Black Label Reserve collection. Photo courtesy of POL Winery.
23190 Newtowne Neck Rd PO Box 535; Leonardtown, MD 20650
Port of Leonardtown Winery Profile
Written by Brian Jun 25, 2017
One hears a great deal about Port of Leonardtown Winery. That is in part because winemaker Lauren Zimmerman is such a vocal proponent of Maryland wine. Well, that’s how it first came to my attention, but I have since heard a great deal of buzz about the winery. Anyway… In order to find out more, a road trip was in order.
This is an interesting arrangement and I have not encountered anything else like it in the Mid Atlantic. It does seem to work and makes sense, because there are dedicated growers who are totally invested in producing the best possible fruit. I must say that their agricultural efforts are evident in the quality of the wine.
I always feel compelled to comment when I drop in at a tasting room and like everything on the menu. It is fairly rare to visit a winery and be completely satisfied with every wine, but Port of Leonardtown falls into that exclusive bucket. All of the wines are not just well crafted; they are made to compete on a national or even international level.
Owner(s): 14-Vineyard Cooperative
Winemaker: Lauren Zimmerman
I arrived at the tasting room just before they opened and was a little surprised to find that the winery is located in a city park on the edge of Leonardtown. There are no expansive acres of vines lending to a breathtaking rural panorama. Nevertheless, other visitors were lining up at the door. At noon, I and about a dozen other patrons flooded into the tasting room.
Of the three whites that I sampled, even the Vidal Blanc dessert wine displayed balance. The stainless steel Chardonnay was blended with a touch of oaked Chardonnay. Rather that overpower the fruit, it just lent a slightly bigger mouth feel and it still displayed nice acidity in the finish. The white blend, however, was my favorite with its bright tropical notes.
Advocating for under-appreciated wine regions in the Eastern United States
The Virginia Grape
Once inside, I struck up a conversation with Stephanie, the tasting room manager, who subsequently poured my wine. I learned that Port of Leonardtown Winery is owned by a cooperative of 14 local growers. The cooperative formed in 2008 and opened their tasting room in 2010. The participating vineyards range in size from one half to eight acres and only the largest grower sells grapes outside the cooperative arrangement. Together they are responsible for about 3500 cases of Port Leonardtown wine annually.
A view of the tasting room.
Open to Public
Sun-Fri 12 to 6; Sat 12 to 8; 1st Fri 12 to 9
Port of Leonardtown is an "urban" tasting room located in a public park.
The reds included a pair of blends on the regular menu. Both won multiple medals in state and national competitions and I could go on at length about either of them. They are genuinely great wines. Instead, I want to tell you about two wines that make up the premium tasting. The Barbera Reserve is just off the charts. It is a deep garnet, full-bodied wine that saw between 18 and 20 months in French and American oak. The complexity of this wine mingles well with the dark fruit and ends in a beautiful finish. It was my overall favorite, but I am also a fan of the Port-style Chambourcin with hints of clove and allspice.
A crowd gathered on the patio. Photo courtesy of POL Winery.
The entire tasting room experience was first rate. The staff was focused and professional. Stephanie did a great job and was able to answer all of my questions. One feature that I should mention is the tasting lineup that rotates on a bi-weekly basis. This means that visitors can expect something different during a return visit. An effort is also made to balance dry-style and sweet offerings, so tastings will appeal to nearly every palate.
Now some of you may need to come to terms with the socialist undertones of a cooperative system. That is the only reason I can imagine for not visiting Port of Leonardtown Winery. It is, perhaps, more of an urban tasting experience, but it is also an exceptional introduction to the wines of Maryland. If you live nearby, you should join the wine club and become a regular. If you are visiting, this winery needs to be part of or, better yet, at the top of your itinerary. After you stop in, please let me know what you think.