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Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards
by
Kathy Sullivan

Robin Hill Farm and VineyardsSummary: The Robin Hill Farm & Vineyards in Maryland, is not far from the Washington DC metropolitan area. Although close to a congested area, visitors will quickly find themselves in Maryland’s countryside at the winery. Visitors to the farm will discover a large tasting room as well as a designated wedding barn.

Upon reaching Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards, the driveway opened up to a beautiful view of vineyards draping down the slope of a small knoll. The driveway wraps around the hill and leads to views of the tasting room and other red farm buildings. Later we learned that one of the barns is also frequently used as a wedding barn.

After traversing an L-shaped porch with rocking chairs and small chess set tables, we entered the tasting room and immediately met Susan Watson White and Bob White. Susan is the owner and operator of the winery and Bob is a partner and winemaker. Shelby Watson Hampton, Susan’s niece, is a partner and marketer and her husband Wade Hampton II is a partner and vineyard manager.

The Farm and Vineyards

Robin Hill Farm and VineyardsThe Robin Hill Farm property has been in Susan Watson White’s family since 1955. Over the years, the farm has gone through several changes with the property first growing tobacco. The farm has also been home to 400 to 500 hogs, goats, a tree nursery, pumpkins, agri-tourism and currently a vineyard of almost five acres. Robin Hill has received several honors including Maryland Governor’s Agricultural Hall of Fame and Soil Conservation Farm of the Year.

The vineyards were started in 2014. Bob and Susan noted that vineyards do well where tobacco has traditionally been grown. The vineyard soil consists of sandy loam - Marr Dodon Soil Complex. Today they have almost five acres of grapevines. Grape varieties include: Chardonel, Chenin Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Merlot.

Tasting Room

Robin Hill Farm and VineyardsThe tasting room and winery is located in a large renovated tobacco barn. Bob pointed out that the renovation was finished by Amish workers who covered the old wood walls with white sides giving the room a bright, clean look. Around numerous tables are two types of chairs including traditional chairs and tractor seats. Susan commented that the unusual tractor seats are “comfortable.” Seating is also available close to the fireplace - perfect for a cold winter’s day.

Tobacco Stripping Room

A special area of the tobacco barn, the tobacco stripping barn room, has been kept as it was with walls of rough hewn wood. This area displays old brown tobacco leaves. Susan explained the process of drying tobacco and hanging the tobacco from the rafters to dry. A small corner is devoted to the family’s history at the farm.

Susan provides a wonderful description of all the work that had to be done during the tobacco growing years. She recalls being rousted from bed during the middle of the night to help with the tobacco. When we asked, “What if you just said you were too tired?” Susan smiled and responded with “You never told my father, ‘No.’”

Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards     Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards

One of Susan’s goals has been to keep the farm as agricultural and in the family. Her siblings have adjacent property and are happy to help Susan and Bob with the winery when needed. Prior to starting the winery, Susan considered several ideas for keeping the farm agricultural. As Susan’s interest in planting a vineyard developed, she took classes at the Harrisburg Community College. In 2013 Susan attended a new grape grower meeting in Maryland where she met her future husband, Bob. Susan discovered that Bob was a good resource for starting a vineyard. In an earlier life, Bob owned and maintained a vineyard in northern Maryland. Susan and Bob fell in love in a vineyard.

Bob’s wine journey began early in his life, when he was teenager. He made homemade wine with Concord grapes (grapes his mother did not need for grape jelly). After learning to make wine with grapes, Bob went on to making wine with other types of fruit. He joined the Coast Guard and while in the Coast Guard he made wine (as an amateur) from a Chenin Blanc kit. Bob spent 20 years as a home winemaker before beginning to take commercial wine classes at Harrisburg Community College.

Robin Hill Wines

Robin Hill Farm and VineyardsCurrently the winery is producing 1,000 cases per year with a plan to increase in the future. The wine bottle labels are unique with each label telling a story. Creative members of the family design the special labels. Each label tells a story of the family farm.

Legacy Vidal Blanc 2017 was a light yellow color. The wine offered notes of mineral and white fruit with hints of tropical fruit. The wine had a long finish. The wine label was a watch representing the past. The watch is set to 4:00 because of the four generations on the farm.

MD-32 2016 is produced with Chardonel. The wine, with 12.5% alcohol, was a yellow color. The aroma was tropical with a citrus highlight. The taste was smooth with citrus and a hint of pineapple. There were also some floral notes. The finish was complex with fruit. There was a touch of sweetness drying on the aftertaste with pineapple and floral notes. The name is appropriate as MD-32 is a type of tobacco.

Robin Hill Farm and VineyardsThe Pi’Goat Blanc label was an image that represents their days as hog farmers. This wine was a sweet rosé produced with Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc. The wine was a pink color with an orange hue. The aroma was of strawberries. The taste included strawberries and cherries with a hint of citrus. The mouthfeel was silky and sweet yielding to dryness. The wine had a fruity finish.

October Glory 2016 celebrates agri-tourism and the nursery business. The nursery’s most popular tree was a maple called October Glory. The flag represents patriotism. This wine was a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. The wine was a ruby color. The taste included cherries, tobacco and baking spices. This was a medium-bodied wine with mild tannins. The finish was fruity yielding to tobacco and baking spices.

Red Barn 2017 was a blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. The label shows the red tobacco barn, where the winery and tasting room are located. This wine was a translucent red with a ruby hue. The aroma was of baking spices and dark fruits. The taste included cherries, plums and baking spices. This was a medium-bodied wine with mild tannins. The fruity finish yielded to smoke.

Home Sweet Home is a sweet wine with 50 g/L of residual sugar. Susan commented, “Nothing is as sweet as home sweet home.” The wine was a translucent red with a ruby hue. The wine offered notes of chocolate and cherries. The good acidity cut the sweetness. The wine had a long lingering finish. Enjoy this wine in front of a fireplace during the winter or in a rocking chair on a porch on a summer day.

Wedding Barn and Proposals

Robin Hill Farm and VineyardsWe made a quick stop at the wedding barn and were impressed with the size of it. A large sparkling chandelier is the focus of the main room. A second level overlooks the main room. Access to the outside, overlooking the countryside, is a good area for enjoying appetizers. When planning a wedding, Susan commented that they bond with the couple who later in life return with their children. Robin Hill Farms and Vineyards opened for wedding receptions in 2014, the same year the vineyards were planted. Weddings are booked in the wedding barn between April and November. Bob and Susan noted that the wedding barn is already booked for 2019.

Susan enjoys helping potential grooms with a proposal. She has teamed up with a helicopter company. At the time of the proposal, a helicopter appears and sets down on an airstrip, just as the proposal takes place. After the proposal the happy couple enjoys a helicopter flight.

Bob and Susan would like everyone to know that the vineyard and winery are not a trend but a passion. They also emphasize that they like to treat people as family. Find out for yourselves by visiting Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards soon.

Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards
15800 Croom Road
Brandywine, Maryland 20613

GPS: N38º 40.4002’ W76º 42.9873’

For more informaton about Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards

 

Article written January 2019



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