It was Prohibition, but Philip Wagner was utterly enamored with wine.
His rented property just north of Baltimore happened to include the remains of a vineyard, and Wagner got to work revitalizing the untended vines. Soon he added his own plants, experimenting with varietals and learning what would grow best in the mid-Atlantic US. In 1933, he literally wrote the book on the subject–American Wines and How to Make Them.
Wagner worked as an international correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, and while on assignment abroad he discovered Vidal Blanc, a French hybrid tremendously disease resistant as well as ideally suited for the Maryland climate. His wife, Jocelyn, smuggled cuttings of the vines back into the US in her purse.
When the Wagners opened their winery to the public in 1945, it was the first commercial winery in the state of Maryland. They named it Boordy Vineyards–legend has it that the name “Boordy” came from a child’s mispronunciation of “Bordeaux.”
In 1980, Boordy moved to Long Green Farm in central Maryland. A farm since the 1800s, Long Green is today part of the Maryland Environmental Trust, and the historic buildings on site are worth a tour.
Operations have significantly grown over the years. Two Boordy vineyards in addition to those at Long Green provide the bulk of grapes, while other grapes are sourced from vineyards throughout the US.
And what of the wine itself? Their three wine series–Landmark, Icons of Maryland, and Just for Fun–provide 18 different options at any given time. The reds in the Icons of Maryland line particularly shine with hints of berries and earthy richness–my favorite is the Diamondback Terrapin Petit Cab. For whites, their Rockfish blend of Seyval, Chardonnay, and Vidal is crisp with–a personal favorite–a savory bite of umami.
Those who prefer something sweet can choose from the popular Just For Fun series with flavors ranging from spiced wassail to tango peach. The spiced wassail is rich and comforting warmed up on a cool winter evening.
Although often vacant on weekdays, the winery comes alive on weekends. Throughout the warmer months, patrons flock from the city to hear the popular summer concert series, during which lines often start forming more than three hours before the music begins.
This winter, visitors can look forward to traditional holiday music and winery tours as well as performances by The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.
Summer concerts, Shakespearean performances, and nearly 20 wines–in 80 years, Boordy has grown from Philip’s private passion to a titan in the winery world.
Visiting the winery today–with its 18th-century buildings, rustic tasting room, and lively weekend crowds–is like watching history unfold. It’s both a peaceful retreat and a rowdy party, a hidden secret and the hottest spot in town.
If You Go
Boordy is at 12820 Long Green Pike in Hydes, a small community about 15 miles from Baltimore. The tasting room is open year-round and tours run daily at 2:00 and 3:30 PM. Check the website for information on holiday closures. Tastings are $5 for the traditional flight and $15 for the landmark series.