I don’t know a lot about East Coast wines in general and didn’t even consider Maryland as a grape-growing region until I recently came across Royal Rabbit Vineyard. But according to a recent article from Wine Enthusiasts, Maryland is the new wine country to watch. “Today, Maryland is enjoying a wine renaissance,” says writer Dave McIntyre “The Free State had only 12 wineries at the turn of the century; that number was up to 85 at the beginning of this year.” And, with just over 900 acres planted to vines, most wineries are planting their own vineyards, predominantly producing estate wines.
Such is the case with Big Cork Vineyards. And since I so enjoyed the Barbera from Royal Rabbit Vineyard not that long ago, I thought the Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Barbera would be a good place to begin my Big Cork adventure and continue my exploration of Maryland wine.
I am admittedly quite unfamiliar with East Coast wines, especially when it comes to the little state of Maryland. So when Roy Albin of Royal Rabbit Vineyards invited me to taste his wines, I was both enthused and curious. Flipping through books and scouring the internet, I had trouble finding any solid, reputable information on Maryland as a wine country. So I turned to Roy, not just for a wine tasting, but for a bit of terroir background as well.
This epic package arrived at my door. A beautifully emblazoned box holding this radiant rosé. Oh yeah — and two pairs of sunglasses. “Gimmicky?” my partner in wine crime asked, skeptical that the contents of the wine bottle would be no better than the white zin that, in our house, is just called “pink.” “No,” I assured him, “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
The Cooper family has been farming in Amador County since 1919, when “Grandpa Cooper” left his San Francisco medical practice to tend a walnut orchard. Not until current owner Dick Cooper graduated from UC Davis in the 1970s did the Coopers consider grafting grapevines. But they wanted to think outside the Zinfandel box. Friend Darrell Corti, of Sacramento’s famed Corti Brothers grocery store, gave the Coopers a tip. “Mr. Corti pulled his pocketbook out, retrieved a $1 bill and wrote ‘Barbera’ and ‘Nebbiolo’ on it,” remembers Dick Cooper. With no Nebbiolo to be found, the Coopers turned to neighbor Cary Gott of Montevina Winery, who was willing to sell a bit of Barbera rootstock.
Today, Barbera is Cooper Vineyards’s’ flagship wine, the one that customers flock to the tasting room to buy in bulk.