By Ed Rybczynski
Special to The Dagger
During the humid days of July, the vines at Mount Felix weigh heavy with immature fruit. The wine grapes flourishing there are well suited for the climate found along the rugged shores of the upper Chesapeake Bay. “The hotter, the drier it is, the better it is. This summer so far has been wonderful … “ says Mary Ianniello as we discuss the growing season at the Havre de Grace vineyard that she owns and operates with her husband, Peter.
The decision to grow a particular variety of grape, Chambourcin, was the result of much thoughtful research by the Ianniellos. The woody vines can withstand both extremely hot and extremely cold temperatures. The grapes possess favored qualities for crafting the many and varied types of Mount Felix wines.
Peter and Mary were drawn to the unique combination of terrain and micro-climate found high on a hill high above the historic town of Havre de Grace where two great bodies of water, the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, meet. Finding such an unusual and ideal parcel of land brought to fruition the couple’s dream of harvesting grapes to produce outstanding wines.
While becoming better acquainted with the Ianniellos, I realize that every aspect of their business is well planned and meticulously executed. It can be said that nothing about the design and management of the picturesque vineyard at Mount Felix is left to chance. To promote competition for rainwater, the vines are planted closely together. The strategy, known as high density planting, discourages leaf growth. Diligent hand pruning is another management practice intended to expose grapes to natural elements. The marriage of grape and sunlight is a key determinant in the even maturation of fruit with proper concentrations of sugar.
I intentionally asked about the use of fertilizers at Mount Felix vineyard. The answer: fertilizers are not used! There is simply no need. The vines are planted in nutrient rich soil born of the stewardship of untold generations of responsible landowners. Peter and Mary fully understand that the mantle of environmental responsibility now rests with them. The robust, healthy grapes shown in the photos tell the whole story.
This is the second of a series of articles exploring the growth cycles of Mount Felix grapes and the creative expression of their attributes to make wine.