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Vineyard is growing fast

July 13, 2008|By AUTUMN PAPAJOHN

CLEAR SPRING - Knob Hall Winery owner Richard Seibert said the wine and vineyard business is a jealous mistress, but, with lots of attention and plenty of growing room, it's well worth the effort.

Knob Hall Winery in Clear Spring will soon host weddings, tours and, most important, a 33-acre expansion that will grow it to 60 acres and move Knob Hall into a tie with Linganore Winecellars in Mount Airy, Md., as the largest vineyard in Maryland.

Initially, Seibert intended for his vineyard to peak at 27 acres, but the grapes did so well that 60 acres just makes sense, he said.

Seibert said by the end of 2009, 46 acres of the 175-acre family property should be covered in vines, and the full 60-acre expansion should be finalized by 2010.

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At $10,000 to $13,000 an acre, this 33-acre expansion is costing Seibert roughly $400,000, he said. Currently, the vineyard covers 16 acres, with 8 acres planted last year and 8 this year. Seibert said last year, for 8 acres, he spent $3,000 per acre on post and wire alone.

When he first started in the wine and vineyard business, Seibert was told Knob Hall would be great for chardonnay grapes so he started growing them. Now there is a Spanish wine new to America called Alberino foe which the vineyard bought grapes. Seibert also grows chambourcin and vidal blanc grapes. This fall, Seibert said, he will start making fruit wines and will begin producing grape wine later next year.

Although the vineyard has been in business for two years, Seibert decided to hold off on winemaking so the vines would grow to live longer.

He said other changes are coming to the property.

The winery is finalizing the architectural designs for several buildings, including a banquet hall that could be used for weddings and receptions.

"We already have weddings booked here for the future and tours, too," Seibert said. "This is all very exciting for my family and I."

When completed, Knob Hall will be tied as the largest vineyard in the state as far as land mass goes, but Linganore still bottles the most wine at more than 120,000 gallons a year, according to the Maryland Wine Association. While Knob Hall will only produce about 30,000 gallons of wine yearly, all of its wine will be made using grapes from its own vineyards, whereas Linganore buys some of its grapes from outside sellers, Seibert said.

Linganore Winecellars President Anthony Aellen said as far as competition in the wine-making industry goes, out-of-state producers are the ones to worry about. Currently, grape growing and winemaking isn't a large business in Maryland. While the state produces about 220,000 to 300,000 gallons of wine yearly, 11 million gallons are usually imported, Aellen said.

"Maryland is not yet a big winemaking state, but neither was Virginia 10 years ago," Aellen said. "Our biggest competition is sitting on the store shelf."

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