then, in the winery, we’re going to craft wines with a light hand, ferment with indigenous yeast, and bottle it all without fining or filtration. These wines will be made without makeup – a pure reflection of the time and place where they’re grown and the people who guided the process." Drew Baker.

Photo Courtesy of
Old Westminster Winery
This is the guiding principle behind the next phase of Maryland's Old Westminster Winery as this accomplished and innovative winery attempts to challenge contemporary winemaking through The Burnt Hill Project. The Baker family has been very successful in their previous endeavors, first by immediately impressing consumers and critics after an initial launch of Old Westminster Winery, being the first to can and successfully market Maryland wine, and creating a custom crush facility for other aspiring winemakers.  So there's little reason to conclude this next phase will not be as successful.

Burnt Hill Farm is located in northwestern Montgomery County and its name comes from the late 1800s, when the owners "despaired of growing crops in the nutrient-poor soils and made money by burning trees and brush to make charcoal, potash, and lye". The farm has the ideal gradient and clay-limestone soils congruent for Gamay and Pinot Noir, grapes normally not planted in the Free State. But why stop there. They are also planting "90 experimental varieties bred by Cliff Ambers, an iconoclastic viticulturist who pollinates native grape vines with pollen from European vinifera varieties” Dave McIntyre Washington Post.

The Bakers will continue the viticulture philosophy from their Home Vineyard in Westminster, all work done by hand, sustainable farming, minimalist winemaking, and fermenting with native yeast. They have also incorporated bio-dynamic vineyard practices at Burnt Hill Farm  -- starting two years before planting their first vines - in order to create a living organism. Biodynamic farms generate their own fertility through composting, integrating animals, and cover cropping. This effort at Burnt Hill includes rotating cover crops like wheat and daikon radish, planting manure filled bull horns that will eventually fertilize the vineyard, and introducing sheep next year.
"We choose to think of our farm as a living, breathing organism. Like a human body with a system of organs, our farm is a complex system of interacting substances and processes...> biodynamics." Drew Baker
Consumers can discover Old Westminster's minimalist approach to winemaking as well as taste a preview of what should come from Burnt Hill at their Summer Solstice Festival on June 22, 2019. Under a circus tent at Burnt Hill Farm, low-intervention winemakers from across the globe will pour 100+ unique wines. The lineup includes Broc Cellars, Hiyu Wine Farm, Zafa Wines, Floral Terranes, Margins Wine, Methode Sauvage, Iapetus Wine, Wild Arc Farm, Inconnu Wine, Johan Vineyards, The Scholium Project, Fable Farm, Purity Wine, En Cavale, Fausse Piste, Old Westminster, Lightwell Survey, Liten Buffel, Maitre de Chai, Old World Winery, Les Lunes, Ruth Lewandowski, Brooks, Art+Science, Native Selections, Zev Rovine, Williams Corner, Plant Wines, MFW, Domestique, Wines of Georgia, Revel Wine, and more...

And to learn more about the festival and Old Westminster Winery tune to #Winestudio on Twitter Tuesdays in June at 9PM E.T. Cheers and hope to see you at the Summer Solstice.

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