To Thanksgiving Farm with Marilyn for a Sunday afternoon wine-tasting not far from Itchy Ankle. The historic homestead and its rolling acres are owned by Doug and Maureen, a scientist and a lawyer from New Jersey who took over the old tobacco farm, and are building their own wine business. Doug grew his first vines in 1996, before he met Maureen. Now they sell about 6000 bottles a year. The hobby started in the barn, but now they have pristine production premises, and a wood paneled tasting room, open on Sunday afternoons.
Doug and Maureen have just returned from a busman’s holiday to Bordeaux. In the south of France, grapes are grown in limestone soil, low to the ground. They ripen in the heat of the sun which bounces off the chalky earth. “It wouldn’t work here” said Maureen “not with the possums and raccoons and squirrels–and my knees couldn’t bend that low to pick”
Raccoons are the Maryland vintner’s worst enemy for they can climb the vines to steal the crop. Too much rain is bad–risk of blackrot. Once the wine is fermenting, Doug has to be vigilant about the Angels’ share–too much evaporation and bacteria moves in to fill the available space. Topping off is vital. They buy their barrels from France where the oak makes the wine taste good. American oak adds too much of a vanilla flavor, says Maureen.. The barrels have to be replaced every two years–after that they become too infused with tannin and that isn’t what you want in even the deepest of red wines. Apparently.
The white table wine from Thanksgiving Farm is the color of straw or honey and tastes to me of apricot and honey. It goes down very well. I am enjoying a glass as I write.
The rose is crisp and dry and would I think be good with cheese, outside on a warm day.
Marilyn felt it best I leave before I tried too much of the red Meritage but I have brought three bottles home with me, so I can give you a full report some other time.
Doug and Maureen keep a cow, the last of a herd that belonged, I believe (my ability to follow complex stories became impaired after the second large glass) to the previous owners of the farm. She is just known as the Heifer, because she was meant for the block, the freezer and the table. Instead she lives in a buttercup meadow and eats the Must–the slop of stem, seeds, leaves and squashed wasps that runs off after the wine is pressed. She is one happy Heifer.
The situation of Thanksgiving Farm is idyllic. It is fascinating to learn about the wine-making process from picking–all by hand–to bottling, corking, foil and label. It’s life-enhancing to meet people who take risk and make time to follow their passion. We had a great afternoon.