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New winery expected to help tourism

Red Heifer Winery to work with others on creating Antietam Highlands Wine Trail

November 27, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Wine experts, local officials and family members joined Kevin and Yvonne Ford on Tuesday to officially open their Red Heifer Winery on Raven Rock Road near Smithsburg.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG — On three acres of sloping Myersville gravelly loam, hundreds of young grape vines are maturing, waiting to yield their first harvest late next year.

The ground near Smithsburg where the vineyard sits is, by soil composition, elevation, slope and climate, similar to what one would find in the Burgundy region of France, said Joe Fiola, a viticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension. Myersville gravelly loam, he noted, is the soil type and the limestone over shale substrata and slope allow the kind of drainage that produces excellent wine grapes.

“The more research we did, the more we realized that this is a wonderful site to grow wine grapes,” said Kevin Ford who, with his wife Yvonne, owns the recently opened Red Heifer Winery on Raven Rock Road.

Yvonne Ford said the vines were planted in 2010 and will be ready for the first harvest next year.

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There are 2,000 plants in the vineyard, primary chambourcin and chardonnay grapes, Kevin Ford said.

Fiola said he has long hoped to see a winery in the Smithsburg-Cavetown area, which has a long history of peach and apple production.

“Anywhere you can grow great peaches and apples, you can grow great grapes,” Fiola said.

Fiola, the Washington County Commissioners and other officials joined the Fords on Tuesday for the ribbon-cutting for the county’s second winery.

Also present was Dick Seibert, owner of the county’s other working winery, Knob Hall Winery near Clear Spring. Seibert is president of the Maryland Wineries Association, the industry group representing 62 wineries in the state.

“It’s going to increase tourism in the county,” Seibert said of the new winery. Most of his customers come from the more urban Montgomery, Frederick and Baltimore counties, he said.

Knob Hall and Red Heifer will be joined next year by one or two more county wineries, Big Cork Winery near Rohersville and another expected to open in the Sharpsburg area, Seibert said.

Those wineries and some in western Frederick County will work together to create the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail, said Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Visitors and Convention Bureau. That will be officially christened next year, he said.

Planning for the winery began a decade ago, said Kevin Ford, who had been a draftsman for a surveying company. Yvonne Ford is a special education teacher at Northern Middle School.

Because the vines have not matured, the winery has been buying the grapes and fruit to produce the wines now offered. Those include Vidal Blanc and Red Heifer White, along with blueberry and catawba wines, she said.

Available soon will be a cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, she said.

The lower level of their home is where production takes place with five 750-gallon fermentation tanks and 18 60-gallon French oak barrels where the cabernet franc is now maturing.

The farm has been in Kevin Ford’s family for a long time and it was a bit of family lore that gave the winery its name.

In the 1940s, his great-grandfather, Clyde Naylor, wanted to buy the farm and was haggling with the owner over the price. Seeing a cow in the field, Naylor told the farmer, “Throw in that red heifer and it’s a deal.”

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