For Rachel Loew Lipman, 2022 will go down as one she won’t forget, a roller coaster of a year that has seen sorrow as well as happiness.
Lipman, 29, already was working full time at Loew Vineyards in Mt. Airy, Maryland, when her grandfather died in April. William and Lois Loew had bought a 37-acre parcel in Frederick County in March 1982, planted vines, and by 1986 were selling their first bottles of wine. For several decades they continued to carry forward a family vocation that began in the mid-1800s, in Bursztyn, Poland, when Meilech Loew began making mead and his sons became involved in wine distribution and marketing.
While Lois remains the owner, Lipman is taking on the added responsibility as the winery general manager with an eagerness to revitalize the business in addition to using it as a vehicle to tell the family story, one that goes back through several generations of wine and mead producer.
So the news a couple of weeks ago that two of the Loew meads were recognized in several competitions couldn’t have been more gratifying. Its mead called Klara, a tribute to Klara Margulies Löw who was “the loving mother of our co-founder, William Loew,” was a 2022 Maryland Governor’s Cup gold medal winner, best in its class, and the Jack Aellen Award winner that recognizes the best fruit wine, mead or cider. Meanwhile, the Malka, a traditional mead, was a gold medal winner in the Maryland Governor’s Cup competition in addition to netting a golf medal in the Valkyries Horn Mead competition.
“We are incredibly happy with the results of the Governor’s Cup,” Lipman, a fifth-generation winemaker, said in an email. “In my perspective, meads and wines are supposed to spark introspection and memories. Klara has done that. One close friend said it reminded them of the flowers in their mother’s backyard and cried when she tried Klara. I’ve heard that from others too.”
Barrel-aged for nine months, this dry pyment is a blend of local Muscat Canelli, wildflower honey, and Vidal Blanc. A pyment is a type of mead where grapes or grape juice has been added. Malka is a mead made with local wildflower and clover honey then barrel aged.
“We’re really excited about the meads and wines we’re producing this year and somehow we will be making close to 2,600 cases,” she said. “Last we spoke [in August] it was projected to be about 2,100 cases. So, clearly my head is spinning a bit.”
She already has been successful in providing visitors with insights into her family, both on the website and at the winery. It’s a story that follows some dark times, when during the late 1930s and 1940s the family and its winemaking businesses were victims of the Holocaust. Wolfgang was imprisoned in the Budapest political prison at 18 because he was assumed to be a Polish spy and then sent to Auschwitz on his 19th birthday. In 1954, he immigrated to America and changed his name to William.
Per the website, he went to college at night, and became an electrical engineer, and while working in Indianapolis he with (and later married) Lois Hendrickson. They had three daughters and later moved to Maryland, where Bill first became a home winemaker and, as he later prepared for retirement from his from his “day job” with the FDA, decided to embrace winemaking full time.
There’s plenty of that history presently on the website, which Lipman has updated several times during the past couple of years. In addition those who visit can take a self-guided tour or sign up for a guided tasting Lipman offers that provides background on the wines and meads in addition to a lesson on the Loew family’s legacy in wine. “All the wines and the meads have a story behind them that tie into the family history,” she said.
Lipman says she remembers turning 18 and helping out at the winery, watching visitors sample wines and meads off the list and then “always ask how and why my family got into making mead and wine. After they heard the history, it was something that people were really take back from. It was something they really resonated with,” she said. “It’s obviously something I’m very proud of, so I think what we’ve been doing in the evolution is [promoting] the history. It’s a compelling history and as a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, it’s something I have a responsibility to share.
“Our brand is who we are,” she said. “It’s our family, our history. It’s a complicated history. It’s much more complicated than even what’s on the website.”
Meanwhile, little by little, she is finding ways to upgrade the experience there while utilizing social media to elevate its profile and attract more customers. She also has worked at growing the wine club and overseen a remodel of the production area. At some point, she has similar plans for the tasting room in addition to implementing other ideas she has been jotting down in a notebook for the past decade.
But it is the beginning of fall, so most of her attention has turned to what she called the “logistics and mayhem” of harvest.
“This harvest has been incredibly different than others with some obvious aspects, like without my grandfather,” she said.
“But, in turn, our meads and wines have been showing well and I can feel big things coming our way. We’ve also had opportunities to showcase our products in a big way. I hope it continues – after all, there will be a LOT of wine and mead to sell, with more opportunities to share my family’s story. That’s the most important.”
Amid all the plans is a recalibration of the 5 acres of vines, which were damaged in consecutive years by herbicide drift. The grapes include hybrids Chancellor and Reliance, she said, in addition to vinifera, including Cabernet Franc. “We’re also going to be working with Zweigelt at some point,” she said. “That was one of the first vines that got hit by the herbicide drift.”
They also purchase grapes from nearby growers, including Grüner, Chardonnay, Cab Franc and Malbec.
“My skin contact Grüner is fermenting so beautifully,” she said. “Tomorrow we are working with Merlot and Malbec. Barbara will be next week for nouveau.”
This remains a family endeavor, with her grandmother and aunts lending a hand, particularly with harvest and larger events. Lipman said she’s also teaching her cousins to make mead. For now, she’s the lone full timer there.
“We do things pretty collaboratively,” she said of the family. “The one thing we want more than anything is for the vineyard to have a future, and I think that is something we are all aligned with. I just happen to be the only one at the moment who wants it as a career.
“I was like an apprentice for my grandfather for the last 11 years, at least,” she said. “I probably spent 70 percent of my weeks here, even while I had a full-time job. I actually think it’s a really interesting dynamic because I get what not many people get to have. I get to work in a job where I don’t have to sit with four walls around me and I get to do something that I feel I’m pretty good at and have a strong identity with. And a huge history that I get to honor and continue.
“It’s really quite beautiful.”
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