By Drew Baker
Winegrowing is an ancient practice that has evolved over centuries. While ideas and technologies may change, there are some things that can never change. To understand the timeless aspects of winegrowing, we have to know and appreciate the way grapevines are hardwired. So we acknowledge our part in the process, but we see the natural aspects as sacred.
Our aim is to work with the vine with as few inputs as possible. We view great winegrowing as nurture in tandem with nature. No great wine is “manufactured.”
Grapevines are asexual. This means grape seeds only contain the genes of a single vine. Grape clusters begin as flowers containing both male and female reproductive structures. During bloom, these flowers are pollinated by the wind without need for pollinator insects. Each pollinated flower becomes a colorful, sweet berry that attracts animals to eat and disperse the seeds in hopes of propagating a new vine. That’s it. Everything else a grapevine does is a function necessary to ripening grapes for reproduction.
A grapevine that fears a bit for its own existence produces grapes fit for exquisite wines. Drought and nutritional deficiency spur a vine to ripen fruit in an attempt ensure their future. Grapevines that have abundant access to water and nutrients are less concerned with reproduction and more interested in growing lots of leaves – fat and happy, if you will. This is precisely why terroir and site selection is a common denominator of delicious wine. Ripe grapes are the key ingredient in extraordinary wine.
The hard work is done in the vineyard. Ripe, balanced, clean and delicious grapes are the primary ingredient in any noteworthy wine. If you grow beautiful grapes, the winemaking process is nearly effortless; like it’s supposed to be. With flawed grapes, it seems as though no amount of determination can save the wine.
Grapevines thoughtfully cultivated on a site marked by rocky, well-drained, low-fertility soils yield grapes fit for delicious wines.
Put simply: the best wines are made in the vineyard. So we see ourselves as farmers, not “manufacturers.”
by Drew Baker
There’s a new sparkling wine on the scene. Okay, actually, it’s ancient. Pétillant naturel (commonly called "pét-nat") is an all-but-forgotten wine style enjoying revival. Pét-nat is popping again with the attention of sommeliers and wine enthusiasts around the globe.
This simple, natural style of sparkling wine made its debut in France’s Loire Valley half a millennia ago and is resurging in trending appreciation. Pétillant naturel (lit. “naturally sparkling”) also known as méthode ancestrale (ancestral method) is fresh and fizzy while displaying authentic handmade qualities. Educated and adventurous wine enthusiasts love her raw, unpolished vitality. Pét-nat is alive.
How it’s made
Pét-nats are made by bottling still-fermenting wine under cap and allowing fermentation to finish in the bottle. As yeast converts sugar to alcohol, naturally occurring carbon dioxide makes the wine fizzy. Once fermentation is complete, the bottle cap and sediment are removed, and the bottle is recapped. That’s when pét-nat is ready to be chilled for a sunny spring day. This ancestral method pre-dates Champagne and unlike the “Champagne method” which undergoes a second fermentation by adding sugar and yeast, the ancestral method allows the initial fermentation to finish in bottle without any additives.
Why it’s popular
Beyond the fact that it’s downright delicious, pét-nat doesn’t have any additives, there’s no blending, and the all-natural process is a direct reflection of the vineyard and the vintage. Once the still-fermenting juice is bottled, you don’t taste it again until it’s in your glass. This makes it a little unpredictable, and that spontaneity is one reason why it’s so popular.
Welcome her to Maryland!
Old Westminster Winery is set to release the first two pét-nat wines ever made in the Old Line State this spring.
The first is handcrafted from Albariño grapes grown in the rocky soils of their Home Vineyard. A timely harvest on September 2, 2015 captured freshness and bracing acidity from the vineyard. Fermented spontaneously with wild yeast in stainless steel. Just before fermentation was complete, 400 bottles were hand bottled and capped on September 19, 2015. This wine offers a dazzling and vivid expression of Albariño -- high acidity, apricots and limes, distinctive texture and only 11% alcohol by volume.
The second is handcrafted from Grüner Veltliner grown at Cool Ridge Vineyard on a limestone hillside in western Maryland. A timely harvest on September 8, 2015 captured beautiful, ripe flavors and balanced acidity from the vineyard. Fermented spontaneously with wild yeast in stainless steel. Just before fermentation was complete, 1,000 bottles were hand bottled and capped on September 23, 2015. Pét-nat Grüner is funky and delicious. Minerally, viscous and fresh; A treat for all wine geeks.
Old Westminster's team is especially passionate about this project because they love crafting wines that reflect the vineyard. These wines offer an authentic expression of the Old Line State – refreshing, distinct and intriguing.
Catch pét-nat before she's gone!
by Lisa Hinton
A locavore is a person interested in local food. Naturally, as a small family farm, we love the concept. Old Westminster Winery was built on our family’s efforts to preserve our land and work together. We are deeply rooted in our community and we love to be a meaningful part of the local marketplace.
We founded our brand on a commitment to growing world class wines on our Maryland farm. Our customers love our product because it’s delicious. The fact that all of our grapes are grown within the bounds of the Old Line State is a bonus to the conscientious locavore.
Because we are solely focused on crafting wines that speak for themselves, we don’t have much of a marketing budget. We rely on word-of-mouth to spread the gospel of the new Maryland wine. But this also presents some natural challenges. We’re off the beaten path. There are no neon signs. We're on a farm tucked away along a rolling landscape.
We like it that way. This makes it adventurous for Maryland wine lovers to discover Old Westminster Winery.
Of course, this kicks against everything that traditional marketing teaches: Be front and center. Be louder than the competition. Being hard to find isn’t a good thing. Get neon signs.
We’re challenging this notion. I love that the typical person visiting our tasting room is intentional. They didn’t just follow a sign.
To us, marketing isn’t a priority. Delicious wine is our neon sign.
I also love that our brand is growing organically. There’s something about knowing that our friends, family and customers are sharing our wines and our story at the dinner table. This is what the locavore movement is all about. We focus on growing and producing great wines and providing visitors with a memorable experience. That’s it.
We simply work hard to produce wines that reflect the land and are a joy to drink.
Wine & Business
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