Standing in the tank room close to the Port of Leon-ardtown Winery’s winemaker Lauren Zimmerman, a local patron looks through a glass at Lauren’s lat-est Rosé. That same patron may hear a defi nitive sing-song “Mmmm!” spoken, as Lauren coos to her 2-year-old daughter, Lola Rose. This same gentle fi nesse and car-ing is habitual, as this diminutive young professional goes about creating another great variety of local wines from Southern Maryland vines.
Lauren brings intuition, intelligence and inspiration to her craft, which prove essential in creating a great wine. Proof of her mastery of quality wine making is in the latest results coming from the 2018 Maryland Governor’s Cup Competition; the Port of Leonardtown Winery’s Barbera Reserve won Best-in-Show, the top honors! She holds muscle against the longer established Maryland wineries, as contest offi ciates reportedly remarked that never, at any other time in that competition’s history, has a single winery been awarded more than seven gold medals at once. Moreover, it was declared that the winning Barbara Reserve could easily match the best Italian Piedmont vintage. “Unheard of!” is the classic response.
Lauren is in her fi fth year at the Port of Leonadtown Winery. She brings a 14-year industry history, having studied enology and viticulture (winemaking and grape growing) in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Since graduating, she has worked a season’s vintage with master winemakers in New Zealand. She became the youngest head winemaker in Canada at age 22, owning her own fi ve-acre vineyard at 23. The science, the artistry, and personal integrity have blended well, evidenced from her consistent awards. Wine professionals and intra-state bloggers have noticed. For the fi rst time in Maryland wine history, an internationally acclaimed wine critic reviewed a handful of Maryland wineries, stating Port of Leonardtown wines as “Outstanding!” (JamesSuckling.com). As she entertains quiet conversation with patrons, Lauren proves she is as capable a professional enologist with a humble, social personality.
Working with 11 quality grape growers in the tri-county area, Lauren helps decide the optimal time to harvest the more than 20 grape varieties. These make up the broad portfolio of wine styles: sweet and fruity, or bold and dry. When she got the call from the Maryland Wine Association executive with the good news of the Governor’s Cup winning, she was scouting a local vineyard and quips that she fi rst cried in disbelief, then, did a happy dance for joy, amongst the vines. Her winemaking role didn’t stall during her pregnancy. She still tasted the wines, but spit, crediting the powers of pregnancy for a super sense of taste and smell while blending.
Lauren greatly enjoys talking about the wines, if she is giving tastings or granting production room tours. She encourages anyone to come in, ask her questions, and possibly enjoy a taste of raw vintage from the tank or barrel. There exists an open invitation to participate in the bottling process. Here, volunteers assist in loading new bottles onto the rolling conveyor belt of a tractor–trailer, where they are fi lled and corked, caped and labeled, then proceeding to the end of the line for a quick inspection, and re-boxed. The air fi lls with delicious wine aromas. Volunteers are always treated to a complimentary lunch and wine for helping. It’s all part of the public enjoyment of the winery world, from grapes to glass.
“Port of Leonardtown Winery is helping to put Southern Maryland and Leonardtown on the winery map,” Lauren attests. “You should visit the newly remodeled tasting room!” It has evolved substantially over the last few years and is now open seven days a week, with a beautiful patio, courtyard, and showcase vineyard on site. Thanks to the new management, there’s a welcoming ambiance including new piped in music and a large enclosed gazebo.
For more information, call 301-690-2192 or visit POLwinery.com today.