I’ve been so busy the past several weeks that I’ve neglected this blog. So here’s catching up on a few things, especially some news that I let slip:
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards has been sold. Sugarloaf was established a decade ago on a 92-acre former dairy farm and quickly became part of Maryland’s wine revival. I was especially impressed with their Bordeaux blends from the troublesome 2011 vintage, as was W. Blake Gray when he tasted them earlier this year for a feature on Palate Press.
Sugarloaf was a partnership of four families, the sons and sons-in-law of Dan and Polly O’Donoghue (who purchased the property in 1962). Jim McKenna, one of the managing partners, told me that age was taking its toll — three of the partners are in their 70s, the youngest is 64.
“Nobody in the family was coming up to take over,” McKenna said. “It’s hard work. People have romantic thoughts about the wine business, but it is a lot of hard work.”
Some of it comes easy to some people, though: The purchaser was a Chinese businessman, Chengwen Yang, who bought the property for his daughter Emily, who is wrapping up her viticulture education in Australia. The family searched in Australia, New Zealand, and California, but fell in love with Sugarloaf as soon as they saw the place.
McKenna did not disclose the purchase price, though the winery had been listed for $6 million. The sale was finalized October 31, and first reported by Paul Vigna on Penn Live.
Emily Yang, 24, is “a delightful young woman who truly wants to make superior wine,” McKenna says. She will begin full-time work at the winery this month. McKenna and Mike McGarry, another former partner, will remain as consultants for three years. Yang intends to keep the winemaking and viticulture team for the time being as well, including vineyard consultant Lucie Morton, he said.
The Yangs were not available for comment. But McKenna noted that as part of her education, Emily Yang will be required to perform a three-month internship at a winery, for which she will be graded. Not too many aspiring young winemakers get to intern at their own winery.
“I think she’ll pass,” McKenna quipped.
On a scheduling note, I’ll be part of the “faculty” for the 2015 Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood in Napa Valley, next February 17-20. I’ll be there along with a very impressive lineup of speakers, including Jancis Robinson and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, who will be the keynote speakers. I hope I live up to the billing of being part of a “stellar cast” of wine writers to speak.