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Eats and Drinks

Old Westminster Winery

"Your brand becomes known by your lowest common denominator. If a bad bottling gets to market, people won't give you a second chance."

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A stiff wind scruffs up the audio, and there’s some telltale jumpiness of video shot with a smartphone, but Drew Baker’s video blog from December 2009 is oddly captivating. “I’m currently sitting on the roof of my parents’ house in Westminster, Maryland,” says Baker, shivering, to the camera. “You’re probably wondering why I’m freezing my butt off and risking my life.” He pans down to patchy brown fields. “And the answer is because I have something cool to show you . . . the future layout of Old Westminster Winery.”

Fast-forward to this June, when Old Westminster became one of the newest Maryland wineries to open its doors to the public. The brown fields now hold 7 acres of vines surrounding a new production facility, overseen by Baker and his sisters Lisa and Ashli, all in their 20s. Their wines have quickly generated a buzz through the regional grapevine, garnered some national attention, and drawn unexpected crowds to weekend tastings on the winery’s patio.

Like most good ideas, it came from a mother. “My mom always wanted to be around wine,” Baker says, “and our family always wanted to do business together. I was the biggest critic at first—it seemed too romantic to be true. But the more we all learned, the more exciting it got.”

The family chose to develop a “boutique” winery and “be serious about quality,” says Baker. “Your brand becomes known by your lowest common denominator. If a bad bottling gets to market, people won’t give you a second chance.”

The wines have thus far lived up to those aspirations. At last month’s Maryland Governor’s Cup competition, Old Westminster won a silver medal for its chardonnay and a bronze for its cabernet franc.

Current production approaches 1,000 cases, combining grapes grown in Old Westminster’s vineyards with lots sourced from around the state. “The more puzzle pieces you have at the blending table,” says Baker, “the better off you are.” Old Westminster also offers two red blends, a sauvignon blanc, an albariño, and a rosé. A blanc-de-blancs (all-chardonnay) bubbly debuts next month.

Old Westminster Winery’s albariño 2012 ($24, 12.9 percent ABV) pours pale gold, with scents of grapefruit, melon, and rainwater. Light-bodied but fleshy, its citrus zest and white peach flavors pick up seashell minerality on the fresh finish. If Old Westminster keeps making wine this tasty, Baker will have something else to proclaim from the rooftop.

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