Home > History of Wine > The Early Grapes and Wines of Maryland and New York

The Early Grapes and Wines of Maryland and New York

After writing about the 18th century vineyards of Washington County, Maryland I decided to take a look at the earliest accounts of winemaking in Maryland.  Tenis Pale has lately been credited as first making wine in Maryland back in 1648.[1]  He was a member of the New Albion Colony which included land in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  The original petition of June 1632, which was sent to King Charles I, for the Colony of New Albion included the plan to “settle there 300 Inhabitants for making of Wine, Saulte and iron”.[2]

Map Showing Virginia, Maryland, and New Albion from 1651.  Image reproduced from Winsor, Justin. Narrative and Critical History of America Vol 3. 1884.  Located at Maps ETC.

Map Showing Virginia, Maryland, and New Albion from 1651. Image reproduced from Winsor, Justin. Narrative and Critical History of America Vol 3. 1884. Located at Maps ETC.

There were certainly grapevines observed in what was to become Maryland during the 16th century. Giovanni di Pier Andrea di Bernardo da Verrazzano was an Italian sailing officer in the service of the French.  His explorations of the east coast of America included a landing in the Chincoteague/Assateague area.[3]  Here he noted[4]:

We saw in this country many vines growing naturally which entwine about the trees and run up upon them as they do in the plains of Lombardy These vines would doubtless produce excellent wine if they were properly cultivated and attended to as we have often seen the grapes which they produce very sweet and pleasant and not unlike our own They must be held in estimation by them as they carefully remove the shrubbery from around them wherever they grow to allow the fruit to ripen better.

On June 20, 1632, Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore, received a patent from King Charles I for the Colony of Maryland.  In seeking others to join him for a September, 1633, departure the Lord Baron of Baltimore published An Account of the Colony of the Lord Baron of Baltimore.  After describing the benefits and expectations of the colony, he wrote that there were “fruitful vines, from which wine can be made”.[5]

On November 22, 1633, Leonard Calvert, the brother of Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore, departed with two ships The Ark and The Dove.  Amongst the settlers was a Father Andrew White.  Father Andrew White noted they had only experienced sea-sickness until their Christmas celebration aboard the ship in December 1633.[6]  He noted “for the celebrity of the daye wine being given over all the ship, it was soe immoderately taken as the next day 30 sickened of fevers, whereof about a dozen died afterwards”.  Perhaps these early explorers were killed by adulterated wine.  The ships landed in Virginia on February 24, 1634, then sailed to what is now St. Clement’s Island on March 25, 1634.  The next year A Relation of the Sucessefull Beginnings of the Lord Baltimore’s Plantation in Maryland was published in 1635. This book presents much information gathered from Father Andrew White and other reports.  It contains a chapter on the availability of commodities in which “for Wine, there is no doubt but it will be made there in plenty, for the ground doth naturally bring foorth Vines, in such aboundance, that they are as frequently there, as Brambles are here.”[7]   Despite the presence of grapevines it appears that wine had not yet been made in Maryland.

Sir Edmund Ployden. Image from Reminiscences of Old Gloucester. 1845.

Curious about the specific wines made by Tenis Pale I read through the early narratives of New Albion.  Sir Edmund Plowden received the patent for the Colony of New Albion.  Wine is also mentioned in The Commodities of the Island Called Manati Ore Long Isle Wthin the Continent of Virginia which was published the same month the patent was received.[8]  The Colony of New Albion included the land of Long Isle. The first paragraph of this book details:

First thear grow naturally store of Black wilde vines wch make uerie good vergies or vinniger for to use wth meate or to dress sturgeon but by the French mens Arte being boyde and ordred is good wine and remeanes for three moneths and no longer, But replanting the vines in 2 yeares it will then be excellent wine.

Sir Edmund Plowden decided to send Beauchamp Plantagenet out to visit the territory to select the eight best seats for the knights who would be settling there.  Captain Young and his nephew Robert Evelin went out in 1633 to establish a fort and wait for the arrival of Sir Edmund Plowden.[9]  According to Beauchamp Plantangenet, in 1637, both he and Robert Evelin almost simultaneously published accounts of New Albion.  Robert Evelin writes of the “4 sorts of Grapes for wine, and Raisins” and specifically “the barren grounds have fower kindes of Grapes” of New Albion in 1641.[10] It is not until Beauchamp Plantagenet published his third edition of A Description of the Province of New Albion in 1648 that the production of wine is mentioned.[11]  He notes “4 sorts of Grapes for wine, and Raisins” perhaps quoting Robert Evelin.  In describing the production of wine we find it took place as Uvedale.

The fourth seat is Uvedale under Websneck, and is a valley sixe miles long, sheltred by hils from the North-west windes: below it is sixe miles a thicket of four sorts of excellent great Vines running on Mulberry and Sassafras trees; there are four sorts of Grapes, the first is the Tholouse Muscat, sweet sented, the second the great foxe and thick Grape, after five moneths reaped being boyled and salted, and well fined, it is a strong red Xeres; the third a light Claret, the fourth a white Grape creeps on the land, maketh a pure GOLD colour white wine: Tenis Pale the French man of these four made eight sorts of excellent wine, and of the Muscat acute boyled that the second draught will fox a reasonable pate four moneths old: and here may be gathered and made two hundred tun in the Vintage moneth, and re-planted will mend; two other valleys there of the same Grapes and large, above Uvedale, the hill is called Websneck, environed with three rivers round

The production of wine as described both in 1632 and 1648, includes boiling it.  In 1632, the description is actually for verjus which is the unfermented juice obtained from unripe grapes.  This was often boiled down and mixed with salt to help preserve it.  A recipe from 1661 details how to make an artificial Greek wine involving just the boiling and salting of wine.[12]  Whether all of the eight types of wine were truly “excellent” is debatable.

The location of Uvedale is describes as “over land into Charles river, and Delaware Bay, this neck is a rare work of God, for it is 450 miles compasse to goe by sea and water, from one side to the other of this eleven miles street, and Uvedale is on one of these branches.” The land west and east of the Delaware Bay was past of New Netherlands which was under Dutch control until 1667 when it was transfered to the British. Lord Baltimore did attempt to claim the land on the western shore of the Delaware Bay for Maryland starting in 1670.  But in 1685 it was established that the Maryland border ended halfway between the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay.[13]  As early as 1852 federal documents list the wine of Uvedale in documenting the history of American wine.  However, Uvedale is referenced as “now in Delaware”.[14]  The placement of Uvedale in Delaware continues into the 20th century through Frank Schoonmaker in 1941.  With the early wines of Tenis Pale having been made outside of Maryland, it appears the first winemaking efforts could have taken place at the vineyard in St. Mary’s County which was surveyed by Jerome White.[15]  Jerome White was the Surveyor General of Maryland.  On September 16, 1662, Cecil, Lord Baltimore instructed that 200 or 300 acres of land near Jerome White’s seat at Saint John’s be assigned which were “the most convenient place for the planting of a Vineyard there under the usual rent.”[16]  The 100 acre Vineyard and 200 acre Brick Hill were surveyed for Jerome White on May 9, 1665. [17]  I have yet to come across actual accounts of wine being produced here.

t’ Fort nieuw Amsterdam op de Manhatans. From Van der Donck, Adriaen. Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant. 1655.

As mentioned earlier, the Colony of New Albion included the land in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New York.  An excellent description of early vineyards and winemaking in New York appears in A Description of the New Netherlands published by Adriaen Van der Donck in 1651.[18]  An entire section is dedicated to “Grape Vines and Vineyards.” Here Adriaen Van der Donck writes of “how numerous the vine stocks are in the New-Netherlands, where they grow wild throughout the country.  We do not find a district or a nook of land without grape vines.”  He continues his description of the wild vines then notes  that these vines “with proper care and management, will produce as good grapes and as good wine as is made in Germany and France, is clear and undeniable.   Proofs and examples of this fact are seen…where the Swedes reside…they make delightful wine year after year.”  They made white, reddish, and dark wines.  One of the pressed wines was “a dark red colour, resembling dragon’s blood more than wine.”  It appears the biggest hurdle to overcome was the proper cultivation of the vine.  While there were haphazard attempts several people “already have vineyards and wine hills under cultivation.”  Foreign grapevines had already been introduced and several vine dressers from Heidelberg had come over.  Adriaen Van der Donck believed “in a few years there will be wine in abundance in the New-Netherlands.”

[1] McCarthy, Regina.  Maryland Wine: A Full-bodied History. 2012.
[2] ‘America and West Indies: June 1632’, Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 1: 1574-1660 (1860), pp. 151-154. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=69092&strquery=”new albion” wine Date accessed: 10 October 2013.  The full text is in: Collections of the New York Historical Society. 1870. URL:  http://books.google.com/books?id=hCM8AAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false.
[3] Langley, Susan B. M. Archeological Overview and Assessment of Maritime Resources in Assateague Island National Seashore.  2009. URL: http://mht.maryland.gov/documents/PDF/Archeology_MMAP_AINS_Overview&Assess_optimized.pdf
[4] Wise, Jennings Cropper.  Ye Kingdome of Accawmacke, Or, The Eastern Shore of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century. 1911. URLhttp://books.google.com/books?id=8jcUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[5] Hall, Clayton Colman.  Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1683. 1910 URL:  http://books.google.com/books?id=jBYOAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[6] Hall, Clayton Colman. Page 32.
[7] Hall, Clayton Colman. Page 82.
[8] Hall, Clayton Colman. Page 82.
[9] Evelyn, William.  Memoir and Letters of Captain W. Glanville Evelyn. 1879. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=iGOHzvhOSUsC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[10] Evelin, Robert. A Direction For Adventurers.  1641. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=f3lUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP6#v=onepage&q&f=false
[11] Plantagenet, Beauchamp.  A Description of the Province of New Albion. 1648. URL: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/jamestown-browse?id=J1053
[12] Wecker, Johann Jacob.  Eighteen Books on the Secrets of Art and Nature.  1661. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=nDYVAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false
[13] Skirven, Percy G. Durham County: Lord Baltimore’s Attempt At Settlement Of His Lands On The Delaware Bay, 1670-1685. 1930. URL: http://nabbhistory.salisbury.edu/dho/themes/places/md_durhamskirven.html
[14] The Seventh Census. 1853. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=vdVYx8Qsu_IC&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[15] Griffith, Thomas Waters.  Sketches of the Early History of Maryland. 1821. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=4tYRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[16] Kilty, John. The Land-holder’s Assistant, and Land-office Guide.  1808. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=9zkwAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PR7#v=onepage&q&f=false
[17] Richardson, Hester Dorsey. Side-lights on Maryland History. 1913. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=fUtsb9vuojMC&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[18] Van der Donck, Adriaen.  Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant. 1655. URL: Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant Translation from Collections of the New-York Historical Society.  1841. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=rGxIAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false

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