Maryland Wineries Association is The Voice of an Industry
Maryland Wineries Association Executive Director Kevin Atticks has all the statistics down cold: “There are 61 wineries licensed in the State,” he said recently. “Fifty-one of them are operating, producing wines, and offering tastings to the public, and there are 15 more that are undergoing the licensing process.”
Atticks is justifiably proud of the fact that every one of the 61 licensed wineries belongs to the Association whose work he directs from headquarters in Timonium.
“It is very unusual for an industry association to have such complete support,” Atticks said. “Even to have 80 percent membership is considered unusual. I think it is because we are a very active Association that supports our members and offers benefits that will help make them profitable and productive.”
Among the activities that the State’s wineries benefit from are the marketing and promotional programs, special events, information on industry trends and news, and the work the Association does in Annapolis to try and bring Maryland’s antiquated liquor laws into the current century.
Even people who are not avid wine lovers are familiar with the big wine festivals that take place throughout the State, but there are also other events where the Association makes sure that Maryland wines are showcased. One such recent event was the Farm to Table Chefs’ Competition sponsored by the Baltimore
Chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF). The Association poured ten wines from eight wineries around the State.
“It was great to see the reactions to our wines by the folks at this event,”
Atticks said. “Those who had never tried Maryland wines may have had misperceptions about them. Many were surprised at the high quality of the wines — how much Maryland wines have improved over the last decade or so. People wanted to buy the wines then and there!”
To keep high-quality Maryland wines flowing in an effective and productive manner requires a permitting, zoning, and regulatory environment that is conducive to conducting business efficiently and profitably. Permitting and regulatory activities take place primarily at the County level, and that is where Atticks is now focusing the Association’s governmental efforts.
“We are trying to work with the county governments in Maryland to make permitting, zoning, and all regulatory activities more streamlined and transparent,” Atticks explained recently. “Over the last year, especially, many counties have become ridiculous in their requirements. Their gamesmanship is costing startups tons of money that should be going to building and strengthening their businesses and the industry.”
There are some bright spots among the darkness, though, according to Atticks.
“Frederick County has been the leader in a good effort to make things easier to do business in their County. Carroll County and Baltimore County are also good models of how the regulatory processes should be handled.”
With such guidance and support of the Maryland Wineries Association, Atticks predicts that the industry should continue on its path of growth.
“We have anecdotal data as well as hard data from the Office of the (Maryland) Comptroller that the dollar amount of Maryland wines sold each year continues to grow despite the sluggish economy. The last couple of years we have experience growth in the range of more than 11 percent.
“We continue to see more wineries come on board — and there has been a subtle shift in the wineries’ business models. The new wineries are focusing their products and styles — they are finding niche market segments to cater to. They have discovered they can’t be all things to all people, so they are focusing their resources and efforts on creating specific, high-quality products.
“The Association is doing all it can to introduce Maryland wines to the public, to support the State’s wineries’, and to ensure the industry’s continued growth through our programs, activities, and advocacy.”
Written by Muphen R. Whitney