Meet the Winemaker: Q&A with Dave Collins

wineries in virginia, malbec wines, wineries in marylandWith harvest just around the corner, Dave Collins has been busy ushering BCV’s grapes from vine to wine. As the vice president of operations and master vintner at BCV, Dave oversees the growth and production of 24 acres and 13 varietals. He ensures the quality and consistency of all BCV wines through relentless attention to detail and skilled expertise that spans more than 25 years. Between tending the vines, the award-winning winemaker took a few minutes to chat about his love of winemaking and what’s ahead for the Washington County winery. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: How did you get into the winemaking business?
A: I didn’t choose the wine industry. The wine industry chose me. It was a progression of events and personal relations that brought me to where I am today.

After receiving my degree in horticulture from Virginia Tech in 1979, I spent a few years in the greenhouse business. At that time, Virginia wineries were in their infancy, and I saw an opportunity. It involved a tremendous risk leaving my horticulture career. I had a basic knowledge of viticulture from school, and I attended a class at the University of CA at Davis and toured Napa to learn more. When I returned to Virginia, I planted my first vineyard. In those years, the few Virginia vineyards were planted to mostly American and hybrid varieties. I planted one of the early vinifera vineyards, including one of the very first Cabernet Franc blocks. 

Q: Why are you passionate about winemaking?
A: It’s all about the grapes. They bring me back every year. I think of it this way: wine is a product of three main areas of input — the production (the winery), the process (the winemaker) and the product (the grapes). A seasoned winemaker knows the big variable is the grapes. That’s why each vintage is so important. Each year gives the winemaker a new color palette for his canvas, and it all starts with the grape. Every vintage is unique to itself.

Q: What is your favorite wine right now?
A: I am really excited about four barrels from Cool Ridge Vineyard near Boonsboro, Md. The barrels are Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. When they are blended, it will be one of BCV’s first Vintners Club wines. Look for them in the fall of 2014.

Q: What wine are you most looking forward to pressing and fermenting in the fall?
A: Malbec is an absolutely amazing grape, and it’s not commonly grown in the Mid-Atlantic region. I have had great success with the wine over the past 15 years in Virginia and now Maryland. It has intense, dark cherry flavors and aromatics. It’s a great blending wine and also stands on its own very well.

I am also excited to see how our Sauvignon Blanc develops on the vine and also in the winery. I plan on fermenting some in new French Oak and also fermenting cold in stainless steel for more tropical aroma and flavors. The two lots may be blended or kept separate for a Club wine.

Q: What’s most exciting about Big Cork’s future?
A: What I am incredibly excited about is the new winery, which opens next year. Our tasting room, in particular, will have a nice view of the vines and the countryside, and will be designed for a very relaxing visit to wine country. We have worked hard over the past year designing it for a very unique experience. We are excited about inviting you to our Washington County Wine Country!

Have a question for Dave? Ask away in the comments section below.

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