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Open for business: Wines, vines and equines on tap at new vineyard

By Allen Etzler  |  May 7, 2017

Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard Owner Robin Sagoskin and General Manager Barbry Williams spoke with The News-Post about the recently opened vineyard off Green Valley Road in Frederick.

What inspired you to open a vineyard on your farm?

RS: Like most of the citizens of Frederick County, I am in love with its gorgeous farmland and rolling green hills. I never want it to be lost for future generations. Being very ecologically focused, we opened our horse farm making certain we were conscious of any impact on the Chesapeake Bay.

I have enjoyed watching the beautiful vineyards develop on the 103-acre property, and having the opportunity to make small-batch wines that are unique and delight the palate. Our goal is to share this hidden gem as a place for serious wine drinkers and for those who are truly in love with this area. By concentrating on growing grapes that thrive on our extraordinary Mount Airy channery loam and on our elevation, we minimize our human and mechanical footprint on the ecosystem.

Finally, I have been blessed to live in various countries around the world, finding passion in travel to beautiful wine regions, visiting their vineyards, tasting their wines, and learning the stories behind them.

Working as a female in predominately male-driven professions throughout my life, I was constantly encouraged by the support of other women. I continue this passion today, looking to encourage women in this industry, applying life lessons and explorations to develop Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard as a memorable woman-owned winery right here in Frederick County.

Your wines on your website are listed next to photos of horses from the farm. What is the thought behind this? Are the wines named after certain horses on the farm?

BW: Wines, vines and equines. Since the property was first conceived as a horse farm, we want to stay true to our love of animals. We recently bottled three Bordeaux-style blends, naming them after the red-coated horses at the barn. I am looking forward to naming my next white wine after my beautiful, head-strong gray dressage mare, Enchantress.

Can you explain what your equestrian wine club is, and what people receive should they join?

RS: Our Equestrian Wine Club is a great way for folks to ensure access to our newest releases. We consider members to be family, and we are committed to sharing new wines with them first. Equestrian Club members sign up to receive four bottles of wine per quarter (February, May, August and November) and receive wines at a 10 percent discount.

Members and their guests receive complimentary tastings, by appointment or during special events. The input of our members is very important to us and enables us to continue improving the entire Hidden Hills experience.

What do you think makes a good wine?

BW: Almost every winemaker will tell you that wine is made in the vineyard. Everything starts with viticulture. When the grapes are excellent, the wine will embody the fullest expression of that varietal. We have chosen to produce dry, European-style wines which are complex, multi-dimensional, and that weave a story. We have chosen some production methods, such as the use of natural yeast fermentation, in order to create more interesting wines.

In the future, we are looking into producing ports, rosé and bubbles.

There is so much talk about Frederick’s craft beer scene. Do you think the wine scene in Frederick gets overlooked? How would you summarize Frederick’s wine scene?

BW: We are thrilled to be part of the craft beverage renaissance in Frederick County. Whether brewers, distillers or vintners, we are all so proud of what this region has achieved.

Frederick’s wine scene has evolved so much in the last 10 years. Longer-established wineries and new wineries like Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard are working together to create a bustling agri-tourism hub. We are encouraging folks to come to our area and experience the beauty of Frederick County, while sipping lovely wine and sharing the experience with others.

What is the No. 1 thing the casual wine drinker doesn’t know about wine?

BW: Many people get trapped into thinking a particular varietal always tastes the same. Actually, there are truly so many different factors influencing what creates a great wine, from the work in the vineyard, to the handling of the grapes, to pressing techniques and aging. Most people are unaware of the work involved, from grape to glass. It is truly a marriage of art, nature and chemistry here at Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard.

How much work goes into making a bottle of wine?

BW: Each bottle involves a minimum of three to four years of carefully thought-out planning to yield the perfect flavor. One of the key decisions is where on a property you want to grow a certain varietal.

Soil testing and preparation as well as vineyard orientation are crucial to making planting decisions. The journey continues with carefully picking grapes, crushing them, fermenting, barrelling and bottling.

Deciding how long you want the wines to age in oak and later in the bottle can prolong the process further. The final flavors reflect the decisions made at each stage of the process: planting, harvesting and fermentation.