Maryland has been at the forefront of American viticultural research since the mid-1600s when Lord Baltimore ordered vines to be planted. Since then, viticulturists have explored almost every vine type, from native American species to wild and man-made hybrids, not to mention numerous attempts at classic European varieties. In modern times it was the indomitable Philip Wagner who blazed a trail with diverse experimental plantings of hybrids. Wagner would eventually open Boordy Vineyards, Maryland’s first winery, in 1945. He would also write Grapes Into Wine, the best selling book on winemaking in America.
Today, the state’s wine production totals almost 100,000 cases annually, derived from 450 acres of vines and more than 30 farm wineries. Activity is concentrated in eastern Maryland on coastal lands surrounding Chesapeake Bay and on the Piedmont Plateau, north and west of Baltimore. A wide range of climactic zones are found, including everything from very cold to quite hot areas.
In the early days of AVA designation, Maryland responded quickly with three appellations (Linganore, Cumberland Valley and Catoctin) recognized before the end of the 1980s. Of these designations, only Linganore enjoys much currency today, and most wineries prefer to use the Maryland (state) appellation to identify the origin of their wines.
Since Thomas Jefferson first tried to cultivate European vinifera in Virginia, the state has been a decided piece of American wine country. Over the years better knowledge, equipment and materials have all contributed to an advancing wine industry, but the more recent decade or two has brought out the real potential that can be found.
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