Talk about perfect timing. Just when Roy and Linda Albin are ready to introduce wines from their new vineyard in Parkton to folks in the Hereford Zone, the organizers of the Hereford Fall Festival are looking for new attractions for their annual event.
The Albins' Royal Rabbit Vineyards will join Boordy, Basignani and Woodhall wineries at the festival on Oct. 19 and 20. Representatives from all four North County vineyards will give out samples to adults who buy a $10 tasting ticket. They'll also be on hand to answer questions about their hardy reds or dry whites.
"We started selling wine at the end of 2011 and we're excited about being able to do a local event," said Linda Albin. "We really want to be part of this community."
Royal Rabbit Vineyards' unique name is a combination of the first five letters in Roy Albin's name and a tribute to the pet rabbits that he and his father, Roy Albin Sr., raised for years.
The label features a regal rabbit dressed in long medieval garb, holding a glass of wine. Each wine has a noble name — The Duchess, The Duke, The Baroness and La Comtesse.
They bottled around 6,000 bottles last year and hope to exceed that number this year.
Roy and Linda Albin first planted 30 grape vines in 2003. Although they lived in New Jersey at the time, they made many trips to Maryland to add more vines at his parents' 28-acre farm on Jordan Sawmill Road.
By the time they moved to the family farm in 2008, the Albins had 2,600 vines on almost 5 acres producing deep purple and light green grapes. Royal Rabbit Vineyards sells 14 varieties of wine.
When Roy Albin, 53, isn't working as a computer information technology manager for ActioNet in Windsor Mill, he's living his dream at the vineyard.
"This is a creative outlet, and I'd like to move into it full-time," said the 1978 Hereford high School graduate.
He first started making homemade wine and beer in the early 1980s.
After reading "From Vines to Wines," he decided to go for it.
"It helped having two parents who grew up in agriculture," he said. "I have huge support from family who can get things done when I'm at work."
Recently, his parents, Roy and Rose Albin, spent a weekend harvesting black/purple Chambourcin grapes that will be used to make both a sweet and a dry wine.
After picking 1,100 pounds in one day, they were back the next day to harvest more.
"We're both farm people, and we both retired too early," said Rose Albin as she snipped large clusters of grapes and dropped them into white plastic bins. They were both teachers — he at Dulaney High School and she at Pot Spring, Warren and Prettyboy elementary schools.
While they were busy at the vines, several groups of wine tasters stopped by Royal Rabbit's tasting room.
Odenton neighbors Terry Jewell and Denise Davis were headed to Pennsylvania to shop and they searched the Internet for a winery on the way.
Both women said they preferred red wine, but after tasting some of the dry whites, they changed their minds.
"Hmmm. This one is crisp," Davis said after sipping La Chatelaine. "I like it."
Davis has good taste. Royal Rabbit's 2012 La Chatelaine won both a gold medal and a best in class for an off-dry blend at the 2013 Maryland Governor's Cup Wine Competition.
The tasting room is open each Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The vineyard is hosting a free medieval afternoon of activities on Nov. 2, with contests for best costumes and songs. The House Rabbit Society will bring rabbits that are up for adoption to the event, too.
For more details on Royal Rabbit Vineyards, go to http://www.royalrabbitvineyards.com.