I visited Old Westminster Winery back to back with Black Ankle Vineyards. Both were on my list of ‘must visit’ Maryland wineries, although for different reasons. While Black Ankle makes wine in a more traditional style Old Westminster leans heavy into experimentation; specifically the production of ‘natural wine’.
Natural wine isn’t well defined but most agree it’s a style of winemaking that utilizes natural yeast fermentation, limited to no sulfites, and doesn’t use filtering for clarification (or some combination of these and other methods). It’s an ancient style that’s come back into vogue due to its emphasis on sustainable agriculture (and perceived health benefits, although those are more debatable). While some wineries have a pétillant natural (pet-nat) sparkling or claim their focus on ‘minimal intervention’ Old Westminster takes its ‘natural’ approach to a whole new level.
Personally I find natural wine a love-it-or-hate-it style. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of natural wine out there that’s quite yummy and I would totally recommend visiting Old Westminster to try for yourself. But they can taste ‘funky’ for lack of a better term (although not in a bad way), and the wine itself can look cloudy due to its lack of filtering. Cloudy wine isn’t in any way faulted, but its best to keep an open mind for any visit.
Right now they have 10 acres planted – mostly Muscat. On top of this they have a vineyard at Burnt Hill Farm (also called the Burnt Hill Project) which promises more estate fruit. Otherwise they source fruit from Maryland.
Another cool thing is they have a number of food options available, including several styles of pizza. Some are traditional margarita-style pies, others are (like the wine) on the experimental side. I chose a personal pizza topped off with beats (of all things) but really enjoyed it. They also have Sunday brunch.
As for the wine – a number flight options are available, both for reds, whites, and sparklings. Not wanting to miss anything I did a good cross-section. My server was also kind enough to swap out a few items for others I was more keen on sampling. They also have canned wine (didn’t I mention they were experimental?). Extra points for having tasting notes with QR codes you could scan to get a quick video of the winemaker chatting about the wine.
2020 Albariño: Saline, peach notes on palate. Pineapple and peach on the nose,
2020 Sauvignon Blanc: About as opposite a New Zealand SB as you can get. Neither high acid or perfume-y. I detected some melon notes.
2020 Trio: Chardonnay heavy white blend
2019 Muscat: Apricot all the way. Apparently there is some residual sugar but I couldn’t detect it. No filtering so it has an interesting cloudiness (which is totally healthy)
Frank Fizz: Interesting; 100% Cab Franc pet-nat sparkling. A ‘rustic’ sparking.
Rev 7th Edition: Cedar/Oak. “Molassas” is on the sheet but I can’t confirm it since I don’t know what it tastes like!
Solera Batch 3: A port-style wine. Spicy, with Christmas-y notes. Not sure if I loved it but it was very interesting.
I can’t remember which it was, but one of the wines I tasted has ‘tastes like beet juice” in my notes!