Montgomery County’s plan to give local winegrowers a boost

Crossvines glasses for a tasting at the groundbreaking in Poolesville. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Napa. Sonoma. Those California regions are famous for the wines they produce, with quality rivaling some of the best in the world — and now, Montgomery County, Maryland, hopes to join the ranks of great wine-producing places.

On Thursday, the county took a step closer to that goal: A groundbreaking for the Crossvines, a planned winery, restaurant and event space, was held on property adjacent to the Poolesville Golf Course.

“You all have no idea how much fun this is for me,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich told the crowd gathered for the event.

Elrich said he’d been looking into the possibility of promoting winegrowing in the county’s agricultural reserve, and was especially excited to learn that the area’s soils were in a zone that could support grapes grown for red wines — his preference.

Elrich said he believed if done right, “We could actually produce first-class wines in Maryland.”

Elrich’s idea is supported by Craig Beyrouty, dean of the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“In many areas, Maryland wines actually stack up bottle-to-bottle against Virginia wines, and even California wines,” Beyrouty said.

Asked if the state’s wines are that good now, he said, “They’re improving!”

Beyrouty explained that the site, on land owned by the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, will also support a research facility, so that students enrolled in a new program starting this fall can explore careers in wine growing.

“The students will be coming in here, they’ll be interacting with wine producers, grape growers, they’ll learn the entire industry,” Beyrouty said.

The cost of the public-private partnership project is $19 million, with $3 million from the state and the remaining $16 million funded through revenue bonds.

Keith Miller, CEO of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, said providing a crush facility, which as the name suggests, grapes could be crushed and processed, is key to supporting farmers who want to move into producing wines.

A groundbreaking for the Crossvines, a planned winery, restaurant and event space, was held on property adjacent to the Poolesville Golf Course. (Courtesy Crossvines)

“Two barriers to entry is really the cost of the grapes and the cost of the equipment. By developing this project, we’re eliminating one of those barriers,” Miller said.

Asked who would have access to the facility, Miller said, “We’re going to prioritize Montgomery County growers.”

Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson, whose Bethesda district is home to “restaurant row,” said it was exciting to think about the future for the agricultural and the restaurant industries.

“When you go to a restaurant anywhere across the region, you want local wine, you want local beer,” Friedson said. “I look forward to being able to go into a restaurant and having the choice of dozens and dozens of local wines and local beers for residents to enjoy. I’m looking forward to it being a huge success.”

Caroline Taylor, executive director with Montgomery Countryside Alliance, which works to preserve the agricultural reserve, said she can see the benefits of the project. “We are keen on more value-added products, that’s for sure.”

Taylor said her organization works to promote farming of all kinds. “I believe this could easily be seen as a complement” to other agricultural products in the upcounty, Taylor said.

“People drink wine, people drink beer. Wouldn’t it be better if it were produced locally?” Taylor said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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