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Crow Back in the Swing of Things

Maryland winery and its Farmstay B&B ‘getting back into the swing’ of things

Crow Vineyard & Winery sits on a 365-acre working farm in Kennedyville, in Maryland’s Kent County.

It’s located a few miles from Chestertown, the county seat, and less than an hour and a half drive from Philadelphia. Baltimore is due west, on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay. The winery address is 12441 Vansants Corner Road.

Like many East Coast wineries, it’s a family-run business in a rural setting. It opened in 2012.

What makes it unique are the Farmstay B&B that sits on the property and the fresh Angus grass-fed beef that’s for sale there. Few wineries possess either let alone both. In addition, there are days like this coming Sunday set aside for hayrides, and the winery just started offering picnic packs (two mini bottles of wine and a cheese tray for $40).

Crow Vineyard & Winery is known for its Barbera, a grape that has deep roots in Italy but is grown and made at a number of wineries in the mid-Atlantic. Winemaker Michael Zollo, who arrived there in 2017, uses that grape in several wines including a sparkling rose.

The Barbera is complemented by a variety of other largely dry wines, from Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. You can find the complete list at this link and a list of awards at this link. It’s open noon to 5 daily.

Below is the latest in the “6 Questions” series of interviews with winemakers and owners of East Coast wineries, which looks behind at what has been a turbulent year and, with optimism, looks ahead. Thanks to Judy Crow for taking these on.

Q, Tell me about your annual blessing of the vines, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 11. How long have you been doing it? I assume the public can come out?

A, This is the first year we have done it. In the past at Crow Fest in the fall we had a friend sing and bless our harvest. I was looking for ways to have outside events and I saw our church blessed animals, so I asked our rector if he would like to bless our vines. He said yes. Not sure if we will have buds by next Sunday. Yes, the public is encouraged to come out.

2, I assume Michael Zollo is well settled in as the winemaker. Is he still singing in the cellar? What kind of a past 12 months has it been like for him?

A, Yes he is still singing, but he doesn’t project as well with a mask on. He has been on lockdown and in isolation. Only a few of us can be in contact with him. He has no personal life, we are protecting him from COVID. 🙂 He is currently focused on bottling 2020 wines for us and our clients.

Q, Do you grow all your Barbera, yes? How much of it? Are you just using it as a varietal or doing other things with it? I don’t think there are many wineries that grow or make it in these parts.

A, Yes we grow all our own Barbera, and it is one of our signature grapes. We currently have 2.5 acres planted and it does well for us. We make Barbera, and Barbera Rosé and Barbera Sparkling Rosé. We also use it for blending from time to time.

Q, Asking everyone the next two: How was the 2020 vintage, as least from this vantage point?

A, We focused on making whites and rosés and we think they are tasting great. We sold a lot of our red fruit, to help fill out production for a couple of start-up wineries. Though late-stage rains forced our hand and picking schedule, the resultant grapes came in the door with vibrant natural acidity that will drink well in the summer months.

Q, And what kind of a winter was it there? Vines looking good? Are you replacing or replanting anything this year or next?

A, The winter was relatively mild, which allowed Brandon and the crew to get through early season pruning and tie-downs quickly. The vines look good and we don’t have any plans for replanting this year.

Q, How back to normal are you there and at this point how far ahead of you planning in terms of events? Is there anything you started doing during the pandemic that you likely will continue moving forward?

A, We are getting back into the swing. Reservations are so helpful, we’ll encourage that. Moved our tasting room to the haybarn, and we like that. We are pouring tastings on trays and serving the tray to a customer with tasting notes. Seems to work well; can’t imagine how we did individual flights and pours before COVID. Honestly, our wines are tasting very well, and things are doing great at this time. We started spring hayrides, which folks like.

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