Maryland Winery's Packaging Stands Out

Terrapin Station uses bag-in-box exclusively for its unusual line

by Linda Jones McKee
Terrapin Station packaging
The 1.5L cube is, Morris Zwick believes, the perfect size for selling his wine.

Elkton, Md. -- Terrapin Station Winery outside Elkton, Md., is located in a state that has tripled its number of wineries in three years. With that kind of explosive growth, how does a new winery offer something special, other than being "new," which lasts only until the next winery opens? 

Morris and Janet Zwick, the owners of Terrapin Station, have a philosophy that separates their operation from the rest of the recently opened Maryland wineries. Their approach is reflected in Morris Zwick's statement, "I'd rather do something unique than be a 'me-too' guy." Consequently, the Zwicks do not grow Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay; they have no tasting room and they don't use bottles.

When the couple decided to plant a vineyard on the family farm in 2003, they looked for different grape varieties that would grow well and make fine wine, but were not tied to the idea that they "had to" plant vinifera varieties. Morris Zwick commented, "Why struggle to replicate what someone else is doing or growing, when we should be doing what grows best?"

Instead of the most popular vinifera varieties, the couple planted Vidal, Cayuga, Traminette, Viognier, St. Vincent, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. This past spring, Zwick pulled out the Viognier and added Marquette (a cold-climate grape developed at the University of Minnesota). Terrapin Station currently produces about 600 cases per year.

They experimented with vineyard techniques as well, and used a variation of the TKT2 trellis system developed by Richard Smart in Australia to trellis some of their vines. This innovation, however, is now being phased out and replaced with VSP.

Terrapin Station Morris Zwick
Proprietor Morris Zwick wanted his new winery to stand out: He doesn't grow the most common grapes; he doesn't have a tasting room and he packages all his wines in 1.5L bag-in-box.

When the vineyard matured and grapes began to come in, the Zwicks decided not to build a tasting room immediately. Instead, they sell their wine only through distributors or at wine festivals. The name for the winery came from the Maryland state reptile, the Diamondback Terrapin, which is native to the Chesapeake Bay -- and also happens to be the mascot of the University of Maryland, the Zwicks' alma mater.

They looked for alternatives for packaging their wines that would be different from the traditional cork-finished glass bottle, and originally thought they would put their wines in screwcap bottles. Then they saw the bag-in-box wine "cubes" -- a box that holds 1.5 liters, the equivalent of two bottles of wine.

"We loved the size," Zwick recalled. "It's perfect. It's a size customers can deal with, it fits on a shelf in the refrigerator, it has environmental benefits, and the wine lasts for four to six weeks after the box is opened." They are now selling all of their wines in the cubes. Vitis Wine Center in Lancaster, Pa., fills the bags and packs the boxes.

According to Zwick, there are only two drawbacks to the wine cube: The box can't get wet since it is made of cardboard, and once the wine is in the bag, it needs to be consumed within 14 or 15 months. Consequently, he is considering what other alternative packaging they could use for wines such as dry reds and port-style dessert wines that they would like to age. Chances are good it will be an innovative package -- it will be interesting to see what their solution will be to solve this dilemma. For more information, contact the Zwicks at info@terrapinstationwinery.com.

Editor's note: The author is a partner in the company that operates Vitis Wine Center.

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