Northwood residents Joe McCall and Joey Ecker, next-door neighbors on Woodridge Avenue, decided to venture into relatively uncharted territory when they and three other partners decided to open an actual working winery right here in Montgomery County nearly two years ago. Their concept was rather a novel one as their “urban winery” was to be located in a shopping center in Olney, rather than the more rural setting of most wineries.
By sourcing their raw grape product from different vineyards all over the world, The Winery at Olney is able to ferment and bottle over 30 different varieties of wine, from dry, hearty reds to sweeter, fruit-infused wines. The winery uses grape product from such locations as California, Italy, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand to make their wines. Customers can sample any of the wines at the winery’s tasting bar and purchase wine by either the glass or bottle.
Eighteen of their wines recently medaled in the Maryland Wineries Association’s Winemasters Choice Competition, with their Super Tuscan and Raspberry Chocolate Port both receiving gold. Five others took silver and 11 of their wines took bronze medals. At the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in March, The Winery received 21 medals for its wines. (Finger Lakes is the largest international competition in the world. Last year, more than 3,500 wines from 20 countries, four Canadian provinces, and all 50 United States were entered in the competition.)
A unique feature at The Winery at Olney is that customers can make their own personalized “batch” (28 bottles) of wine. The customer assists in the initial mixing of the ingredients and then in the bottling process 30 to 40 days later. The Winery’s graphic artist works with each customer to create a custom label for his/her wine. Although the whole process only takes one or two months, many customers age their wine in the bottle for an additional two to three months before drinking.
In fact, the demand for the wines made by The Winery at Olney has been so great that they have just recently expanded by opening a dedicated 5,000-square-foot production facility in Beltsville. The Winery has also begun to wholesale six of their Oasis Fruit Wines (Peach Chardonnay, Blackberry Merlot, Cranberry Shiraz, Black Cherry Pinot Noir, Green Apple Riesling, and Watermelon White Merlot) to beer and wine stores across Maryland. These wines are already being carried by over 50 retailers within Montgomery County (including the nearby 29 Convenience Mart).
“Our business model from the beginning was to present a high-quality product in a warm, welcoming atmosphere,” says McCall. “For too long, wine has been seen as something pretentious and intimidating to many people. We are very serious about making great quality wine, we just try not to take ourselves too seriously.”
For more information, visit the tasting room at 18127 Town Center Drive, Olney, MD 20832, or their website at www.thewineryatolney.com. ■
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