Maryland: The Next Great Grape State?

I think it is safe to say that too few wine lovers, and even fewer casual wine drinkers, ever venture outside their comfort zone in choosing what wine to drink.

Why these "other states" wines rarely show up on our tables is pretty clear: There isn’t that much of them and they are rarely if ever exported out of their own state. Any effort to make these wines more accessible is a positive step in my book.

It’s all too easy to go back to a reliable brand, a favorite grape or recognizable wine region when deciding what to pour. In large part this is why probably very few of us have ever tasted a wine from Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia or Maryland.


So It was very encouraging to finally read the report issued by the Maryland Wine & Grape Commission how  to boost the Maryland wine industry.

Maryland is home to sixteen wineries. Meanwhile its neighbors, Pennsylvania and Virginia, host far more wineries each. In fact, in 1979 both Maryland and Virginia each only had a few wineries. Today Maryland still only has 16, while Virginia has over 90. The difference is not in growing conditions. According to the Report, the difference is over regulation in Maryland. Seeing the boost in tourism, jobs and tax revenue that a robust wine industry can generate, Marylanders finally got around to asking "what about us"?


The report lays out 54 recommendations that, if they were adopted by the state, would help significantly grow the Maryland wine industry. Among the recommendations:

-Allow wineries to host more than 12 events per year
-Change the law to allow direct shipment into and out of Maryland
-Install and winemaking and grapegrowing expert on the faculty of the U. of Maryland
-Lifting restrictions on In-store wine tastings
-Use Maryland wines at government sponsored events where wine is served
-Develop better highway signage for wineries, presenting them as attractions
-Allow wineries to develop restaurants on the premises of the winery
-Allow wineries to establish multiple offsite retail locations
-Allow multiple wineries to pour and sell wine out of a single winery’s tasting room
-Remove or alter the requirement for anyone "representing a winery" to get a "solicitors Permit"
-Develop a cooperative and state-wide winery marketing plan
-The state should provide low-interest loans for new vineyard developments

Whether the state will act on any of the recommendations on the newly released report isn’t clear. What is clear is that whenever a state invests even a small amount in its native wine industry, the return far exceeds the investment.


Finally, it needs to be pointed out that even if more wine lovers were willing to investigate the wine products from "other" states, it would be very difficult to obtain them…unless you could call up the winery or go to their website, purchase the wine and have it shipped. It is currently a felony for a Maryland winery to ship wine to consumers inside the state or without. That needs to change. I’m not driving to Maryland just to try their wines.


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