According to Windridge Vineyards owner Robert Butz, wine from the Mid-Atlantic area has a “complexity of flavor,” involving “a balance of fruit character and earthiness that is both unique and enjoyable.”
The Poolesville-based vineyards is an offshoot of the Windridge Farm in Frederick, which Butz’s father founded in 1959 and is currently owned by Butz and his three brothers. However, Butz is the sole owner of the Windridge Vineyards and manages it with his uncle.
Butz said he chose to start the vineyards in the Poolesville area instead of Frederick because he is “a resident of Poolesville” and the family has “historically farmed in both counties.”
Work on the vineyards started in 2011; since then, Butz believes he has grown “around 50,000 grapevines.”
Every vine “is picked by hand, trained by hand, [and] harvested by hand,” he said.
Training grapevines involves pruning, positioning the grape clusters, and directing the shoots to grow through a trellis.
Butz acknowledged that “there are different training methods that aren’t this labor-intensive,” but he believes his by-hand operations are “the right way” for anyone trying “to focus on wine quality,” since it is the way of “the finest chateaux in Europe.”
Vines are grown in a “high-density format,” so that there are “a little less than 2000 vines per acre,” which is “almost double what a traditional California vineyard” would have and closer to “what the finer European vineyards” would have, Butz said
Butz said that this arrangement helps pressure the vines to “stop growing vegetatively and to direct their energy to growing fruit.” It also produces grapes that “are a little smaller” which he said “make better wine.”
Another factor he finds important in making better wine is the type of grape used. Before making a decision, Butz makes sure that the grape type is “specifically tailored” to Maryland’s climate and environment.
He ultimately hopes to “make excellent wine” that is unique to this area. “Every location in the world expresses a distinct sort of flavor from the location that the grapes were grown in,” Butz said, and he would like his wine to “express the same character.”
Butz plans to open a winery and a tasting room in the Poolesville area, off Darnestown Road. Butz hopes to open the winery around the summer of 2019; the tasting room does not have a time estimate, as the building permit for the tasting room has not yet been approved.
His hopes for the tasting room involve a similar desire for customers to appreciate the character of the land around them. The building “will be surrounded by the grapevines” and “will have views over the property.”
Comparing the farming that he has been doing “all [his] life” and grape harvesting, Butz said that “in a lot of ways, growing grapes is very unusual.” When he farmed other crops, the “focus” was on “yield,” but in grape-growing, his “sole focus is on quality.”