The Urban Winery in Silver Spring, Md., not only bills itself as the closest winery to the nation's capital, its proprietors also tout their business as the first winery in the overall D.C.-Maryland-Northern Virginia region to be located in an urban environment.
The Urban Winery proprietors are husband-and-wife team Damon and Georgia Callis, and their passion for the grape has proven infectious.
"Georgia is the winemaker, and I'm basically her business partner," said Damon Callis, during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal. "We'd been making wine together as amateurs for 18 years. But we started to see a lot of the opportunity that arose in Silver Spring and in Maryland, in general."
He continued, "The concept of an urban winery is not new. It's actually been around for a long time. Even before Prohibition, much of America's wine industry was created in an urban environment and was distributed. It was only after Prohibition where players like the Mondavis started to create this farm-style wine approach in the U.S. In reading up and studying the history, there really wasn't an urban winery in the Mid-Atlantic. The closest one was New York. We fell in love with the [idea]. Making wine is fun. But sharing it with others and then them coming back and sharing it with people they know is what keeps us going every day."
Callis made it clear that he and his wife are not farmers. They get grapes from such far-flung locales as California, New York, and Pennsylvania. They've also developed relationships with various farmers throughout Maryland, from the Eastern Shore to Carroll County. "Contributing to our local economy and our local agriculture is very important to us," he said. "But what's really important is knowing the palettes of our customers and giving them a very different experience when they come to our tasting room. The Urban Winery experience is Taste … Learn … Create. Our wines range from Merlots from Maryland to Zinfandels from California. We make dry, white wines. But we also make some semi-sweet white wines that are fabulous, and we're also making white wines with hops. VidalPA is one of our newest products that we're releasing in cans. We also have a Bourbon Barrel Merlot."