Cygnus winery

Owner of Cygnus Wine Cellars Ray Brasfield will be participating in the 2011 Buy Local Picnic in Annapolis, hosted by Gov. Martin O'Malley. His Royele Rose' de Noir Brut Rose was chosen for the event, which highlights recipes and products made in Maryland. (File photo by Maisie Crow, Patuxent Publishing / September 10, 2007)

Ray Brasfield, owner of Cygnus Wine Cellars in Manchester, describes the Chancellor red wine grape as an old French-American hybrid that been grown in the eastern United States since the 1960s.

"It has kind of come and gone as a popular grape, although at one time it was the most widely planted red grape in France," Brasfield said.

"But there really isn't much of it planted in Maryland," he added.

Though Chancellor's popularity has ebbed and flowed, Brasfield hit a fresh note with it when he used it for one of his most recent vintages of sparkling wine


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Cygnus's Royele Rose' de Noir Brut Rose, released in December, was hand-made exclusively from first pressings of Chancellorsville grapes, grown just up the road from Manchester, at Quail Vineyard, in the rolling hills of northeasternCarroll County.

Royele Rose' de Noir Brut Rose also has been chosen for a place at the table at the fourth annual Governor's Buy Local Cookout, which will be held Thursday, July 21, at the Government House inAnnapolis.

The event kicks off the state's annual Buy Local Week which, according to a Maryland Department of Agriculture release, is, "a challenge (to) all Maryland residents, institutions and organizations to buy local products and help strengthen our state's economy, preserve farmland, sustain a healthy environment and provide a fresh, nutritious diet for our families."

As in past years, the Buy Local Week kick-off picnic will feature a table-groaning, gut-busting menu of soups, fish and meat entrées, desserts, libations and nearly everything in between, including brined cherry barbecue chicken, fusion bison tacos and vanilla bean French toast.

The chefs and producers, including Brasfield and his wife, Joyce, and Bob and Mary Anne White, proprietors of Quail Vineyards, will also be on hand to prepare, serve and promote their creations.

Will Cygnus's inclusion in the state picnic help spread the word about Brasfield's wines?

"I sure hope so," he said.

"This event does two things," he said. "It raises the profile of all of agriculture in Maryland, and specifically for our winery.

"It's just another thing that I can use to help promote my wines, and particularly my sparkling wines," he said.

Reached this past week at a conference of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture inTowson, Brasfield described the precise and labor-intensive process that goes into producing Royele Rose' de Noir Brut Rose'.

"For sparkling wine, we want a little more acidity, so we usually hand harvest the wines a little earlier than if we were intending to make a table wine from it."

From the vineyards, the grapes go straight to the winery and into the press for "whole cluster" pressing.

"That's without de-stemming or anything like that," Brasfield said. "We use only the first pressings of the juice, which is the highest quality pressing.

"The base wine is aged and fermented over the winter, and then in the spring, we start all over again," he said.

"We take the newly fermented base wine and blend it with a yeast starter and some cane sugar. Then we bottle it in pressure-capable champagne bottles and a second fermentation takes place inside the bottle."

This is not the first time Cygnus has been chosen for inclusion in the Buy Local event. Brasfield's Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine was chosen for the 2010 picnic menu.

This year, all told, 17 recipes were chosen from more than 30 that were submitted to the MDA in the categories of appetizers, side dishes or salads, entrées, desserts, and beverages.

All this year's recipe submissions, as well as wine pairing recommendations from the Maryland Wine Association, will be published on MDA's website, http://www.mda.state.md.us, on July 21.

The recipes will also be featured in the 2011 Maryland Buy Local Cookout Recipes book, published by the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Cygnus Wine Cellars is located at 3131 Long Lane, Manchester. 410-374-6395, or http://www.cygnuswinecellars.com.