Putting the "Wine" in Brandywine

 The Legacy Wine Trail launches in nearby Maryland

Words and photos by Thomas Martin

If you are driving on the backroads of Brandywine in Prince George’s County, Maryland, you might miss them—four wineries are tucked away within an eight-mile radius. This spring, the Maryland Wineries Association launched the Legacy Wine Trail to celebrate this nexus of viticulture. Included on the trail are Janemark Winery & Vineyard, Gemeny Winery and Vineyards, Romano Vineyard & Winery and Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards. All four stops along the trail are within a forty-five-minute drive from the capital, and each offers a unique story and some very nice wines.

Jo-Ann and Joseph Romano did not plan to become trailblazers when they began planting grape vines on their former corn and soybean farm in 2007. Four years after the first planting, Romano would be the first winery to open in Prince George’s County. The couple attribute their interest in growing grapes to empty nest syndrome. As their children left for college, their new vineyard, along with a cluster of beehives helped Jo-Ann and Joseph occupy their new child-free time together. The Romanos grow five varietals of grape—Barbera, Cayuga, Chambourcin, Traminette and Vidal—and produce nine different wines.

Just three years after the Romanos opened their winery, Susan and Bob White, along with many relatives, began planting their first rows of grapes at Robin Hill Farms and Vineyards. In 1955, Susan’s parents purchased the farm property which abuts the Patuxent River. The farm housed hogs and yielded tobacco in its early years, and remnants of that history are still visible today. Robin Hill’s winery building is a converted tobacco barn, and their Pi’Goat Blanc rosé (pronounced with a French accent, “pe-ZHO”) is a nod to the four-legged inhabitants of the farm, both the former pigs and the goats they currently raise. The Pi’Goat Blanc received a silver medal at the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup Competition, while the Home Sweet Home wine received both Best in Show and a gold medal.

Awards aside, there is a close-knit culture that makes the Legacy Wine Trail distinct. All the vineyards are relatively young. These winemakers have distilled a perfectly balanced bond, one of shared soil, intertwined roots, and—of course—a deeply abiding love for wine.

“You forge a lot of wonderful relationships in this community of wine.” Jo-Ann Romano