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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Breaux-ken up: Virginia's loss is Maryland's gain

By Dave McIntyre
Dave Collins image_opt.jpg David Collins. (Breaux VIneyards)

David Collins, winemaker and vineyard manager for the past 14 vintages at Loudoun County’s Breaux Vineyards, spent his final day there last Friday. Collins has left to start his own vineyard and winery in Washington County, Md.

“It’s a really good site in the same valley I’m in here, just across the river between the Blue Ridge and South Mountain,” Collins told me last week in a phone interview as he wrapped up his tenure at Breaux, officially ending his 24-year run in Loudoun County. He and a business partner will develop 110 acres on rolling hills at about 650-700 feet elevation. “You can drive up there and find lots of good vineyard sites,” he said.

Collins will plant 22 acres of vines this spring, primarily nebbiolo, malbec, petit verdot, merlot, cabernet franc, syrah and barbera among the reds, and vidal, muscat, viognier and sauvignon blanc for whites. He said he envisions reaching 50-80 acres under vines in a few years, which would be enormous for Maryland. A winery facility will be built next year, and he plans to make wines with purchased grapes until his vines bear fruit in about three years. The venture does not yet have a name, as the corporation is still being formed, he said.

Under Collins’s stewardship, Breaux built a reputation as one of Virginia’s best wineries, with consistently strong merlot, cabernet franc and nebbiolo. His viognier, while less flashy than some, has consistently been one of my favorites because of its restraint.

Collins’s move across the Potomac is a coup for Maryland, which has seen its wine industry grow dramatically in size and quality over the past decade -- yet remains in Virginia’s shadow. “We’re thrilled to import Dave to Maryland,” crowed Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association.

Though Collins demurred on any Civil War analogies about his strategic advance across the river, he was enthusiastic about helping an emerging region, just as he helped and witnessed the winery explosion in Loudoun County over the past 24 years. “Look for big things coming out of central Maryland in the next few years,” he said.

Maryland wine received another boost recently when Black Ankle Vineyards of Mt. Airy was named one of the country’s top 10 hottest small wine brands by Wine Business Monthly magazine. Then the Baltimore Business Journal named owners Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron as one of the state’s power couples.

“It says a lot about how much people care about local wine that we made this list,” Boyce said, noting that the wine industry’s economic impact in Maryland is “minuscule.” “In Maryland anyway, there is a lot of pride wrapped up in the quality of local wine.”

Demand has outstripped supply for Black Ankle’s wines -- Boyce and O’Herron currently have no whites to sell until they release their 2010s. When Wine Business Monthly decided to feature Black Ankle’s albarino, Boyce and O’Herron had to buy some back from customers in order to pour the wine at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento in late January.

Boyce and O’Herron are planning to plant an additional 20 acres of vines this spring, doubling the size of their vineyard. There will be whites.

By Dave McIntyre  | March 2, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags:  Dave McIntyre  
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Cool beans or rather cool grapes...Washington County, MD getting a winery (probably has one but I haven't been home in a few years). Adams County Winery in PA (near Fairfield, PA) is wonderful, but Washington County is closer. I will check it out the next time I am home!!

Posted by: Pennagirl | March 3, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

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