New Releases from Maryland’s Linganore Winecellars

Founded in 1976 in Mt. Airy, Linganore is Maryland’s oldest estate vineyard and winery. With 80 acres of vineyards nestled on 230 acres of rolling countryside and an annual production of 40 thousand cases, Linganore is also Maryland’s largest winery. We first reviewed the Linganore wines for our 2019 report The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we review the current releases. 

Before Linganore Winecellars in Mt Airy Maryland was opened as a winery, it was actually a wine-making hobby of Jack and Lucille Aellen. But the hobby grew when Lucille’s father donated his home winemaking equipment to Linganore. They processed 6 tons of grapes their first commercial year. Much of that production was the state’s first semi sweet grape wines. Honey and pure fruit wines were introduced the same year. In fact, the Maryland Wine Association today awards a Jack Aellen Cup for “Fruit Wines and Meade.” 

Anthony and Melissa Aellen

Jack Aellen was also proactive in establishing by 1983 the first federally designated grape growing area in north central Maryland now known as the Linganore Viticultural Area. Also, in the 80’s and 90’s, when sons Anthony Aellen became Executive Winemaker and Eric Aellen later became Vineyard Manager, new experimental grapes from Cornell University’s grape breeding were introduced and tested at Linganore. Today their winemaking team includes Ray Mitcham as Head Winemaker since 2014 and in 2017 Melissa Aellen, now a 3rd generation winemaker, as both Winemaker and Director of Operational Change.  Due to the work of these generations, Linganore has been on a steady track of introducing vinifera grapes to increase their dry wine offerings (although no longer a test site for Cornell) and to expand the winery. They purchased Maryland’s first mechanical harvester (2000), added a state of the art fully automated Italian bottling line (2003), renovated a 19th Century barn to a new cask aging cellar (2004-2006), and installed a centrifuge to clear wine sedimentation (2005).  In 2011 the Aellens converted the winery’s power supply to 100% wind power, which lead them to win one of the 2011 Green Business of the Year awards from the Baltimore Business Journal. Continuing on their “green path”, Linganore now has 8-10 wind fans that “shoot” cold air back into the air, thus helping to fight off frost. And they are constructing an 8,000 sq ft warehouse with a more south-facing and longer sloping roof where they will install solar panels.

The pandemic affected Linganore much as it did other wineries, although for Linganore it also canceled their annual music & wine festival season. They were able to do curbside wine pick-up and some limited home deliveries. But they also supported their local community by offering a bottle discount to diners who purchased a meal from a local restaurant and showed their receipt at the winery! To handle increased outdoor activity, Linganore has now added fire tables outside for small group reservations, and the wine-tastings are delivered to the table along with a wineglass, a water bottle, and a menu. Despite the pandemic, they have grown their Wine Club to about 1,500 enthusiasts.

The Linganore wine-making team currently works with 18 varieties of grapes on 70 acres of vines.  And they recently harvested 259 tons of grapes, their largest harvest to date.  Looking forward, Melissa Aellen would like to explore more aromatic & acidic white wines, a passion of hers. And she is looking forward to the release of their 2019 Albarino and their on-going work on a Blanc de Blanc. 

Linganore Winecellars has three different labels: “L” labels are Estate grown and mostly available at the winery, the Banner Label with a Maryland flag at the top are the well distributed table wines, and finally the Watercolor Series or sweet wines. For this report we tasted both the Estate and Banner Label wines, mainly 2019 vintages. According to Ray and Melissa, 2019 was one of the best harvest seasons with lots of sunny days and no rain in September.

The Wines

Linganore 2019 Chardonnay Reserve ($30) 90  Spicy, tropical and stone fruit notes on the nose.  Soft and round on the attack followed by a full, suave, creamy palate feel due in part to working the lees.  Flavors similar to the nose with additional notes of warm spices.  Finishes clean with good length, this is a lovely, easy to drink Chardonnay. Estate Chardonnay from 10 year old vines, handpicked and whole cluster pressed, fermented in neutral barrels and matured primarily in oak with lees stirring and full malo. 

Linganore 2019 Vignoles ($28) 91 Medium yellow.  Tropical, ripe pineapple and lychee nose.  Beautiful, sexy suave mouthfeel with pineapple and coconut notes.  The acidity is toned down but still there, and the finish is richly tropical and very long.  Beautifully made wine. Fermented in stainless steel then racked to barrels with constant lees stirring and partial malo.

Linganore 2019 Seventh Rose ($17) 90 Copper tinged pink.  Ripe red berry aromas.  Hints of spice and rose petals.  Soft on the attack with nice fresh flavors on the palate.   Fruit flavors tend to crab apple, berries, and spice. Finishes with a light cinnamon note and good uplifting acidity. 90% Chambourcin, 10% saignée blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot; fermented and aged in stainless steel.

Linganore 2019 Saperavi ($23) 89 Semi opaque purple red.  Wild berry, sage, and ripe dark plum and vanilla on the nose.  Soft on the attack with unusual flavors of plum, sour cherry, and dark earth.  A rustic wine with bold, rustic flavors. Complex and unusual. Sourced from 4 year old vines; handpicked, destemmed, crushed and fermented; barrel aged for 10 months in 40% new French oak with full ML.

Linganore 2019 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($41) 90  Medium red garnet. Shows a perfumed bouquet of fresh and dried red berries, earth and autumnal leaves. Medium weight on the palate, this Cabernet Franc has good varietal character. It’s a youthful wine, and it improved considerably after being decanted for several hours. The palate mirrors the bouquet, and the mouth feel is silky after decanting. Sourced from 10 year old estate vineyards; handpicked and fermented with extended maceration; aged in 43% new French oak with complete ML.

Linganore 2017 Exposure ($45) 89  Complex bouquet of earth, smoky oak and dark plum.  The palate shows tangy dark fruit with prominent earth notes and dry, firm tannins.  Needs time in bottle to soften the tannins.   63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdothandpicked and then fermented with extended maceration before pressing; aged in 83% new French oak and racked to neutral barrels after 12 months.

Contributing Editor Karen Stokes authored this article.

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