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Fiore Winery
By Megan Reilly
For BaltimoreStories.com

Rose Fiore remembers walking into the post office in 1981 and seeing a commemorative stamp honoring Philip Mazzei. This was a special occasion for Rose because her husband Mike Fiore, is a direct descendent to Mazzei. In fact, Thomas Jefferson brought Mazzei to the United States where he planted a vineyard just below Monticello that is still intact today. He is also recognized for helping Jefferson write the Constitution.

According to Rose, both her and Mike come from wine producing families in Italy. Interestingly enough, Mike Fiore’s family history dates back nearly 400 years and spreads through France and Italy. The European family vineyards are called La Fellicitta, and the couple decided to honor their roots, and name their vineyard the same.

Before it was La Fellicitta, Rose says her and Mike decided to raise horses, pigs and corn on their 14 acres of land in Harford County. They added a few rows of grapes for their own personal wine consumption. After four years, they realized they didn’t have enough land to make the farming endeavor profitable, but the grapes were harvesting nicely and producing exceptional wines.

“In one acre you can get 3 to 7 tons of grapes. Depending on the type, you can make up to $1,600 per ton. At that time, there weren’t many products that could yield such a good return," said Rose. This was enough promise for the couple to begin planting a vineyard. They increased their grape crop to two and a half acres with the intention of selling them to other people, but it resulted in so many grapes, they started the winery out of necessity. So, in 1986, the Fiore Winery name became bonded and they started selling in 1987. Today, they have 10 acres at the winery and buy from other growers throughout the state and in California and New York.

The Fiores’ picked, pressed, and bottled their first wines, Vino Bianco and Vino Rosso, Italian names for white wine and red wine. They sold 1,500 gallons in their early years of business but today, Rose is most proud of the Chambourcin. “Mike has worked since 1991 with Dick Naylor to single-handedly put it on the map. Now it is grown all over the East Coast and Decanter magazine, an international wine publication, listed us as a winery to watch,” she said. The magazine gave the wine four out of five stars from a barrel sample they tested.

Bruce Webster, local wine enthusiast, has had the opportunity to taste the wines from the La Fellicitta Vineyard. He said, “Their finest wines are typically their driest red wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chambourcin. Their blended wines that feature these red wines, such as their Caronte and Zinnavo blends, are also quite excellent and can be proudly served at any table.”

Each year for harvest, volunteers gather to help pick the grapes. They listen to Luciano Pavarotti and have a big lunch. They also have events for children including a grape stomping. “In August we’ll pick a few bushels and the kids have a ton of fun,” Rose said. After emerging with purple feet, they give them each a prize. They also host tours for Boy Scouts and Future Farmers of American groups. They give them jelly samplers and grape juice so they’ll know it’s possible to make more than wine from the berries.

The common struggle with distribution hasn’t defeated the Fiore Winery, but it has been an uphill battle. “It (wine) can be made and sold at the winery but you need to a good sales force to get the word out,” Rose says. To help bring in visitors, beautiful signs have been added to the roadways and advertisements have been placed in magazines. This year they will be doing their first television commercial. “If you make good wine, people will talk. It’s a cycle, the customers sell the wine,” she added.

Their award winning Chambourcin hasn’t been their only accomplishment. Rose takes pride in a prediction she made while a student at Harford Community College. “I was taking a business class and I had to make a business plan. I predicted that five years after opening the winery, we wouldn’t have to put more money into it, we would be making profit. I was right on target,” she recalls. They were fortunate not to go into debt, but to only spend their profits.

Rose Fiore’s favorite saying is, “There is nothing in the world nicer to our ears than to hear someone say, ‘I like your wine.’” She says it’s thrilling that something she created is appreciated by other people.

Her love for people also keeps her going. “You have to love people. They are stopping in all of the time and the phone rings in our house at all hours. I’ve met the most interesting people in the world through wine,” she adds. Within the next few years, Fiore hopes to increase their product to 30,000 gallons per year. In the long run, they hope to train employees and their son in the business so they can hand it off to the next generation.

Rose and Mike Fiore both had full-time jobs until 7 years ago. They are now focusing their time and efforts into their wines and envision a rich future.

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