The Baker family of Westminster has made grape growing and wine making a family affair with the launch of Old Westminster Winery.
The winery, set on 18 acres off Old Westminster Road, boasts a fully functional, state of the art wine making facility. They grow six varieties of grapes on six-and-a-half acres.
Drew Baker said he was unsure of the project as pitched by his parents when he was a student at Towson University. But now that the winery has been built, the grapes are growing and wine is aging in barrels, Drew said he's loving it.
"It just seemed like a pipe dream to me at first," he said. "I agreed to go to some seminars, we hired a consultant to evaluate our land for growing grapes ... the more we learned, the more we saw how doable it was."
Drew is working with his sisters, with support from their parents, to get this massive undertaking off the ground.
"I was a business major and my sister, Lisa, was in school for chemistry," Drew said. "That wasn't the plan, it just played itself out that way."
Drew is the general manager of the operation and also the grape grower, overseeing the vineyard. A graduate of Towson State University, Drew is certified as a wine expert through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and Capital Wine School in Washington, DC.
At just 25-years-old, Drew has seized opportunities to gain valuable experience in the wine industry. Most recently he worked at Morton Estate Winery in Hawke's Bay New Zealand and at Boordy Vineyards in Maryland.
Lisa, a graduate of Stevenson University and just 23-years-old, is the winemaker. She recently served as an assistant winemaker at Serpent Ridge Vineyard in Westminster and she is traveling to Sonoma Valley, CA in the fall to help make wines at Patz & Hall Winery— a wine producer in the Russian River Valley.
Drew said Ashli, the youngest sister at 22, will play a more significant role as the marketing and events coordinator as the business gets off the ground.
"It's always difficult working with family at times but at the end of the day we get along really well," Drew said.
Winemaking is a tedious process and according to Drew, time consuming and work intensive.
Drew said that they employ several quality controls in their process including a hand-sorting table to ensure nothing extra, like stems, bugs or leaves, make it into the tanks.
"Most wineries don't do it because the process is time sensitive and it's a pain in the butt," Drew said. "But it's one of the biggest quality controls we have."
The goal is for the company to eventually be profitable Drew said, but right now the business is a start-up that feels like "a black hole we throw money into."
"We set out to make premium wines that we're proud of and we can't cut too many corners to accomplish that," Drew said. "If you try to cut in too many places, it's just impossible to produce what we want to produce."
Old Westminster Winery is going into its second harvest this fall. Drew said they will be bottling all the wine currently in barrels (harvested last year) in March of 2013 to prepare for their grand opening in April of 2013.
In the meantime, Old Westminster Winery offers a Century Club for those who don't want to wait. For $100, Century Club members have access to wine tastings and events, as well as a lifetime discount on Old Westminster wines.
The once skeptical Drew, who admits he was not a big wine drinker before this undertaking (mind you he's only been of legal drinking age for four years), said that he's fallen in love with the business, and the wine.
"The more I learn about it, the more I think it really is cool," Drew said. "I see why people love it. The wine industry is really a lot of fun."
To learn more about Westminster's newest vineyard and winery, visit www.oldwestminsterwinery.com.