Commercial winery in a Baltimore basement

Erik Bandzak
From The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE, MD -- In a Canton basement lit by fluorescent lights, a dozen glass jugs of fermenting grape juice share space with a washer, dryer and furnace.

Standing before them, Erik Bandzak surveys his wines: two deep reds made from a Rougeon grape and an Isabella blackberry blend, which every few minutes emit tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide through their glass air locks.

A glass hydrometer, an instrument that gauges a wine's sugar content, measures his Rougeon at about 0.99.

"That's what I want it at," Bandzak says. "You get it below one, it's a dry wine."

A traditional winery this is not. There are no lush vineyards anywhere near this dense residential neighborhood. Nor is there wine aging in 60-gallon oak barrels, or tourists lining up for weekend tastings.

Nonetheless, Bandzak, 30, has launched what amounts to Baltimore's first winery, according to records kept by state regulators. If all goes as planned, in two months the wines of Aliceanna Winery -- what Bandzak has christened his fledgling enterprise -- will be served to the happy-hour patrons of a nearby restaurant, the latest entry in Maryland's burgeoning wine scene.

After months of applications, rejections from city and federal authorities, and health and safety inspections, Bandzak now holds the licenses and permits necessary to sell his wine, making his business Maryland's 50th winery and one of just a handful in urban areas.

[Go here for the full story.]

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