Category Archives: Wineries

Julian Wilson: Top Young Ag Professional

Julian Wilson

Each year, the Frederick County Office of Economic Development (FCOED) partners with Frederick Magazine for Frederick’s Top 50 publication. The 2022 issue, released in January, features Frederick’s Top 50 Under 40. Homegrown Frederick wanted to take a similar approach and highlight the young entrepreneurs and leaders in the agriculture and craft beverage industries. The Homegrown Frederick magazine, released June 1, announces Frederick County’s Top Young Agricultural Professionals. Each week we will be highlighting these individuals so you can get to know them better.

Julian Wilson, 33, is co-owner of Elk Run Vineyards in Mount Airy. In 42 years of business, Elk Run Vineyards has grown to cultivate 30 acres of vines consisting of 10 grape varieties to produce 18 wines for their tasting room. Julian owns and operates the vineyard with his father, Fred. In the midst of harvest last year, an accident left his father, the primary winemaker, injured and hospitalized for months. Without guidance, Julian stepped up to lead the Elk Run Vineyards team to harvest the entire crop, crush the grapes and make the wine. Fred described this as an “extraordinary feat” and said, “As we of the older generation get older, he is a bright spot in the ever-challenging market. He will carry the winery through the tough times we now face.”

Julian has worked on the operation for 17 years and participates in all tasks at the vineyard. He is the primary vineyard manager, assistant winemaker, and works with sales and marketing. In the 2021 Maryland Governor’s Cup, Julian was extremely proud to receive gold for the winery’s 2019 Cabernet Franc. Elk Run’s greatest business accomplishment in Julian’s eyes is being open for so long and still making good wine. He says, “We strive for quality in our products and work toward that goal every day.” Julian is active in the Maryland Wineries Association and is president of the Frederick Wine Trail. Elk Run has also partnered with a number of charity organizations to help give back to the community. Most recently they partnered with The Foxie G Foundation, a horse rescue farm where a portion of the proceeds from specifically labeled bottles went directly to the foundation.

When asked who influences Julian most in his work, he replied, “My late mother, Carol Wilson is the biggest influence in my life. She put so much of herself and her love into our family vineyard. I’m honored to carry on her legacy.” Julian is excited to grow the family business and wants to keep it thriving. He credits his parents’ work ethic in creating their dream as his reasoning behind wanting to follow in their footsteps. Julian is responsible for helping Elk Run operate a successful business due to the work ethic that has been passed along to him. “To run a successful vineyard, you need to wear a lot of different hats and be up for any challenge,” he said.

We are proud to honor Julian as one of Frederick County’s Top Young Ag Professionals. It is safe to say the local agricultural industry has a bright future ahead with young leaders like him at the helm. Be sure to congratulate Julian on this well-deserved accolade!

As Julian wraps up our Top Young Ag Professional blogs, we encourage you to check out the others to learn a little bit about the heart and soul of young professionals within Frederick County’s agricultural community. The full list and links to their individual blogs can be found here.

Adam Fizyta: Top Young Ag Professional

Each year, the Frederick County Office of Economic Development (FCOED) partners with Frederick Magazine for Frederick’s Top 50 publication. The 2022 issue, released in January, features Frederick’s Top 50 Under 40. Homegrown Frederick wanted to take a similar approach and highlight the young entrepreneurs and leaders in the agriculture and craft beverage industries. The Homegrown Frederick magazine, released June 1, announces Frederick County’s Top Young Agricultural Professionals. Each week we will be highlighting these individuals so you can get to know them better.

Adam Fizyta, 36, part owner of Catoctin Breeze Vineyard in Thurmont, is named one of Frederick County’s Top Young Ag Professionals. He has been essential in planning and building the farm vineyard and winery since its inception. In 2016, Adam joined as a partner in the family business and is now spearheading the expansion of the vineyard. Currently, the Catoctin Breeze vineyard consists of five acres of grape vines. Adam wears many hats on the farm from hands-on farming to the overall management of the business. Some of his duties include pruning vines in the winter, assisting with the winemaking process, business plan development and revision and marketing plan execution. You can also find him heavily involved with events for Catoctin Breeze’s wine club members.

Catoctin Breeze has shown substantial growth over the past five years, easily justified by wine club members. From 2017-2022 their wine club grew from 75 members to over 800. Adam signifies the development of the wine club as their largest business accomplishment. You can learn more about Catoctin Breeze and their wine club by visiting their website and following their Facebook and Instagram.  He is also incredibly proud to have their Cabernet Franc win “Best in Show” at the annual Maryland Comptroller’s Cup in both 2018 and 2019. The mission of Catoctin Breeze is “to produce to craft world-class wines and offer an exceptional experience to our guests.” Adam said, “It feels great for all of our hard work to get recognized, and to get a nod from industry professionals.”

Adam is committed to helping advance Maryland’s wine industry. He is on his second term as the Vice President of the Maryland Wineries Association (MWA). The MWA “strives to grow a sustainable wine community throughout Maryland, and to grow its impact on agriculture, tourism, preservation and economic development.” Adam implements the MWV vision within Catoctin Breeze saying, “As of 2021, 100% of our wines are made with grapes grown in the state of Maryland, with almost 90% of it sourced within 12 miles of Thurmont.”

Catoctin Breeze is not Adam’s sole business venture. He is the definition of an entrepreneur with two other small industrial equipment businesses. The one person who has influenced Adam the most in his approach to his work is his father. Adam said, “He immigrated to the US in 1981 with practically nothing and went on to build successful businesses from scratch leveraging his knowledge, relationships and ability to overcome adversity.” 

We are proud to honor Adam Fizyta as one of Frederick County’s Top Young Ag Professionals. The full list can be found here. It is safe to say the local agricultural industry has a bright future ahead with young leaders like him at the helm. Be sure to congratulate Adam from Catoctin Breeze on this well-deserved accolade!

Melissa Aellen: Top Young Ag Professional

Melissa Aellen

Each year, the Frederick County Office of Economic Development (FCOED) partners with Frederick Magazine for Frederick’s Top 50 publication. The 2022 issue, released in January, features Frederick’s Top 50 Under 40. Homegrown Frederick wanted to take a similar approach and highlight the young entrepreneurs and leaders in the agriculture and craft beverage industries. The Homegrown Frederick magazine, released June 1, announces Frederick County’s Top Young Agricultural Professionals. Each week we will be highlighting these individuals so you can get to know them better.

Melissa Aellen, 31, is a Winemaker and the Director of Operational Change at Linganore Winecellars and is named as one of Frederick County’s Top Young Ag Professionals. Growing up working on her family’s farm winery instilled a passion in her to help carry on the family legacy. Upon graduating from Cornell University and honing her winemaking skills throughout the United States and New Zealand, she returned home as the third generation to operate the Mt. Airy winery. The farm is home to 230 total acres, 70 of which encompass vines that help to produce over 40 wines. Melissa explains how all aspects of the winemaking process come directly from their farm. From growing and harvesting grapes to processing, bottling and storing wine, Linganore Winecellars is a true “farm to glass operation.”

Melissa is heavily involved in the operation of the farm winery. She states that while her formal experience lies within winemaking, as a member of the executive team, she is also a key part of the decision-making process. Day-to-day operations, wine club and public events are among the departments Melissa oversees. She is most proud to have convinced the Executive Team to host and participate in an impactful leadership-training course for their entire management team. Throughout the training, they learned how to be more effective leaders, which would in turn enhance workplace culture. She also expressed how the training helped the team learn and apply tools to be able to work more productively.

Melissa has taken an active role in leadership not only at Linganore Winecellars but also within the industry and community. She has been treasurer for the Frederick County Farm Bureau Young Farmer’s Committee since 2017 and is co-chair of the Education Committee for the Maryland Wine Association.

Melissa attributes her success to listening. “In a world that moves so fast, it can be extremely challenging, but letting others speak and hear what they have to say can promote confidence which will only allow the team to be stronger. As an active listener, I reflect upon others’ thoughts before stating my own.” She also stated, “By focusing on my own personal path and finding a sense of purpose, I am in a better position to support others’ growth and development as a leader.”

We are proud to honor Melissa Aellen as one of Frederick County’s Top Young Ag Professionals. The full list can be found here. It is safe to say the local agricultural industry has a bright future ahead with young leaders like Melissa at the helm. Be sure to congratulate Melissa from Linganore Winecellars on this well-deserved accolade!