Maryland wineries' number swelling

Maryland has 24 commercial wineries, a number that probably will soon top 30 if all the facilities targeted for opening this year and next stay on schedule.

One such is Knob Hill Winery, a 60-acre spread in the Appalachian foothills of Western Maryland that will mark the return of winemaking to Washington County after a nearly decade-long absence.

It is a project former lobbyist Richard Seibert envisioned in a plan to begin bottling wine next fall made from vidal blanc, cabernet franc, merlot and chambourcin grapes he started planting in 2007. By the time he finishes planting all the acreage marked for grapes, Knob Hill will pass Linganore Winecellars' 50 acres in Frederick County.

Linganore Winecellars and Boordy Vineyards, located in Hydes, each produce more than 100,000 gallons of wine annually, compared to the 30,000 gallons projected for Knob Hill. Seibert said he plans to purchase non-estate grown grapes to supplement his own crops.

Seibert, 56, is the founder of the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, a think tank dedicated to energy, environmental, health and safety issues. Despite financing the winery project, he's not a winemaker. That duty will be handled by John Levenberg, who studied enology at the University of California-Davis and worked in winemaking operations in California and France.

Joe Fiola, a small-fruit specialist with the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension, told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail that Washington County's s well-drained soil includes some of the best grape-growing areas in the state yet its only other winery, Ziem Winery, closed nearly a decasde ago.

Seibert inherited the land about three years ago. He said he analyzed potential crops and grapes were the most economically feasible.

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