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Sibling Revelry

Young oenophiles make Maryland’s newest winery a family affair.

From left: Drew and Lisa Baker and sister Ashli Johnson at their just-opened Old Westminster Winery

Five years ago, Jay and Virginia Baker set out to reinvent themselves. The couple approached their three children—then college students—with the proposition of launching a winery in Maryland. Skeptical and admittedly less than enthusiastic about the venture at the onset, siblings Drew, Lisa and Ashli grew to develop a passion for the vine through research, meetings with industry leaders in the state and beyond, and forays to some of the world’s great wine regions. Drew cut his teeth as a vineyard assistant at Maryland’s Boordy Vineyards and then as an intern at Morton Estate Winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Lisa had stints with Sonoma Valley wineries Patz & Hall and Bedrock Wine Co.

The ambitious young trio, with the help of their parents, merged their know-how at Old Westminster Winery in Westminster, Md., which opened June 8. Everything at the 6-acre vineyard—from pruning and hedging to weed control and harvesting—is done by hand. “It’s all powered by sweat, not oil,” says Lisa. The winery’s first release consists of albariño, chardonnay, cabernet franc and a Bordeaux red blend, for sale through their website and tasting room, and on restaurant lists, including Baltimore’s Woodberry Kitchen and Annapolis’ Red Red Wine Bar. Current production hovers around 1,000 cases—about a quarter of the facility’s maximum capacity.

Firstborn Drew serves as CEO and vineyard manager; youngest sibling Ashli is the winery’s director of marketing; and middle child Lisa is the ingenuity behind the juice. (She is a certified specialist of wine and is currently working toward a diploma certification from the prestigious Wine & Spirit Education Trust.) While the three partners believe their youth—plus the opportunity to build a family business, rather than inherit one—breed a bold enthusiasm and innovation that stands in the face of the status quo, their lack of experience isn’t without its challenges, especially in a market that can be unpredictable. “The biggest ones are the financial decisions, as well as getting our product to market and building brand loyalty,” Lisa explains.

Up next for the fabulous Baker boy and girls? This winter, they’ll release a limited production, traditional method blanc de blancs sparkling wine, and they’ll continue to seek varietals that thrive on their property’s microclimates. “We believe we have the ability to make distinctive wines based on unique geology and farming techniques,” says Lisa. “The future of Old Westminster is bright and adaptive.” Open for tastings on Saturdays from noon to 5pm and by appointment, 1550 Old Westminster Road, Westminster, Md., 443.536.6436, oldwestminster.com