This post has been a long time coming. I visited Black Ankle Vineyards many weeks ago, around New Year’s Eve. Why has it taken so long for me to write? It’s kind of like my review of RdV Vineyards…this place was just so amazing, that I am having trouble finding the words to explain it. Nothing I write seems right. Hopefully, I do it justice!
Black Ankle Vineyards is located in Mt. Airy, the central Piedmont of Maryland. It’s a little over an hour away from the DC area, so a little hike to get there, but oh, so worth it! No signs are on the highways or on the backroads. In fact, unless you were on google maps and specifically looking for Black Ankle, you wouldn’t even know it was there. Black Ankle is located in a peaceful area, full of woods and hills.
80,000+ vines, and a beautiful tasting room. If it weren’t so cold, Dr. GP could have stayed here and birded for hours. He saw so many hawks flying about!
The tasting room itself is just as stunning as the landscape. There were two warm fireplaces, which were a nice reprieve from the bitter cold outside. A large tasting bar is in the center of the building, with enough room to fit several groups of people. Everything on the inside is sustainable, and made from resources around the winery. Straw and clay walls, stone floors, wooden beams make up the building. Solar panels on the roof provide power to the building. Black Ankle is quite the efficient winery!
Melissa Schulte, the general manager of Black Ankle, gave us a cozy tasting at our table by the fireplace. This woman is one of the most down to earth people. Melissa has been at the winery for quite some time now, basically from the very start of the winery. While giving us a taste of Black Ankle’s incredibly smooth Syrah, she proceeded us to tell her how she started at the winery.
Originally from Napa, she was visiting a restaurant somewhere in the area that was serving a Black Ankle wine. This must have happened more than 10 years ago. She enjoyed the wine so much that she had to find where the wine could be purchased. The only place she could find it was the vineyard. She went to buy a bottle, and was so impressed with both the wines and the people who worked at the winery, that she has been there ever since. Pretty heartwarming story! Throughout the tasting, Melissa told us about her daughter, her life, her travels, her dreams…it was as if I knew her my entire life! She is so kind, and so passionate about the wines that she serves!
Melissa gave us a world class tasting. Generally, tastings are $15 and include 5 wines, but she gave us some tastes of whatever was open. Lucky us!
- 2016 Albariño: Made of 100% Albariño, this aromatic wine was full of citrus and floral smells. On the palate, these flavors provided balanced acidity and minerality. There were also some flavors of gravel and pepper that added a nice layer of complexity. A tuna salad sandwich or a parmesan crusted white fish would be beautiful!
- 2016 Viognier. This Viognier was everything that I would expect in a Viognier: a bright and balanced bouquet of honeysuckle, floral elements, and nectarine. What I wasn’t expecting was the savory, white pepper that I tasted on the finish. That one note provided more depth to the wine, making it much more versatile in wine pairing. Rather than just pairing with fish and lighter foods, having that one savory note makes it able to stand up to something like Chicken Piccata.
- 2015 Bedlam: 49% Viognier, 33% Albariño, 19% Chardonnay, 8% Grüner Veltliner. Using the last 25% of the white wine grapes from harvest, these wines co-ferment together to create a well balanced blend. This wine had so many flavors going on! Banana, brioche, lemon, green pepper. With so many different kinds of flavors, I was surprised how bright and vibrant the wine was!
- 2016 Chardonnay (at least I think it was 2016): Um…wow! Melissa shouldn’t have teased us with this. This chardonnay was impressive! With notes of buttered toast, oak and bright citrus, it was balanced and tart with a long finish. Unfortunately, there were no more bottles left, or else I would have easily bought one (or two!). I’m still thinking about this wine!
- Passeggiata X: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah. As Melissa said, “This wine is not meant to be analyzed. It is meant to be enjoyed!” How right she was! But, I can’t help but analyze a wine, so I did so first, and then enjoyed. This wine spent some time in French oak, giving it medium tannins. Cranberry, raspberry, vanilla and spice are pleasing to all palates, making it a great wine to bring to parties. It’s medium body will pair with most anything!
- 2015 Rolling Hills: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot. A wonderful wine already, this wine could use another year or so of aging to reach it’s peak. It was a little tight, which added a medicinal taste to the wine. Once you got past that, you could taste blueberry, vanilla, chocolate malt balls, and spice. The finish wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, but perhaps an additional year in the cellar would help?
- 2015 Crumbling Rock: 28% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Petit Verdot, 22% Cabernet Franc. For being bottled only two weeks prior, this wine was quite complex! With spice and plum flavors, this would make a great food pairing wine. I think this wine could also use one more year in the cellar, but it already left quite an impression!
- 2015 Slate 3: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot. Oh crap, I like this one. This is good! Oh crap, it’s $54. That’s not fair! Slate has everything one could want in a red wine. Spice, tannin, long finish, lots of character, great for food pairings…Sadly, I couldn’t justify spending that much on a wine at that moment, but perhaps one day!
- Terra Dulce VI: A Port-Style wine, with fig and raisin. I quite enjoyed this wine! I ended up buying this one!
- 2016 Terra Sol: 100% Grüner Veltliner sweet wine. I never had a dessert styled wine made of Grüner, but that’s the beauty of wine. There are so many of them! It has all the flavors of a normal Grüner (green apple, honey, citrus), but with a little residual sugar.
Phew…so many wines, and all of them were quite spectacular! Thank you, Melissa, for a wonderful experience and tasting! Black Ankle grows all of their own grapes and makes everything on premise. This makes the tasting even more spectacular, knowing that their wine is truly showcasing the quality of their land and winemaking. To increase their production, they just opened 260 more acres in Montgomery County, so we can expect more delicious wines in the future! To learn more about their future wine production, tasting room, and wines, visit their website, instagram, facebook, or twitter for more information. Let me know if you go (and if I can come along!)