As we reported back on June 20, 2017 (Robin Hill to be Brandywine’s fourth winery), Brandywine was due to get its fourth winery this month. On Saturday, October 7, 2017, it became a reality, when the Robin Hill winery held its grand opening. It was a warm, muggy, and breezy day, with no rain — almost perfect for the outdoor ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards’ gates opened at 11:30 AM. Parking was a good ways downhill from the Robin Hill winery and tasting room, but they had golf-carts and ATV’s to carry visitors up-and-down the hill. As visitors waited for the ceremonies to begin, they wandered across the tasting-room porch, and inside the tasting room itself. There was also a tent for wine tastings on the lawn next to the vineyards.
Susan Watson White, Owner/Operator/Partner in the business, welcomed the visitors and introduced family members and business partners:
- Shirley Watson, Watson White’s mom, and the matriarch of the family (I think there are at least three, if not four, generations living on the farm). Watson White then raised a glass and made a toast to her dad, Russell, who died suddenly in 2005
- Bob White, Watson White’s husband, Partner in the winery, and Winemaker
- Shelby Watson-Hampton, Watson White’s niece, Partner in the winery and Marketing Manager
- Wade B. Hampton II, Watson-Hampton’s husband, Partner and Vineyard Manager
- And, the rest of the many family members gathered together on the porch of the tasting room
Watson White mentioned various businesses the farm had been involved in: tobacco, pigs, trees and shrubs, pumpkins, soybeans, corn, and hay. She went on to review some of the history of the farm, noting that her parents purchased the property in 1955. About four years ago, they started a wedding and event business. Next, she surveyed the crowd, asking them to shout-out if they had been involved in any of their previous or current businesses (each of which got a positive response). “Who has ever”:
- Been here to purchase any nursery stock or plant?
- Picked a pumpkin or take a hayride here?
- Worked at Robin Hill Farm?
- Attended a barn dance? (I wish I could have shouted out for that one)
- Gone to a wedding down in the wedding barn?
- Who is excited about tasting wine today?
You can see videos of some these moments on Facebook. After the Q&A segment, Watson White said the family loved to start things off with God Bless America, which the crowd then sang with great enthusiasm. Watson White made sure to mention the other three local wineries — Gemeny, Janemark, and Romano — and suggested that folks visit them, too. She then introduced VIPs, George Grillon, President of the Maryland Grape Growers Association and Kevin Atticks, Executive Director of the Maryland Winery Association. Each spoke briefly, congratulating the family on the launch of their new venture. Finally, the scissors were brought out and handed to matriarch Shirley Watson, who cut the big red ribbon, and formally opened the new business.
In the tasting room
When I visited the winery a few months back to interview Susan Watson White and her husband Bob White, they started things off with giving me a taste of their premium wine, Russel’s Reserve. It was a very good dry red, made with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Chambourcin. With the formal opening of the winery, we would finally get a taste the rest of the wines they currently have available (see the list above).
It’s nice they leave space on the Tasting Card for notes. Most places do provide pencils for notes, but they don’t always leave much space for making them. The folks behind the bar (family members and volunteers) were swamped, but they did a great job.
Cindy and I usually split a tasting between us, as most wineries pour enough for us to be able to taste from a single glass. On the occasion of their grand opening, though, Robin Hill was charging $10 for tasting all six wines on the menu, and you got to keep the glass. So we got two tastings, so we could both have a glass to keep. The glasses are lovely. The logo’s red highlights the robin’s breast and grape cluster.
We didn’t care much for the sweet wines, but that isn’t a criticism — just a statement of our personal preferences. I’m sure there were folks there who loved the sweet pours. Cindy tends to prefer whites, and I the reds. We ended-up buying two bottles of each: Legacy and Russel’s Reserve. We had a bottle of the Russell’s Reserve a few nights ago with a steak dinner (with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes), and it was a good pairing. The next day, dinner was fried chicken (with coleslaw and macaroni salad), and the Legacy was an excellent match!
At the bottom of the Tasting Card, you may notice they soon plan to release more wines. They are to include:
- Red Barn, 91% Cabernet Franc and 9% Chambourcin
- The picture on the bottle shows the red tobacco barn and attached tasting room
- Pier Pleasures, 65% Chambourcin and 35% Cabernet Franc
- Robin Hill Farm is on the west side of the Patuxent River. The image on the label is of the farm’s pier on the river
- MD-32, 100% dry Chardonel
- The name is for Maryland Broadleaf Type 32 tobacco, which they used grow at Robin Hill. The label depicts a tobacco plant
Food truck lunch
Robin Hill winery had a couple of food trucks on-site for those who wanted something to eat with their wine. Sandwiches, wraps, chips, and sodas were on sale at the Blue Wind Gourmet truck, out of Lexington Park. Desserts were being sold by the Baltimore-based Midnite Confections Cupcakery truck.
Cindy had a ham and cheese sandwich with chips, and I had pulled-pork and chips. Both were quite good. Our glasses of Russell Reserve wine just made our meal all the better.
Robin Hill winery conclusion
The new winery at Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards got off to a great start. After several years success with their event-and-wedding hosting business, they clearly have a good handle on managing crowds and delivering good service. Adding a winery to the their business portfolio will probably only make for a stronger mix of offerings.
The many years’ experience of winemaker Bob White definitely show in the wines delivered. My impression is that it may be a good idea to put down a few bottles of Russell’s Reserve annually, and see how they age. I’d love to see Robin Hill offer a vertical tasting in five years or so (see Recommended reading for “National Drink Wine Day” and Romano Chambourcin tasting).
The tasting room is a lovely addition to the property, and is quite welcoming to guests. Its decor offers:
- Surprisingly comfortable stools with metal tractor-seats
- A wine-cask chandelier
- For those chilly days almost upon us, a fireplace to make the room cozy (no, not a wood-burning one, but still a nice touch)
- The past is being kept alive by the wall behind the bar, which is made from weathered boards of the old tobacco barn
When next you head to Southern Maryland to taste some wine, Robin Hill deserves a spot on your schedule. ♦