Dorchester’s First Family of Wine Savors Vineyard Success

2013 Harvest, production and distribution best ever

It’s been almost nine years since the Layton family first started planning for their now award-winning vineyard. Setting their sights on Maryland’s growing viticulture industry – and on becoming the county’s first winery – they planted their first vines in 2007 and by May of 2010, cut the ribbon on the beautiful new tasting room.

Less than five years since uncorking that first bottle of Layton’s Chance wine, the business continues to thrive, exceeding production and distribution goals in 2013. This year’s harvest produced 12,000 gallons including 29 tons of grapes grown by their farm and another 14 tons from other vineyards around the shore.

“This year’s crops will yield over 60,000 bottles of wine, a significant increase from our first year’s production of 7,000 gallons,” co-owner Jennifer Layton says. She estimates year over year growth has averaged 10% annually.

In 2013, they concentrated on expanding their distribution network both in Maryland and into Delaware. With 55 outlets currently, Jennifer wants to increase their range and add a dozen more stores where customers can purchase their products.

“The closer the store is to our Dorchester County location, the more of our wine they sell,” Jennifer says, citing Snow’s Turn on Route 16 and Best Wine & Spirits on Route 50 as their two top outlets.

More than ‘value-added’ agriculture, Laytons – like many wineries throughout the country – has become a thriving destination for tourists and residents alike. At least 30,000 people have visited the Vienna operation to purchase wine, tour the vineyards or attend one of their many festivals and special events.

Next year, Jennifer hopes to experiment with other varietals to see what grapes they may want to plant in the future. “We look at what grows well and have found that hybrid grapes such as Chardonelle, Cabernet Franc (a vinifera) and Marquette are best suited to Dorchester’s soil and weather.”

With room the grow, the vineyard could add eight acres to the 14 existing and another 8,500 gallon tank to more than double their production under the state’s current laws.

The family’s farming operation, including the vineyard, employs six people full-time and five part-time tasting room staff. During the harvest, they hire an additional five people.