Tidewater Traveler - May 2010

 

Layton’s Chance Winery
by
George W. Sellers

 

The ground is hard. I am on my knees, bent over forward with both hands clenching the handle of a small garden trowel, stabbing at the hard soil, attempting to form a hole about one foot deep and four or so inches in diameter. As I remove chunks of dirt from the hole, I am chopping them into smaller fragments that will soon be swept back into the opening to surround the roots of a young grape vine.
Calling this thing a vine at this point is a bit of a stretch because it is only about six inches tall, with roots dangling about another twelve inches downward.
After more digging and clodbusting, my overseer declares the hole to be ready and I gently lower vine number sixty-eight into its new home. With the trowel I pull the chopped-up dirt toward the hole, allowing it to sift gently around the tender roots. Careful patting and tamping of the loose soil leads to the further declaration that this young grape vine is officially planted, ready to grow, produce grapes, and become a part of Dorchester County history.
Next I attach a plastic strip loosely around the base, clearly identifying this vine – number 68 – to be my vine. My vine will someday bear grapes that will yield themselves to the ancient art of wine-making. While number 68 gears up for a lifetime of converting nature’s elements to plump, juicy fruits, thousands of dollars are being spent to prepare the winery and grounds for an exciting future. Months of preparation have preceded this moment when number 68 joins thousands of its cousins in the six-acre vineyard.
On this beautiful April afternoon in 2009, I am presented an empty wine bottle bearing the name Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery and bearing the number 68. Someday, my vine will contribute grapes to fill this bottle.
Walking away from the site of my planting experience, I come to a large event tent erected near the orchard where artist’s renderings and architectural drawings depict things to come. While number 68 sets about producing grapes, the Layton family sets about building and preparing the winery building and grounds.
I have often arranged winery tours for travelers to France, Italy and Southern California, but this brand new winery is just a short drive from anywhere on the Eastern Shore. It is an easy diversion off U.S. Route 50 from either Salem or Vienna. Just a few country- road miles lead to 4225 New Bridge Rd., Vienna, Maryland, where the county’s first and only vineyard and winery is currently making its debut.
Since my April 2009 trip to Layton’s Chance, much has happened. A new access road has been constructed; a building to house the winery operation and visitor center/tasting room has been erected; the grounds have been prepared to receive guests; permits and licenses have been acquired; five additional acres have been added to the vineyard to bring the total to eleven acres; the family and staff have tended and harvested a crop of grapes.
However, the most significant accomplishment of all is that, under the watchful eye of the wine master, grapes (from older vines) have been crushed, cured and fermented to produce the first wines of Layton’s Chance. The first bottlings have taken place within weeks of the publication of this article.
I’m pretty sure that number 68 is not yet mature enough to have contributed to these recent events, but I am confident about the future of my personal grape vine.
Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery is a family project on the farm that has been tilled by four recent generations of Laytons, and holds an agricultural family history dating back to the early 1700s.
In addition to the vineyard and winery, Joseph and Laura Layton, with their son William and his wife, Jennifer, manage an 1,800- acre grain farm named Lazy Day Farms. Stephen, 8, and Alison, 6, also help out around the farm!
With newly bottled first editions of wine now ready, May 2010 ushers in an exciting time for the new winery - a ribbon cutting on Friday, May 21, a View of the Vineyard on Sunday, May 23 – a time when visitors can plant new vines – and folks like me can visit and check on last year’s plantings, like number 68. And then, May 28-30 is the Grand Opening Weekend – not to be missed. After the Ribbon Cutting, Layton’s Chance will be open to the public seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and by appointment to accommodate groups or bus tours.
The winery tasting room features the works of regional artisans and locally produced crafts.
Antiques and collectibles provide a comfortable backdrop for guests visiting the winery. Tours will be available to see the processing equipment and the vineyard.
Layton’s Chance welcomes groups and private parties at the winery, with many options for hosting formal dinners, business luncheons, or casual celebrations with friends. The new winery offers a welcome respite to beachbound vacationers.
Learn more about Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery at the website www.laytonschance.com and plan your next trip to experience it for yourself.
May all your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel website and travel planning service www.SellersTravel.com. Comments or suggestions about Tidewater Traveler articles may be directed to George’s Facebook business page: George@SellersTravel.com.