March is known for being Women’s History Month, but did you know that it is also Maryland Wine Month? Maryland Wine Month was created to celebrate the growing winery industry in the state. According to the Maryland Wineries Association, Maryland is home to 110 licensed wineries and over 1000 acres of grapes, apples and other fruits used in making wines. Frederick County alone is home to 15 unique wineries and has become a destination for wine connoisseurs. Local winery owners have helped set the standards for high quality Maryland wines. We are celebrating these two special occasions by highlighting some of Frederick County’s leading women in wine. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Lois Loew and Rachel Lipman from Loew Vineyards in Mt. Airy to learn about their history and what it’s like being women in the industry.
Founders of Loew Vineyards, William (Bill) Loew and his wife, Lois, had a dream to find a property suitable for growing grapes and continuing a family legacy. Bill descended from Poland with an extensive family history of mead production, in fact, one of the longest in the world. The Loew family has traced their mead production back to approximately 1870 in Lwow, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine). In the 1930s, Bill’s family operated over five large meaderies that were destroyed during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Poland in 1939, and an entire industry was gutted. At that time, 90 percent of mead was produced by members of the Jewish community. Out of the 200,000 Jewish residents in their community, only 800 survived the war. Bill was fortunate to survive; however, most of his family was not so lucky. He was only 13 at the start of World War II, but told his granddaughter Rachel, he had fond family memories surrounding mead production. He told her he was, “haunted by the smell of mead fermenting in barrels,” thus forming a dream to get back to his roots. Unfortunately, all Loew family mead recipes perished in the war and Bill made it his goal to imitate the old family recipes as closely as possible.
Did you know that Frederick County contains three of the four oldest wineries in the state with Loew Vineyards occupying the title of fourth oldest? To continue the century-long Loew family legacy, in 1982, Bill and Lois Loew purchased the 37-acre property in Mt. Airy and began making their dream a reality. Less than a year ago, Loew Vineyards lost its beloved pioneer. Bill lived to be 96 and instilled in his family a passion for producing quality meads and wines. Today, their oldest granddaughter, Rachel Lipman is taking the reins alongside Lois to continue the Loew family legacy. “Wine and meads are really special to our family,” said Rachel. She shared that her most precious memories growing up were at harvest festivals with her grandparents or family gatherings where she and her cousins competed to impress their grandparents with their palates. To keep the family history alive, Rachel is making a Tribute Series wine or mead with each of her cousins, named after family members who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Lois said their family is full of strong women, including her three daughters who have all been active in the operation. When asked what it’s like being a woman in the industry, Rachel said that she has a lot of pride. She said, “I’m the fifth generation in a line of winemakers. So, in my opinion, that is a form of confidence and credibility that exceeds most.” She loves being a part of the Maryland wine industry noting the supportive and collaborative community. Lois and Rachel’s favorite part of Loew Vineyards is the nostalgic feel and the simple fact that they get to work together.