Sunday, May 3, 2009

Newsletter Premiere Issue

Our organization is a group of wine grape growers formed to advance value-added agriculture, encourage tourism, and continue the rich agricultural heritage of Southern Maryland. We are accomplishing these things using our combined energies and in cooperation with Leonardtown and St. Mary’s County governments to establish and operate the Port of Leonardtown Winery.

The Coop was formed in 2006 and currently consists of 16 members. There are nine board members, elected to three-year terms. The board meets the third Friday of each month to discuss issues, coordinate actions, and decide strategy.

Officers include:

President, Rich Fuller
Vice President, Caroline Baldwin
Secretary, David Wood
Treasurer, David Wood

There are currently six standing committees that are largely responsible for accomplishing the bulk of the work.

These are the committees and their current chairs:

Building/Facilities/Equipment/Licensing, Pat Isles
Capitalization & Finance, Caroline Baldwin
Regulation/Government Relations, Mary Wood
Membership/Growers, Mary Wood
Marketing/Sales, Rich Fuller
Operations, David Wood

Anyone, member or non-member, can serve on a committee. You are welcome and encouraged to contact any committee chair for more information.

Recent Coop accomplishments:
  1. The final document to satisfy the MOU between the Leonardtown and St. Mary’s County is completed and submitted. This was the last hurdle in the release of funds for the winery renovation!
  2. Winery equipment! The first major piece has been purchased: A crusher/de-stemmer bought from Boxwood Winery in Virginia. It was used one season and the Coop got a great price on a critical piece of equipment.
  3. Matching grant funding from MARBIDCO has been confirmed. The Coop was able to generate matching funds through the Certificate Sponsorship Program developed by the Capitalization & Finance Committee. The program is an opportunity for individuals to participate in our enterprise and to guarantee themselves an allotment of POL Wine for years to come.
  4. Several local growers have been identified and expressed interest in joining the Coop. The membership committee is actively pursuing these prospective members.

Current activities:
  1. Winery construction! If you have driven past the building recently then you’ve seen the big changes taking place. The doors are removed and the interior is gutted. You can see straight through the building from Rt. 5. The floor is now torn up to install the plumbing before a new floor gets poured.
  2. Aside from construction, the Facilities committee is lining up all sorts of items needed to receive grapes this year: Presses, barrels, tanks, and more.
  3. The legislative landscape is challenging for Maryland wineries, and the Coop is actively tracking bills, talking with legislators, and coordinating with the Maryland Wineries Association to promote our interests. HB 1272, a bill that could have been potentially damaging, was withdrawn and will now go to summer study. The work is not done on this one.
  4. The process for federal wine manufacturing licensing has started.

Members and friends are working on many fronts to have the winery ready to receive grapes this fall. Don’t hesitate to contact officers and committee leads with questions, concerns, observations, or information. You can expect to see future issues of this newsletter to keep you informed.

- Gerald Byrne, Editor