Boordy Vineyards: New Releases from Maryland’s Historic Winery

Boordy Vineyards is Maryland’s oldest and most storied winery [see the story below). It’s also one of the most visible examples of the rapid rise in quality of East Coast wines.  We’ve reviewed Boordy wines on a regular basis and featured the winery prominently in the publication of our report The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we review the new releases from Boordy. The white wines are from the 2019 vintage, an excellent year, especially after the super-wet 2018. 

Founded in 1945 by Philip Wagner, a former editor for the Baltimore Sun and author of the 1933 book American Wines and How to Make Them, Boordy was purchased in 1980 by long-time growers, the R.B. Deford family, and relocated to their historic Long Green Farm in northern Baltimore County. Rob Deford, who studied winemaking at UC Davis, assumed the roles of winemaker and president, and began the transition of this storied winery to the modern era. In 2008 Rob and his son, Phineas, initiated the complete replanting of all estate vineyards with the advice of consulting viticulturist Lucie Morton. This was followed by the construction of a new state of the art winery opened in 2013 with a production capacity of 170 thousand gallons.  Long Green Vineyard, located on the home farm, consists of 18 acres of vines and principally provides white and rose wines, while reserve reds are sourced from Boordy’s 25-acre, rocky, sloping South Mountain Vineyard in Maryland’s Blue Ridge in western Frederick County, an historic site that in the 1970s supplied red grapes to Catoctin Vineyards.  Ron Wates is the vineyard manager and Tom Burns and José Real (from Jeréz, Spain) are Boordy’s winemakers with technical assistance from Bordeaux’s Michele Rolland consulting firm.  Total annual production is 36,000 cases.

Boordy’s South Mountain Vineyard

The Wines

Boordy Vineyards 2019 Albariño Reserve South Mountain Maryland ($45) 90+ This easy drinking East Coast Albariño offers attractive scents of melon, apple and citrus. It’s round and full on the palate with a firm acid backbone. Finishes clean and fresh.  Sourced from a low yielding parcel of the South Mountain Vineyard in Frederick County and fermented and aged in used Burgundian oak for six months. 

Boordy Vineyards 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Maryland ($30) 90 Dried herbs, green orchard fruit and minerals show on the nose of this fresh-tasting Sauvignon Blanc. There’s good concentration and bright lemony acidity on the palate, finishing with lingering fresh notes. Sourced from Boordy’s Long Green Vineyard. 

Boordy Vineyards 2019 Chardonnay Reserve Maryland ($45) 91 Medium yellow straw. Appealing hints of tropical fruit show on the nose of this well made Chardonnay. It has a full, round mouthfeel and well integrated toasty oak. Finishes with good length and flavors of honeydew and orchard fruit complemented by hints of spice and tropical fruit.  Sourced from South Mountain Vineyard, fermented and aged in oak barrels of 1-2 years age. 

Boordy Vineyards 2016 Merlot Reserve South Mountain Vineyard Maryland ($45) 92 This is a delicious Merlot showing smoky red and dark red fruit with hints of earth and cedar on the nose. In the mouth, it’s velvet smooth and seamless with excellent balance and an attractive earthiness. Finishes with fine rounded tannins and a lovely, long finish.  100% Merlot matured in French oak for 18 months. 

Boordy Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve South Mountain Vineyard ($45) 92  This is a beautiful Cabernet Franc with exemplary varietal character showing a nose of wet autumn leaves. It has a silky feel in the mouth with cedary dark red fruit complemented by tangy acidity and earth notes. The tannins are firm, and the finish is long, flavorful, and spicy.  100% Cabernet Franc matured in French oak for 18 months. 

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Philip Wagner: Maryland’s First Modern Winemaker  Born in 1904 and raised in Michigan, Philip Wagner began work as an editorial writer for the Baltimore Sun in 1930.  He started making his own wine from California grapes (Zinfandel and Carignan) during Prohibition and then planted a tiny vineyard to vinifera, which failed.  While working in London he learned of French-American hybrids being grown at the East Maling agricultural station and brought cuttings to plant in his Maryland vineyard. He also reputedly brought in suitcase cuttings of Vidal Blanc from Monsieur Vidal himself in Cognac.  He also wrote about making wine and in 1933 published the book American Wines and How to Make Them, which became the Bible to many winemakers. He also developed the Boordy Nursery, which became the source of French-American Hybrid cuttings for the entire East Coast. This is where viticulturist Lucie Morton’s family purchased their first grapevines. In 1945 Philip and his wife Jocelyn opened Boordy Vineyards, which Wagner called the first American winery dedicated to producing wines from French-American hybrids.  Meanwhile he continued writing and advocating the planting of French-American hybrids on the East Coast. Walter Taylor of Finger Lakes’ Bully Hill Vineyards agreed, and he and Boordy engaged in a sometimes bitter war of words with Konstantin Frank, who thought only vitis vinifera could make fine wine. In 1980, one of Wagner’s grape growers and a UC Davis grad, Rob Deford, purchased Boordy Vineyards.

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