Chardonnay. Believe it or not, that’s the grape (and wine) that first sparked my interest in Old Westminster Winery. I was at a walk-around tasting at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD as part of Drink Local Wine 2013 when a friend of mine came up to me and said “Lenn, I know you hate chardonnay, but you have to go taste that one over there.”

I did — along with meeting this week’s tastemaker, Lisa Hinton (along with her sister Ashli Johnson and brother Drew Baker) and he was right. Lisa’s 2012 Chardonnay, made with fruit from the Pinegrove Vineyard, was my favorite white wine in the room.

Since then, a lot has happened with Old Westminster. They’ve planted a vineyard and recently opened their tasting room. Maryland is a state on the rise in the wine world, and Lisa (with her family) is one of the people leading the way.

Location: Westminster, Maryland

Current Job: Winemaker, Old Westminster Winery

Wine of the moment:  Paumanok 2013 Grand Vintage Cabernet Franc. I’m not just saying that because you’re from New York. That’s seriously the last bottle I opened!

My winemaking style in 1-5 words: Balanced, terroir-driven.

First bottle of wine I remember drinking: I’m not even sure it was a bottle. Probably a bag when I was in college — therefore the “why” is pretty obvious.

How I got here: Old Westminster is my family’s collective effort to put Maryland wine on the world map. We started this endeavor in 2011, the year I graduated college. It’s the result of family discussions on “how to preserve our farm and put the land to work.” We were abducted by the idea of planting a vineyard. We all agreed that growing and making wine that reflects our land through a vineyard was an exciting proposition.

As a curious chemist, being the winemaker is a perfect fit for me.

My winemaking style — in more words: I’m experimental. I get to play with over a dozen varieties grown in small vineyards all over the Old Line State. We use wild yeast, rarely fine, ferment Pinot Gris on skins, make pét-nat sparkling wines from grapes like Albariño and Grüner Veltliner, barrel ferment reds, occasionally do some semi-carbonic fermentations. Every grape runs across a sorting table, we never pump must, etc. We also make our fair share of traditional Bordeaux-style blends and single-vineyard varietals.

My wines display complexity, character and most importantly, are a pleasure to drink. A good vineyard site, meticulous farming, thoughtful cellar practices and personal commitment make this possible.

Mentors: My wine mentor is also our consultant, Lucien Guillemet. He’s the owner and winemaker for Chateaux Boyd-Cantenac, a Grand Cru Classé Chateau in Margaux. His thoughtfulness, style and approach inspires me. My personal mentor is Nancy Howard, a woman that I admire for too many reasons to list!

Music playing in the cellar right now: 90’s. Third Eye Blind pandora station is my go-to cellar jam.

Favorite thing about the Maryland wine industry: The potential. Our state’s burgeoning wine industry is full of opportunity and young talent. Nothing excites me more than replacing negative stereotypes leveled against Maryland with wines of renown.

Least favorite thing about the Long Island wine industry: Spring frost and harvest hurricanes.

One surprising thing that I’m really good at: Sports. I’m the all-time points leader (goals and assists) in lacrosse at my alma mater, Stevenson University. I also played a lot of soccer, basketball and ping pong growing up.

What I drink: Mostly mid-Atlantic, France and bubbles. I’m interested in really anything small production, single vineyard, and otherwise thoughtfully made.

My “Desert Island Meal” — wine included: I love this question! I would start with Chesapeake Bay raw oysters and a bottle of Krug Clos, followed by rosemary lamb loin chops paired with E.Guigal Cote Rotie, and finish with Glen Manor Petit Manseng (VA).

About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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