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Cecil County Life

The vineyard on the banks of the Bohemia

Jun 01, 2016 11:20AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

Winemaker Jacques van der Vyer stands in the middle of a skyline of 17 tall stainless steel wine tanks at Chateau Bu-De Vineyards in Chesapeake City, while just outside, acres of new spring vines tumble down, row after row, to the quiet Bohemia River.
In the vineyard's brand new, ten-thousand square-foot climate controlled processing winery, he speaks about the technology around him with infectious enthusiasm, the way a young boy would in a room full of toys. There are state-of-the-art grape presses, pumps, hoists, crushers, de-stemmers, and columns of oak barrels, all of which is being used to process, ferment, bottle and eventually distribute wines that have already earned their mark throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region, and beyond.
Mostly though, van der Vyer is a caretaker of a dream that started three years ago by Brenda and Warren Dedrick, who live next door at the original site of Augustine Herrman's historical Bohemia Manor Farm, on what is a 440-acre sanctuary of views and vistas.
"There are winemakers in California who don't have anywhere near what we have at Chateau," van der Vyer said. "Brenda and Warren have put a lot of quality into the processing plant, but at the same time, they know that in order to make great wines, this technology is what it will take."
After traveling the world for seven years and sampling different wines, the Dedricks decided to make their way back to the United States, in order to make Brenda's dream happen: to grow and craft world class wines. Soon after they purchased the mansion and property in July 2013, the Dedricks started the vineyard from scratch. Working with van der Vyer and winemakers John Levenberg and Brian Dickerson, the Dedricks oversaw the transplanting of 14,000 vines in 2014, and then another 10,000 vines in 2015. 
Soon after, the processing center -- which was constructed by Newark-based Nowland Associates, Inc. -- opened last September, just in time for the harvest season. 
"Part of the reason we went big (on the processing plant) is that my husband believes if you're starting a company, you need to try to be as successful as you can," Brenda said. "When we first started designing it, we were looking to build it up in three- to five-year increments, but once we realized that codes change frequently, we decided to have the best possible facility starting out."
Normally, a vineyard of this kind would need several harvests before it could begin to enjoy the fruits of its labors, but the trajectory of Chateau Bu-De Winery's presence on the wine scene was nearly immediate. The Dedricks are now producing 14 varieties of reds and whites, and most recently, the vineyard earned one gold medal, four silver medals and three bronze medals at the Finger Lakes Wine Competition in New York.
For van der Vyer, who lives on the estate property with his wife, his work as the vineyard's winemaker is a seven-day-a-week commitment, one that takes him from the processing center to the vineyard throughout the day. A native of South Africa, van der Vyer loves the meticulousness of being a winemaker. In the making of wine, he eschews the idea of attaching the word "artist" to winemaking. Rather, he thinks of himself as a caretaker, protecting his wines but at the same time, letting them develop into their own unique characters, all intended to make a great bottle of wine.
"I'm not someone who checks off boxes when tasting and making wine," van der Vyer said. "For me, it's finding the finesse in creating the balance between acidity, fruit, oak and finish. That's what I want most in making a great bottle of wine. Achieving balance is the most important thing in wine."
Although he loves the rush of excitement he feels during harvest time, van der Vyer treasures those moments when he and his wife and friends get to sit near the vineyard as the sun slowly sets over the Bohemia River, after a hard day on the job.
"It's the time when I get to enjoy what I've done, when that wine gets to bottle and I'm able to pour it for someone, and they tell me that they enjoy it," he said. "It's just a wave of awesome."
For every one hundred things she has learned in the process of owning and operating a vineyard, Brenda said that there are one hundred more things she still needs to learn. In addition to overseeing the planting and processing, the construction of the new tasting room, she coordinates all public events at Chateau Bu-De Vineyard, from banquets to group wine tastings.
"We set our goals very high and aim to reach them," Brenda said. "Our main goal is to make a high quality estate wine that will gain attention in competitions, and then bring the people to us here on the estate. In three to five years, I'd like to have the feeling of being overwhelmed, because we're doing so well.
"Build it, and they will come," she said. "This has been my passion and my dream, and as the secret of Chateau Bu-De Vineyard gets out, we'll continue to push that dream forward."

Chateau Bu-De Vineyard is located at 237 Bohemia Manor Farm Lane, Chesapeake City, MD 21915. For appointments and special event reservations, call 410-885-2500. To learn more about Chateau Bu-De Vineyard, visit .

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail .

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