While growing up in the small Ontario wine region of Prince Edward County, I witnessed many vineyards being planted all over the county, including a 5 acre vineyard planted across the road from my house. While in high school I worked with Huff Estates as a vineyard laborer and I loved it! I enjoyed the physical activity, loved being outdoors and then came the fun stuff — driving tractors. I was extremely interested in the whole grape growing process and my mom was the one who suggested that I take the 2.5 year Winemaking & Viticulture Technician program in Niagara Falls. Funny enough, when I applied I didn’t even drink wine! But my love for the vino quickly developed after taking Wine Tasting class which consisted of drinking wines from all over the world and learning to differentiate varietal and regional characteristics. Homework was fun too.We were assigned such tasks as heading home, cooking a certain recipe, and making a suggested wine pairing. It was a tough gig.
2) What made you decide to move to Maryland from Canada?
I guess I would say my move south across the border sprouted from my love for the Maryland accent! My amazing fiancé, John Zimmerman, is a born and raised Maryland boy. His family owns a cabin in Ontario which he visits every summer and is where we first met. We would do the regular cottage activities like play cards, fishing and water skiing all the while teasing each other about our funny accents. When I first came to visit John in Maryland I was blown away by the beauty of the state! It was fall and the tree colors where gorgeous. I was also surprised to learn that there were so many wineries. John would love to move to Ontario, but I’m definitely becoming more and more fond of Maryland.
3) What makes Slack Winery unique?
Something that I have always admired about Slack’s business model is that they never rush production, which is a mistake many wineries make. They planted their vines in 2002 and sold their first few fruitful vintages to other vineyards. It wasn’t until 2009 that they kept a harvest to make their own wine. Tucker Grube-O`Brien is the talented winemaker and is also very young at the age of 29 —another unique fact about Slack. They didn’t release their first vintage until the reds were perfectly aged and ready to drink. A wineries first release sets the foundation for their reputation, so the wines better be good. Straight out of the gate, Slack won several golds and silvers for their wines. And to this day it doesn’t matter how much we bug Tuck to release the next Barbera vintage (the previous vintage being sold out six months ago), he waits until the wine is perfectly barrel aged and blended before release.
4) In your opinion, how do you define a good wine?
When analyzing a wine the most important thing I look for is balance. Does the sugar balance the acidity? Does the toasty oak aroma integrate with the wines natural fruitiness or does it overpower the wine? Another thing that is important to me is typicity, which is how faithfully a wine represents its varietal characteristics. I love drinking a crisp Riesling that has typical citrus and mineral characters or sipping a delicate Pinot Noir with bright red berry flavors, soft tannins and a subtle earthiness. When I can say “Yep! That’s a Pinot!” before seeing the label then it makes me smile.
5) You write your own blog about your experiences working and tasting wine. What do you think constitutes a good story?
I love writing about my experiences drinking wine. When I visit a winery, I don’t just write about the wine, I write about the whole experience. The atmosphere of the tasting room, the people around me, the food — it all ties into the overall story.
6) Where do you see the Maryland wine industry moving in the next few years?
I hope to see more dry estate grown wines in the future. The first few wineries I visited when I arrived in Maryland served very sweet, bubble gum wines, which is the style that many casual wine drinkers enjoy, but I was disappointed to hear that many of the wines were made from imported fruit. I see the Maryland wine industry moving more towards premium estate grown wines, which will help establish Maryland as a more serious wine region in the eyes of the world’s wine industry. Maryland has exceptional viticulture potential and I am always excited to see and hear about new vineyards being planted in the area.
1) Favorite Restaurant?
I recently visited the newly opened BTB Wine and Coffee Bar in Leonardtown which had a ton of unique character. The front of the building serves gourmet coffee and home baked pastries. But it takes a keen eye to notice the camouflaged sliding bookcase door which requires a secret password to access the disguised back room bar. During the Prohibition-era, speakeasies popped up under the radar around the country as a discreet outlet for people to meet up and have drinks together. The cozy, dim light atmosphere makes for a great place to meet friends for a glass of wine. They also have a long list of signature cocktails and craft beers which are served with a small addicting dish of warm, saltly/sweet, oven roasted nut medley mix. The steak and mushroom sliders are also amazing!
2) Favorite Wine?
The newly released Slack Cabernet Franc! When I tasted the wine in barrel I was immediately greeted with the black pepper nose for which Cab Franc is famous. Made with 100% Maryland grapes it is a blend of 85% Cab Franc and 15% Sangiovese. Barrel aged in old French oak for 11 months gives it a light smokiness with smooth tannins, medium body and black cherry flavors. Worth every penny at $32 per bottle.
3) Favorite Wine Shop?
Adega Wine Cellar & Café in Silver Springs. The staff is very knowledgeable and always friendly. They have a nice selection of local wine and craft beer along with a casual dining experience. They are also conveniently located beside an ice skating rink. In my eyes the perfect pairing is a glass of wine and skates! I guess that’s my Canadian side coming out.
4) Favorite Maryland Produce?
Well I probably ate my weight in fresh farm-stand peaches this fall, but the tomatoes are to die for! I am spoiled in St. Mary’s because of the numerous farm stands scattered around the County. Many of which are run by the Mennonite and Amish community. I remember walking into work while a guest was frying soft crabs in butter and Old Bay spice. The smell alone was amazing, but when he put the soft crab on a slice of fresh baked bread with mayo and a slice of freshly picked yellow tomato…..mmmmmmm. The flavors were amazing! My mouth still waters just thinking about it.
5) Favorite Winery Fact?
There are over 64 wineries in Maryland! Watch out Virginia! Maryland’s wine industry is growing fast and strong.