Local winemaker brings rocket science to work


October 08, 1997|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MAKING FINE WINE isn't rocket science. But for Ray Brasfield, who opened Cygnus Wine Cellars in Manchester, having been a rocket scientist helps.

Brasfield, a winemaker and consultant for three area wineries since 1981, was once involved in materials research and development for the Saturn rocket boosters at Thiokol Corp.

He also studied winemaking with respected vintners Peter Bell and Dave Munksgard in the Finger Lakes wine-producing region of New York.

"The connection is that winemaking is a blend of art and science," Brasfield said. "There's an artistic and a technical side. There are a lot of technically correct wines that are stylistically boring. You [must] take the science and merge it with a sense of style and artistry."

Cygnus Wine Cellars occupies the former Dutterer's slaughterhouse, at 3130 Long Lane.

Producing wine, with its associated tanks, barrels and bottles, was a fairly easy fit into the temperature-controlled rooms, where meat was once prepared. Now, local grapes are trucked in and within moments, crushed and funneled into tanks.

"Every year is another experiment," Brasfield said. "Every year at harvest the grapes are different. You take accumulated experience and proceed. You want to capture the best the wine can be."

Friday, when Jack Johnston delivered clusters freshly picked from his Copernica Vineyard off Deep Run Road, enthusiasm was high.

"Copernica grapes are anxiously anticipated for the best cabernet in the state, if not the larger region," Brasfield said.

There's a fraternal feeling in the winemaking community. Chris Lang, owner of Woodhall Vineyards and Wine Cellars Inc. in Parkton, was on hand to toast the delivery Friday.

"There's not nearly enough grapes, yet this is a wonderful grape-growing area," Lang said. "Here, we do better with red grapes than Virginia growers. There's a perfect temperature, well-drained soil, but nobody knows grapes are a good cash crop."

Cygnus, which crushed its first grapes in 1995, is the only winery in Carroll County and one of nine in Maryland. The mayor and people of Manchester welcomed the wine cellar, offering help in getting it started. Brasfield has honored them with a wine named Manchester Hall.

"In Manchester, as anywhere in the world, wine cellars are integral with the community," Brasfield said. "The North Carroll area was what I wanted in terms of population and growth trends, plus the culture of the semirural small town. I didn't want a tourist-type of business."

The winery will have an outdoor deck for wine-tasting in the future.

Brasfield moved his family to Manchester from downtown Baltimore. His wife, Joyce Hongsermeier, teaches voice and instrumental music at Park School in Brooklandville and Gilman School in Baltimore. Their daughter, Eleanor, is a second-grader at Manchester Elementary School.

"We just want to do what's been done for 5,000 years," Brasfield said. "Make wine so people have it to drink with dinner. Very few of us are in it to make a lot of money."

Information: 410-374-6395.

CROP Walk Sunday

A CROP Walk, part of a national harvest of funds to aid hunger programs, will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The walk begins in the parking lot of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Manchester.

Walkers should collect pledges or donations before the walk.

The Rev. Vera Call of Lazarus United Church of Christ in Lineboro is the coordinator.

This year's route, along Route 27 from Manchester to Snydersburg and back, runs about eight miles through farmland on a wide road with wide shoulders.

Up to 100 people, including parents with children, have participated in previous walks, said the Rev. Robert Rock of Trinity United Church of Christ in Manchester.

In North Carroll, members from about 20 local churches will walk.

CROP Walks (the acronym stands for Christian Rural Overseas Program) have been held nationally for 50 years.

Carroll's efforts over seven years have raised $35,000.

Information: 410-374-2727.

Blood drive

The Red Cross will hold a blood drive from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 15 in the gymnasium at Manchester Elementary School, 3224 York St.

Registration: Gail Riley, instructional assistant at the school, 410-751-3410.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.