Interview with the Maryland Wine Association

Slack Winery Cabernet Franc1) What attracted you to the wine industry?

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.

Lauren’s Picks

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.

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Girls Only Wine Tour!


If I could describe an all day limo wine tour in one word, it would be Dangerous! Fun, yes. Dangerous, definitely…within five minutes of stepping into the luxurious super stretch limo, we had popped our first bottle of wine. The special law that allows riding guests to consume alcohol while driving is the fun part. It meant we never had to stop sampling the many bottles of wine around us. We sipped on mimosas at 11a.m while driving to St. Michaels. After a long detour and several glasses later, we arrived at the winery!

The crew consisted of 14 extra bubbly girls, partly to do with the bottles of sparkling wine we had just polished off. The group entered the winery bringing loud laughs, giggles and pretty smelling perfume. The winery’s staff quickly ushered us into the back corner. They were prepared and had obviously experienced a rowdy girls only wine tour before.

While half the group broke off to find the closet washroom (or restroom, my new American friends were quick to correct me), the rest of us gazed over the long wine list of reds, whites and dessert wines. I wanted to taste them all, but the not very enthused tasting bar lady was adamant that we pick just one of three pre-prepared flights to taste; 1) 5 dry whites 2) 6 dry reds 3) 6 sweet wines. The staff hoped to keep the tasting quick and simple. The staff also broke a few hearts when they clearly said that we are not allowed to take our sampling glasses home with us after the tasting. The glass had the St. Michaels Winery logo etched on its bowl and was a tempting souvenir.


Most of the girls preferred the sweet and fruity, Gollywobbler wines.  Kaley, the birthday girl, was happy to to receive a gift bottle of the Gollywobbler Rosé from a friend who couldn’t make the tour, but called in before we arrived. Everyone purchased their favourite wines and most bottles were opened right then and there and the wine was free flowing again! I purchased a bottle of their crisp 2011 Sauvignon Blanc because I knew it would pair well with seafood and I had become addicted to fresh steamed crab since moving to Maryland. Several hours passed as we stood around the oak barrel tables chatting away, some girls leaning more than standing at this point. Dinner hour was approaching and so were the dark rain clouds outside. Our hopes to have a patio dinner were crushed, but luckily there was a wine bar restaurant just a block down the road.

It took us a wobbly 20 minutes to pile into the limo for the 2 minute drive down the road-thanks to all the delish Gollywobbler wine. We arrived at Ava’s pizzeria and Wine Bar and the staff there looked more frightened than the winery staff! Again we were quickly ushered upstairs to one of the back private rooms. The sounds of laughter and heels climbing the stairs filled the restaurant. Several people stopped eating to look up and watch the extra cheerful group of ladies file in. Although we were separated from the rest of the restaurant guests, it didn’t take long before the manager was forced to come out and ask us to please keep our voices down. We tried, mostly successful, to remain quiet while looking over the delicious menu consisting of gourmet pizzas and pastas. but it didn’t last long..when the cute, young waiter came out carrying four pitchers of sangria, the group broke out in cheer! and everyone’s glasses were filled with the red fruity punch.

With full bellies and lots of smiles we were ready for our bills. As you can imagine, after consuming so much wine, dividing the cheques wasn’t as easy as usual and after several iPhone calculator attempts we were ready to head home.


The limo was filled with take home food containers and empty bottles of wine. Girl talk and pop music filled the air while we cruised down the highway in our stylish Ford Excursion stretch SUV. While stuck in some slow moving traffic some of the girls took the opportunity to get some fresh air by stretching out the limo window and singing at the top of their lungs to the neighbouring vehicles. There were a few camera flashes and lots of fingers pointing from the other cars. Although some wives scowled, I think they secretly wished they were riding with us.

I must give a shout out to our limo driver, Carl, for being so patient with our rowdy group. It must have been a long day for him dealing with our endless washroom breaks, girl talk with high pitched voices singing “girls just want to have fun” kind of music. I’m sure we tore apart the limo and left a mighty mess. I don’t think Mr. Carl will be forgetting this group anytime soon.

I have to admit, organizing a wine tour is the perfect way to celebrate a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, a promotion, or the fact that it’s the weekend! I’m always ready to make an excuse to do a wine tour.

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Passing on the Winemakers Title

Lauren Horlock passing on the wine thief to her replacement, Ben Serpa

It was a sad day for me, Aug 15th 2012, my last day working at Harwood Estate Vineyards. A few months prior I was given a proposal that I couldn’t say no to. My amazing American boyfriend, John Zimmerman, asked me to marry him and I happily said yes! This meant that I would be leaving everything behind and moving south across the boarder to the beautiful state of Maryland. I was sad to leave my hometown of Prince Edward County, but so excited to start my new life with the man of my dreams.

We had hired and trained Ben Serpa a few weeks prior to take my place as winemaker and vineyard manager at Harwood Estates. Like myself, he is a Niagara Winery Technician graduate and will do a wonderful job with the vines and wines, that I am certain.

I will miss the 12 acres of vines that I raised as my own and the line-up of 10 award winning wines that I bottled and served to many guests on the intimate Harwood tasting bar. But most of all I will miss the Harwood team. John and Kerry were the best bosses I’ve ever had and I learned a lot from them. I will miss the lovely ladies in the tasting room, Alison, Elycia and Natacia and the corky vineyard crew, that I could never forget, Tractor Dave, Ricky, Terry and Cecil aka Cec.

I am looking forward to returning to the County for a visit and to see my family and friends and enjoying a glass of Harwood Estate wine with them.

Follow the link below to read the nice farewell message from the winery

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The Real Terroir of the County

Lauren Horlock with bushels of freshly picked grapes

Ah, the glamourous life of a vitner. Parties, celebrities, shy afternotes and bold statements, beautiful people, living the high life.

Not so fast. Before a winemaker steps in sartorial splendor, there are a couple of tasks to complete in the vineyard.

Click here to read Catherine Stutt’s full article in County & Quinte Magazine, summer edition 

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Great review by the popular wine critic David Lawrason!


 Harwood Estate 2009 St. Laurent

$20 • 88 points

Harwood used to take their grapes to Black Prince Winery, but things are looking up with the young, energetic Lauren Horlock at the helm in the new solar-powered Loyalist Parkway winery near Hillier. St. Laurent is an Austrian red grape with great potential in PEC. This is a lifted, lively, intense young red with cran-raspberry fruit, some earthiness, tart and juicy acidity, and surprising flavour depth.

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Wine Tasting at Harwood Estate Vineyards with winemaker, Lauren Horlock

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New vines, New wines, New Winery!

Our New Winemaker, Lauren Horlock

Lauren joined Harwood as Winemaker and Vineyard Manager on May 10, 2011, bringing a strong professional reputation and winemaking talent honed across a path from Prince Edward County to New Zealand. Lauren has a formal education in the arts and sciences of viniculture and viticulture, earned at the same school in Niagara where so many well-known Winemakers have launched. But, more important than the training is her natural feeling for the vines and the thousands of mysterious, seemingly mystical steps that will turn them into wine.

Not every Winemaker is also the Vineyard Boss. They’re two extremely complex disciplines that often seem to pull in opposite directions. In the few wineries where the Winemaker calls the shots from start to finish, the results are generally outstanding. We’re anticipating some good things at Harwood over the next couple of years.

True, some of what Lauren brings won’t be clear to spot for a while yet. Winemaking is a long and slow procession, often taking two or three years, or more. One thing it’ll be easy to see right away, though, is the energy Lauren brings to Harwood’s sense of adventure. We’re already talking about inventing some new winery experiences … growing grapes that have never been tried in The County … making more wines that everybody says are “impossible”.

Visit our website to order wine or book a tasting!
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