A Maryland Wineries Association Member Spotlight
Photo courtesy of linganorewinecellars.com
In celebration of Maryland Wine Month, we reached out to one of Maryland’s oldest wineries, Linganore Winecellars, for this March edition of Cellar Chats. Founded in 1976, this Mount Airy winery is a cornerstone in Maryland’s wine culture. Family traditions are no stranger here, where the Aellen family have been passing down the art of winemaking for nearly half a century. As the tradition continues, the next generation of winemakers are looking to make their mark and keep the family business going strong.
We got a chance to catch up with Melissa Aellen, a third-generation winemaker from Linganore Winecellars for this installment of Cellar Chats.
What inspired the founding of Linganore Winecellars and when was the company founded?
If only we knew! We had asked my grandfather multiple times why he decided to buy a dairy farm in the middle of Maryland (he was from New York City) and start a winery there, but we never got a straight answer. However, my family has always made wine as a hobby. My grandfather was German/Swiss and my grandmother is Italian, so it’s in our heritage. The farm was purchased in 1971 and the winery opened in 1976. We didn’t get rid of the cows until the 1980s, though!
How many generations of Aellens are currently involved in the business and how many generations have represented Linganore Winecellars?
Currently, there are three generations involved at Linganore. My grandmother, Lucille Aellen, is the owner while my father, Anthony Aellen, and uncle, Eric Aellen, run the daily operations. My aunt, Liz Tomalis, is also involved and oversees off site sales and marketing. I’m the first of the third generation to start working here full time, although every other member of my generation has helped at the winery in various ways while growing up. It truly is a family business.
As one of Maryland’s original wineries, whose founder was a pioneer in the wine industry, how important to Linganore Winecellars is it that the industry join together to promote and celebrate Maryland Wine Month?
When we started, we were the fourth winery in the state and for a long time, we were a small industry of just around 15 wineries. We all knew each other well and worked together to promote Maryland wine as best as we could. Only within the last 5 years or so have we seen this tremendous growth to over 90 wineries throughout all parts of Maryland. Every time this industry full of diverse and inspired leaders collaborates to promote or celebrate Maryland Wine, whether during March or any other time of the year, it only helps bring more beneficial attention to our wine region as a whole. If we all keep working together, Maryland Wine will soon be hard to ignore in the marketplace.
Linganore Winecellars has evolved as a winery and brand over the decades. What does the current iteration of the Linganore Winecellars brand say to the consumer?
That’s very true. When we started out, we made only dry wines, but that didn’t appeal to our consumer’s demands, so we introduced sweeter wines. To no one’s surprise, they were very popular and are still a large part of who we are today. Within the past few years, we have been able to refocus our attention on dry wines by bringing in Ray Mitcham as our head winemaker and planting new varietals such as Albariño, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Barbera. It’s difficult to change consumer perception, but we are working hard on it one excellent review at a time. I’d say that most consumers can view Linganore as a producer of exceptional wines from dry to sweet. We’ve even redesigned our labels into four categories to make it easier for consumers to identify wine style changes. We like to think that we have a wine for everyone here.
Which products are the team at Linganore Winecellars most excited to share with visitors in the tasting room and what does 2019 have in store for consumers with regard to new releases and innovative wines?
Well, as you probably know, 2018 was a bit rough, but we are thrilled to be bringing back an un-oaked Chardonnay later this spring and we might even have a few sparkling wines to release as well. The most exciting wines to be released in 2019, though, will most definitely be our 2017 reds. The 2017 Cabernet Franc was upgraded into our Reserve “L” label and we thrilled to release our second iteration of Exposure, our Bordeaux-style blend.
Linganore Winecellars is becoming known for hosting large-scale events, how has the focus of featuring events and diversifying the draw to the winery impacted your business?
We started hosting wine festivals here in 1978, and over the years we have learned which festivals themes work well and which ones aren’t worth it. The festivals we have now draw a large diversity of people from all over Maryland that wouldn’t usually make it out to Frederick County otherwise. We are always changing our themes and even started a Maryland beer, wine and seafood festival last year called FreeState.
What Maryland Wine Month events does Linganore Winecellars have planned?
Currently, we have a Cookie and Wine Pairing happening in our tasting room on March 16th and 17th (online reservations recommended) and we are working with the Frederick Wine Trail to develop a month-long event that incorporates all of the participating wineries.
This interview was conducted by Quinn Luethy, staff intern.