Korando, an investment banker turned vintner, comparisons with France's
renowned wine-making area aren't far-fetched at all. Like Bordeaux,
Southern Maryland features warm, humid summers and mild winters. Where
Bordeaux has the Dordogne and Garonne rivers, we have the Potomac and
the Patuxent. But until the second half of 2004, the winery score was
Bordeaux hundreds, Southern Maryland zero. Now, thanks to Korando and to
Tim Lewis, both residents of Calvert County, our region boasts three
Two are in the Korando family. Solomons Island Winery is owned by
Korando's wife, Ann; Ken owns Chapel Cellars, based across the Patuxent
in Historic St. Mary's City. (Maryland law doesn't allow one individual
to own more than one winery.) In Lusby, Lewis has established Cove Point
Winery, near the famed Cove Point Lighthouse.
Both Korando and Lewis began operations in their basements, with
fermentation vats and barrels crowded around exercise equipment and
water heaters. Both are using grape juice from other producers while
their newly planted vineyards mature. But they take different approaches
to the enterprise. Lewis is holding on to his information technology job
at Patuxent Naval Air Station, devoting nights and weekends to the
winery. Korando has foresaken investment banking for full-time
wine-making. For now, Cove Point Winery and Solomons Island Winery will
remain home-based operations, although both hope to expand.
For Chapel Cellars, Korando has scored something of a marketing coup.
He's leased a portion of Farthing's Ordinary, a restored 18th century
tavern on the grounds of St. Mary's City, site of Maryland's first
capital. "It has a cellar that's the size of the footprint of the
building. It's quite deep and a good place to make wine," he said. He
also has a lease for up to 40 acres of land for a vineyard under terms
worked out with the Historic St. Mary's City Commission. "We should be
able to sell wine there. We expect this will enhance tourism and the
tourism will enhance people coming to the winery. So it's a win-win for
The new wineries also represent a win-win for Maryland's wine industry,
says Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Association of Maryland
Wineries. "We're very excited about these three new wineries because
they're the first in Southern Maryland and because they'll encourage
vineyard growth in that region," he said. As Maryland has only 15
wineries, Southern Maryland has jumped from zero to 20 percent of the
total. Korando agrees that his operation and Lewis' should spawn other
producers and eventually create a "wine trail" on the model of the
Finger Lakes in Upstate New York.
As different as their backgrounds are, both Korando and Lewis came to
wine-making as a hobby - "a hobby gone mad," as Lewis put it. In
Korando's case, he says, "My wife and I are foodies - we're wine and
food people. It was actually my wife who said, 'You're a good cook, why
don't we see if we can make wine?' " Like Lewis, he started making a few
gallons at a time. "Since then," Korando said, "we've gone through a
great deal of research, gone to conferences. I've been enrolled (in
correspondence courses at) U.C. Davis (the University of California at
Davis, one of the nation's leading wine research centers). I'm at the
second level now, the advanced level. That's been beneficial but it's
also time consuming."
Unlike Lewis, who has lived in Maryland much of his life, Korando grew
up on a farm in Illinois, got a degree in electrical engineering,
started his own company, Debitek - originators of debit cards for
industrial food service - sold the company and started a "boutique
investment banking firm" with two partners in New York City. But Sept.
11, 2001 changed the climate for investment banking and "gave me the
impetus to look for some new opportunities," he said. He and his wife
moved to Washington, where they already had an apartment because Ann had
been commuting to a job there. They had bought a house on Hungerford
Creek near Solomons earlier in 2001. Then "we started playing around
with making wine, and it got out of hand."
Korando, noting the region's similarity to Bordeaux, is concentrating on
Bordeaux-style wines, known as Meritage in the United States. These
include cabernet-merlot blends, malbec and sauvignon blanc. (Recently
Korando's sauvignon blanc wine was selected as Best Dry White Wine in
the Maryland Governor's Cup Competition among all Maryland wineries.)
They're all dry wines, because that's what he and Ann like. Lewis plans
a wide range of products including the use of Foch grapes, a
French-American hybrid associated with upstate New York.
Southern Maryland may not be Bordeaux but it's well on its way to
becoming wine country.
For more information: Cove Point Winery,
410-326-0949; Solomons Island Winery and Chapel Cellars,
www.solomonsislandwinery.com, 410-394-1933; Maryland Wine