Women in Wine: Modernizing Mead at Orchid Cellar

Marzanna Wilk

March is known for 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. Our last spotlight showcases Marzanna Wilk, owner of Orchid Cellar Meadery and Winery in Middletown.

Orchid CellarOriginally from Poland, Marzanna and her husband, Andrzej moved to the US just over 30 years ago. Marzanna dreamed of bringing some of their unique Polish heritage to Maryland, and in 2006 she and Andrzej founded Orchid Cellar. Marzanna told us that mead is the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage, approximately 24,000 years old, and was discovered by honey and water fermenting in nature. Her goal was to expose the craft beverage industry and consumers to the strong, heavy and complex flavor of Old Eastern European style mead. In 2009, the pair purchased the breathtaking property on Pete Wiles Road in Middletown and opened a tasting room in the basement of their home. It wasn’t long before Orchid Cellar grew out of the small tasting room space and needed to make a move. With a lot of hard work and perseverance, the Wilks, themselves, built the beautiful cabin-style tasting room customers enjoy today!

Marzanna is proud to provide true Maryland products. Honey from their beehives is used to make Orchid Cellar’s award-winning meads, and grapes grown in the vineyard are used in making their wines. Marzanna also works with a number of local farms to source the fruits and spices used in flavoring meads. Last year, collaborative efforts between Orchid Cellar and Scenic View Orchards were showcased on an episode of Maryland Farm and Harvest which you can find here.

MeadMarzanna is committed to having a variety of unique and delicious products for everyone to enjoy. Orchid Cellar now offers meads, wines and sparkling meads. To help diversify product offerings and reach a larger consumer base, a vineyard was planted to produce wines, and they began producing sparkling mead under the Elemental Mead Co. brand. The Elemental product line tends to be a dryer, lower-alcohol, easy to drink mead in comparison to traditional meads which tend to be very complex and sweet. Elemental is especially popular throughout the warmer months. Marzanna’s favorite aspect of the business is the people she gets to meet, saying, “I love people, I love talking about mead and I love giving customers their first experience tasting mead.”

beekeepingOrchid Cellar is a true family affair. Her husband Andrzej and son Andrzej Jr. are very active in the operation. Andrzej manages the vineyard and Andrzej Jr is the head mead maker. Marzanna expressed that being a woman and having an accent presented some challenges in the industry, especially upon the inception of Orchid Cellar. She is now incredibly proud to be a woman in the industry saying, “We can do anything. We are strong women.” Marzanna praised the friendly, helpful and supportive Maryland wine community that she is proud to be a part of. She also praised the support and help from Kevin Atticks, who is now serving as the Maryland Secretary of Agriculture.

Head out to Orchid Cellar for a visit and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram for their latest news. Maryland Wine Month wouldn’t be possible without businesses like Orchid Cellar and others in the County. You can find the full list here.  We have loved featuring some of the passionate female leadership in the Frederick County wine industry and hope you have too.