It all started with bees.
Yep, that’s the buzz on the Romano Vineyard and Winery. Joe Romano’s quest for honey eventually led him to wine and a decade later he was retired from the Army and converting old tobacco and soybean fields into grapes.
Joe and Jo-Ann Romano now have four acres of vines on the 18-acre farm in Brandywine where it’s so quiet at midday even a passing bird’s call pierces the air. The Romanos bought the farm in 1997 and planted their first grapes in 2007. By 2010, the first vintage was bottled.
Some 600 to 1,100 cases annually now come from the farm and nearby grapes sought to create more diverse wines.
“No one’s palate is the same,” said Joe, who is the vintner while Jo-Anne is the vineyard manager. “There are so many different palates that if you have a very narrow selection of wines it’s not as easy for people to find something they like. I like to make a wide range of wines so people can find one wine they like.”
Maybe you’ll like the Bald Eagle White, a soft and pleasant wine with fresh citrus and rose tickling your nose. It goes awfully well with seafood. How about Fallen Leaf, a semi-dry with fruit that some like with poultry or shell fish?
Looking for someone semi-sweet that goes with salad, pasta or shell fish? The Liberty is the wine for you. Smitten is a more playful white blend served best as a cocktail.
For meat eaters, there’s a Merlot that pairs well with steak, lamb or smoke cheese. A Chambourcin is a medium-bodied red wine with hints of dark cherries and blackberries that goes well with red meat or red-sauced pasta.
Serving wild game or hard cheeses? The Barbera is for you. It also goes well with pasta and meat. The Rougeon is a sweet red wine with black cherry scent great with cheese. The Jubilee is a sweet red blend with fruity aromas you can drink anytime.
“You might have four people in a line tasting the same wine and one may like or they all may like it. You never know,” Joe said. “What’s good to you may not for the person next to you.
“Just try anything because you never know. I can’t reach into their mind to know whether they like sweet wine or dry wine. You can tell when it’s too bitter for them, [though.].”
Many people in Prince George’s County are flocking to the 1,100-square foot tasting room just steps from the wine. One Saturday saw a large birthday party enjoying themselves while trying different wines. The Romanos are seeing increasing amounts of people who live nearby and just never headed down the country lane.
“A lot of people still go to Virginia,” Joe said, “but a lot of customers now come here saying they didn’t know we were here. We also get people from D.C. and Northern Virginia, but also a lot of people from northern P.G. County. They say they had no idea this part of P.G. County exists. It’s a different world from the northern part of the county.”
The bottling season takes the entire fall after six months of planting and raising the vines. But for an old military man, there’s joy in those quiet fields.
“We do this because we like to do it,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely something we like to do.”