Drew Baker ’10, Business Administration, Management
Drew Baker was still finishing up his degree at TU when his family first got the idea to transform the rolling hills surrounding its rural Westminster home into a vineyard.
“It started off as this crazy pipe dream that we were going to bring wine country to Maryland,” he says. “Of course we’re not the first [winery] in the state, but historically it doesn’t have the best reputation for wine. We decided we were going to change that.”
With this goal in mind, the Bakers did their homework, hired a consultant to assess their soil, and traveled around the globe to learn the art of winemaking before establishing Old Westminster Winery.
The winery released its first vintage in 2013 to rave reviews and has been raising the bar for local wine in the state ever since. In 2016, the winery was named one of the top 101 in the country by The Daily Meal and won “Best in Show” for its 2014 Malbec at the Comptroller’s Cup, one of the state’s most prestigious wine competitions.
“Stylistically, everything we produce could be described as dry, European-inspired wine,” he says. “These are the wines [our family] grew to love and appreciate. We decided from the beginning we were going to make wine we like to drink.”
The business is a true family affair. Baker’s sister Lisa Hinton, whose bachelor’s degree is in chemistry, transforms their grapes into award-winning vintages as winemaker. As estate director, their sister Ashli Johnson runs the winery’s tasting room. And in addition to managing the winery’s restaurant and business accounts, Baker oversees the crop cultivation and harvest.
Baker says what his family is doing—value-added farming—is the key to getting entrepreneurial young people into the craft, he says.
“If we step back, our goal is to prove a model, and that model is small businesses of creative people farming and preserving land and at the same time creating a product—whether it’s wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, or clothing—that people want,” he says. “One of those things in and of itself is a good thing, but when you put them all together, you can capture the whole value chain.”
So far Baker and his family are proving that model is both sound and lucrative as the business continues to grow. The winery hopes to double the number of cases it produces in the coming years with the acquisition of new farmland northwest of Washington, D.C .last year. Baker also introduced a side business to help small and novice vintners produce wine using Old Westminster Winery’s equipment.
“I’m very optimistic about the direction we’re going,” Baker says. “I think it’s important to putting Maryland wine on the map, preserving more land, producing great products consumers want and creating more jobs. That’s what small farming is in need of right now.”