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Layton’s Chance Wins Gold Medal with Taylors Island Grapes

Layton’s Chance won a gold medal for their Ridgeton Red wine earlier this month in the Maryland Governor’s Cup wine competition.  The wine is a blend of two red grapes, Chambourcin and Norton, and one white, Vidal Blanc, all grown at Ridgeton Vineyards on Taylors Island owned by Pat Neild.

John “Pat” Neild Jr. has been growing grapes and making homemade wine at Ridgton Vineyard on Taylors Island since 1973.  Neild’s interest in growing grapes and making wine was sparked when Baltimore’s Boordy winery owner Philip Wagner spoke at the Tidewater Farm Club in the early 1970s. With an ag degree from the University of Maryland, Neild became intrigued. Accompanied by long-time friend Ron Wade, the enterprise got underway, starting out with a few cuttings “begged and borrowed” from Western Shore growers, including Boordy, Neild recalled. 

After the initial year Wade moved on but Neild kept Ridgeton Vineyard going. Since then, he’s continued to enjoy the process of planting, growing, crushing, fermenting, and then sharing, maintaining steadfast notes detailing each season’s progress. 

At 92, Neild recently considered winding down the operation, especially after several pick your own regulars stopped drinking wine. But he’s still enjoying the adventure, and nearby Layton’s Chance winery has remained a steady customer. 

“We usually buy Chambourcin and Vidal, and last year got about two tons of those and Norton grapes, one of my favorites,” commented winemaker William Layton. “Usually, his grapes go into our Farm Red, our dry red blend.  That year I decided to ferment the grapes separately into their own wine and see how it turned out.  The three wines together made a very nice, smooth red blend.  It was one of the favorites at our annual Tank Tasting, a chance for our Gold Leaf club customers to taste the wines before bottling.  We bottled it in March of 2022.”

The wine had previously been entered into the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup competition in May and had won a silver medal.  The wine will be on sale at Layton’s Chance starting on October 2nd at their annual Harvest Festival.

*Excerpts used with permission from Debra Messick’s article “Vintage Roots on Tylors Island” that appeared in The Cambridge Spy, The Talbot Spy, and The Chestertown Spy publications.


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