People who know me know that I don’t love most domestic chardonnay. I’m not going to get into it here — but I just don’t think much of it is very distinctive. But, believe it or not, that’s the grape (and wine) that first sparked my interest in Old Westminster Winery.
I was at a walk-around tasting at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD as part of Drink Local Wine 2013 when a friend of mine came up to me and said “Lenn, I know you hate chardonnay, but you have to go taste that one over there.”
I did and I also met its maker, Lisa Hinton along with her sister Ashli Johnson and brother Drew Baker. He was right. Lisa’s 2012 Chardonnay, made with fruit from the Pinegrove Vineyard, was my favorite white wine in the entire room.
Since then, a lot has happened with Old Westminster. They’ve planted a vineyard and opened their tasting room. They are making many more wines now — including a poperly series of pet nats. They are canning some of the best canned wine you’ll find anywhere. They are constantly trying new things and seeing what “sticks.”
Maryland is a state on the rise in the wine world, and Lisa (with her family) is one of the people leading the way.
Location: Westminster, Maryland
Current Job: Winemaker, Old Westminster Winery
Wine of the moment: Paumanok 2013 Grand Vintage Cabernet Franc. I’m not just saying that because you’re from New York. That’s seriously the last bottle I opened!
My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Balanced, terroir-driven.
First bottle of wine I remember drinking: I’m not even sure it was a bottle. Probably a bag when I was in college — therefore the “why” is pretty obvious.
How I got here: Old Westminster is my family’s collective effort to put Maryland wine on the world map. We started this endeavor in 2011, the year I graduated college. It’s the result of family discussions on “how to preserve our farm and put the land to work.” We were abducted by the idea of planting a vineyard. We all agreed that growing and making wine that reflects our land through a vineyard was an exciting proposition.
As a curious chemist, being the winemaker is a perfect fit for me.
My winemaking style — in more words: I’m experimental. I get to play with over a dozen varieties grown in small vineyards all over the Old Line State. We use wild yeast, rarely fine, ferment Pinot Gris on skins, make pét-nat sparkling wines from grapes like Albariño and Grüner Veltliner, barrel ferment reds, occasionally do some semi-carbonic fermentations. Every grape runs across a sorting table, we never pump must, etc. We also make our fair share of traditional Bordeaux-style blends and single-vineyard varietals.
My wines display complexity, character and most importantly, are a pleasure to drink. A good vineyard site, meticulous farming, thoughtful cellar practices and personal commitment make this possible.
Mentors: My wine mentor is also our consultant, Lucien Guillemet. He’s the owner and winemaker for Chateaux Boyd-Cantenac, a Grand Cru Classé Chateau in Margaux. His thoughtfulness, style and approach inspires me. My personal mentor is Nancy Howard, a woman that I admire for too many reasons to list!
Music playing in the cellar right now: 90’s. Third Eye Blind pandora station is my go-to cellar jam.
Favorite thing about the Maryland wine industry: The potential. Our state’s burgeoning wine industry is full of opportunity and young talent. Nothing excites me more than replacing negative stereotypes leveled against Maryland with wines of renown.
Least favorite thing about the Long Island wine industry: Spring frost and harvest hurricanes.
One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Sports. I’m the all-time points leader (goals and assists) in lacrosse at my alma mater, Stevenson University. I also played a lot of soccer, basketball and ping pong growing up.
What I drink: Mostly mid-Atlantic, France and bubbles. I’m interested in really anything small production, single vineyard, and otherwise thoughtfully made.
My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: I love this question! I would start with Chesapeake Bay raw oysters and a bottle of Krug Clos, followed by rosemary lamb loin chops paired with E.Guigal Cote Rotie, and finish with Glen Manor Petit Manseng (VA).
Photo Credit: Drew Baker