James Rada, Jr.
The Thurmont area is perfect for growing grapes that then can be turned into fine wines, and Alicja and Voytek Fizyta have the awards to prove it.
Over the past five years, the wines of Catoctin Breeze Winery have earned thirty awards at shows like the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Wine Competition and Winemasters Choice Competition.
“The soil here is perfect,” said Alicja Fizyta. “It is absolutely like it is supposed to be, though because it’s stony, a farmer wouldn’t take it for free.”
The soil also contains limestone and other minerals. These minerals are absorbed by the grapes and give them a unique taste.
“It’s all about the grapes,” Alicja said. “You can use the same recipe in different places, and the wines will taste different because the grapes pick up the nutrients in the soil.”
The stony soil also forces the grapevines to send their roots deep into the ground in search of water, creating a stress on the vines that produces grapes of richer flavor.
Alicja and her husband Voytek lived in Montgomery County, but after their children grew up and moved out on their own, they decided to start making wine.
“We decided that we wanted a change of lifestyle, and we had always enjoyed drinking wine with friends,” Alicja said.
They started taking classes and reading books about wine making. They established Catoctin Breeze Vineyard in 2010 in Thurmont when they planted two acres of grapevines. They made their first harvest in 2012. They have also planted another two acres of vines, which were harvested this year for the first time. They now have about 8,000 vines growing.
“We also have a sister vineyard in St. Mary’s County that grows grapes that we don’t have here,” said Alicja.
Catoctin Breeze Winery expects to bottle between 1,200 and 1,500 cases of varietal wines, blended wines, and meads this year under their three labels. The Butterfly Series offers cabernet franc, chardonnay, Syrah, rose, and viognier wines. The Musical Series offers chardonnay, Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Bordeaux blend, petit verdot, and merlot. The Mead Series offers amber, dolce vita, and honeymoon.
“The secret to good wine is to have minimal intervention,” Alicja said. “The wine goes through filtration, but we don’t add artificial flavors.”
It’s a recipe that is paying off as appreciation of Catoctin Breeze’s unique wines grows. In 2011, the vineyard won four awards for its wines. This year, Catoctin Breeze Winery earned eleven awards, including a Best in Show-Reds Award at the Winemasters Choice Competition for its 2013 Adagio Petit Verdot.
While running a vineyard has turned out to be a lot more work for the Fizytas than they expected, they very much enjoy meeting the people who come to enjoy their wines.
“We want to make good wine and meet new people,” Voytek said.
Catoctin Breeze is currently building a permanent tasting room to accommodate its growth. You can visit the winery for tastings, tours, and the purchase of the wines. You can also purchase the wines online or at local retailers.
Wine Tasting and Vineyard Tours are Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.; Friday, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. and 5:00-8:30 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Catoctin Breeze Vineyard & Winery is located at 15010 Roddy Road in Thurmont. Contact them at 240-449-0677 or by email at [email protected].