Promoting wine tourism opportunities in the Eastern United States
4236 Main Street; Rohrersville, MD 21779
phone: (301) 302-8032
Big Cork Vineyards Profile
Written by Brian Apr 16, 2017
The Catoctin ridge extends from Western Maryland across the Potomac River into Virginia. Offering good exposure, excellent drainage and mountain breezes that offer protection from frost, the rocky slopes are ideal for growing grapes. With thirty years of experience in the mid Atlantic, owner-winegrower Dave Collins was well aware of these attributes when he selected the site for Big Cork Vineyards.
Collins gained extensive regional experience across the river in Virginia and has come onto the Maryland viticultural scene as a major player and producer of fine wine. He started planting in 2011 and today has over 30 acres under vine. There are plans to plant five additional acres per year and top out at 60. Collins released his first vintage in 2013 and he currently produces something in the order of 5000 cases annually.
Open to Public
Thur, Sat-Mon 11 to 5; Fri 11 to 9
I encountered my first Big Cork wine at the Maryland Winter Wine Showcase in 2016. Since that time, I have been talking about the wine and the winemaker, but I only recently found an opportunity to visit. Beforehand, I heard stories of a huge tasting room that emphasized the destination over the wine. I can tell you definitively that those rumors were false. It is indeed a beautiful tasting room, but what I discovered was a wine program seamlessly woven into the experience.
Upon entering the tasting room visitors are greeted by a staff member. There is then a handoff to a wine steward, who is responsible for stepping visitors through the tasting roster. The program is informal but educational and it is perfectly executed. The staff is extremely well trained, professional and customer oriented. It is one of the most fully integrated winery experiences I have seen in the Eastern United States.
As for the wines, I will say that I frequently visit tasting rooms throughout the Eastern United States and sample only one or two wines out of an entire lineup that I consider of real quality. At a good winery, I generally find between 75 and 80 percent of the wines to be exceptional. At Big Cork there was not a runt in the litter. I tasted ten wines and all of them were well crafted and medal worthy. I can’t say that never happens, but in my experience it is not the norm.
Bottles on display in the tasting room.
Visitors are dispersed to the barrel room.
I tasted a pair of Chardonnays. The reserve was just off the charts with ripe fruit and beautiful balance. Viognier can be tricky and often lacks enough acidity, but again the Big Cork example struck the right balance between rich peach notes and bright acidity.
While the whites were uniformly well done, the reds were the real story for me. I am told that the Big Cork fruit has reached nearly California levels of ripeness during the last four growing seasons and it definitely shows. The Malbec is big and complex and easily the best I have tasted regionally. The Petit Verdot and Merlot were also off the charts, but the Cabernet Franc and Nebbiolo were standouts in a field of standouts. I am a sucker for a good Cab Franc and this one had a nose to get lost in. It was big and almost jammy with a long, long finish. You just have to see for yourself.
The area north of the Potomac has an increasing number of bright spots. Big Cork Vineyards is definitely one of them and they have positioned themselves as a leader in changing perceptions of Maryland wine. The majority of visitors are from Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. There is no reason why more traffic should not come from Virginia. The quality and price point are very competitive. The tasting room experience is one to be emulated. If you want to see what is possible north of the Potomac, I strongly recommend checking out this venue. When you do, please let me know what you think.
The tasting room is quite impressive.
A stunning view of the Catoctin from the tasting room.
The wine program is woven into the experience.
Owner(s): Randy and Jennifer Thompson; Dave Collins
Winemaker: Dave Collins
Video credit: Video Solutions.