By Jo Ostby and Bethany E. Starin
Less than 10 miles from Urbana, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard is nestled at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain on the border of Frederick and Montgomery Counties. Crafting Bordeaux-style wines, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard boasts a tasting room and patio that Urbana locals, including wine expert and owner of Orion Wine & Spirits, Charlie Seymour, enjoy.
“My family loves hiking Sugarloaf, then relaxing with some bread, cheese and a glass of wine on the winery patio,” said Seymour. “It’s a beautiful setting.” Seymour has been working with the winery for the past year, selecting wines for his shop. Late last year, he learned that Sugarloaf Mountain Winery and its vino blends are now under new hands, after the property’s been in the family of Dan and Polly O’Donoghue since 1962.
The new owner, Emily Yang, was financed by her father and purchased the winery for $4 million on Nov. 1, 2014, said Susan Reed, tasting room manager at the winery. Yang is young in the winery business, but Reed said she is passionate. Just 24 years old, Yang launched on a worldwide search for a winery, which landed her in Maryland.
“She traveled the world looking for a winery — Italy, France, New Zealand, the west coast, California,” Reed said. When she found Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, she was hooked. “She calls it magical.”
Seymour said he’s heard the new owner is an avid oenophile — a wine aficionado. “If you combine the owner’s devotion with a great wine maker and the mountain’s terroir, you have the potential to make some truly great wine,” Seymour said. He noted that the winery shares a similar climate and latitude to many of Europe’s historic wine-growing regions. Maryland is at 39º north, as are Portugal, Spain, Southern Italy and Greece, he said. “I think the winery has all the right ingredients to make beautiful Maryland wine, and I hope the new owner continues the process to bring it all together.”
To ensure that the transition is smooth, Yang is keeping two former owners on as consultants for three years. Jim McKenna will work as a legal consultant for Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard while Mike McGarry will provide consulting services for the vineyard itself.
“Emily’s objective is to keep the focus on quality wine and taking care of the customers that walk into the door,” Reed said.
Under the new ownership, the tasting room will be relocated to a space twice as big. The barn on Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard’s property is slated to get a facelift in the fall. The barn, which is more than 100 years old, hosts an upstairs room with open slats and currently is used for storage. Post-construction, the space will become the new tasting room, doubling the space for tastings, Reed said.
Tastings of all wines are available seven days a week from noon to 6 p.m. for $10 per person in heated tents in front of the winery. Fire pits and mulled wine are available on weekends.
SMV participates in the Maryland Wine Associatio’s Wine Passport program. Online reviewers have stated that they had a blast at SMV’s Wine Stomping Festival, that this is good Maryland wine and that once you try their blends, you’ll be hooked. SMV was voted Best Winery by several local magazines, including the Washingtonian, and offers the much sought-after Bacchus Club, a quarterly wine buying club that offers wines, free tickets to events, discounts on retail purchases and more. Palate Press online wine magazine states Maryland is not just for crabs anymore, thanks in large part to Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard.
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard is located at 18125 Comus Road. It is open daily from noon to 6 p.m. Call 301.605.0130 for more information.