Dick Seibert grew up in Hagerstown, attended Mercersburg Academy and went on to the University of Maryland, College Park. He then earned his Masters degree in Marketing at American University.
He worked for the State of Louisiana and was a lobbyist in Washington. He left it behind because “it was getting too mean.”
Next, Dick started the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy — a think tank where “we put together studies for Congress so they could ignore.”
Then 9/11 happened and was later followed by Katriina. Funding dried up. “If you didn’t have ’emergency’ in your name, you didn’t get any money.”
It was a sign that it was time to move his family to a 171-acre Maryland property that has been in the family for 200 years and start a vineyard. “The rest is history.” And, the future is looking very bright!
This past year, Knob Hall Winery harvested about 90 tons of grapes from approximately 21 acres.
Knob Hall Winery Vineyards: Where The Past & Present Meet Up
“When I inherited this farm, my aunt and uncle who lived here did not have any children so they gave it to me. What do you do with a farm? How do you keep a farm sustainable?
“We had always wanted to do a winery, my wife and I. We had been very interested in wine. We had gone to France — gone to Napa, Sanoma and to New York State.”
The future of the property became clear. “After talking to the University of Maryland and other people, we decided to go ahead and start a winery. It made the most sense.”
There are 16 wines produced on the site now. “What sets us apart from many different wineries all over the mid-Atlantic region is that 98-99% of the grapes used we grow ourselves.”
“My wife is the female winemaker. She’s one of a few in the state. She made two 92-point wines this year.” A 92-point ranking denotes an outstanding wine of superior quality and character.
Looking back, “My grandmother had Women Temperance Movement meetings here. I think she was more interested in gaining women’s rights to vote but she may be rolling around in her grave that we’re producing alcohol — I don’t know.”
Location, Location, Location!
“The mid-Atlantic region is a really sweet spot for growing grapes. We can grow vinifera which are the typical French grapes people think about — the Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc.
“We can also grow French hybrid grapes. Chambourcin, Vidal, etc. If you go very far north, it becomes too cold for the vinifera grapes. If you go very far south, it becomes too hot for the vinifera grapes. So we’re really in a sweet spot.”
But, it takes more than the right climate. “Knob Hall is in a sweet spot because we have alkaline soil. If you drive west of Hagerstown, you start seeing all of these limestone outcroppings. Grapes love alkaline soil.”
Growing A Vibrant Community Right Along With The Vineyard
“It’s a fun place! When I was growing up in Hagerstown, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of fun things to do and positive things to do. That’s why we’ve started having music on Friday nights.
“We have what we call Wine Down Fridays. We have music often on Saturdays and we have a soloist every Sunday. We’re trying to make Knob Hall just a fun place to come.” Need more going on?
“We have murder mysteries. In June, we have a Reggae Festival. We’re having another Festival in September that’s a Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band. In October, we have a Celtic Festival.” Still looking for more?
They’re also having two fund-raising 5K runs this year. Here, running is optional. “Since the vineyard is hilly, run or walk. For those who run, it is a challenge.” The money is typically donated to Girls Inc.
If you’re not into wine, that’s okay. Enjoying the wine is also optional. “We hope you enjoy our wine but maybe you just want to have a soda or an iced tea.” It’s a great place to have a picnic!
“When it’s nice outside, people sit out under the oak tree. They meet friends and just enjoy the music and the good times.” It’s a tree that has graced the estate for 300 years and has secured a place on the Maryland list of historic trees.
The Biggest Challenge Of Growing The Winery
It takes money to grow a vineyard and obtaining access to capital can be “the biggest challenge, I think, for all small businesses these days. Late in the Clinton Administration, the Glass Steagall Act was repealed.
“This not only led to the financial meltdown of 2007–2008 but its kept capital from many small businesses. As a matter of fact, a lot of small businesses that I know of have failed because of their lack of access to capital.”
Advice Dick Would Give To Himself If He Could Go Back In Time
“Plant all the grapes you can initially instead of trying to stagger it out because of the lead time it takes to grow grapes.” He candidly admits to being cautious at the start.
“To be honest, we were a little bit hesitant about growing grapes because no one in Washington County had grown grapes for about three decades. Everyone around here grows corn, soybeans and wheat. We were really the pioneers.
“We thought it would work but we weren’t sure. But, we forged ahead and the grape quality has just been outstanding.”
Making A Difference By Helping Kids Sail Into A More Positive Place
Dick recalls when he started a non-profit to teach inner-city kids how to sail. “I love to sail. I don’t have time to do it any more but when I lived in Annapolis, I had a sailboat.”
The kids were taken to Camp Letts in Anne Arundel County. “We found that these kids had never been near water before. They actually thought that crabs were going to come out of the water and eat them! We had a heck of a time settling them down.
Dick continues, “We put them on the water for a week and they loved it. More importantly, they went back to their neighborhoods and they had a confidence they had not had before and, secondly, they had an experience that none of their friends had before.
“At least one of the kids that we took through this program became an instructor. That really made us feel good because if you can affect at least one life positively, you’ve made a difference.”
The Resource And App That Keep Knob Hall Winery Flowing
“Facebook has been a really good source for us to get our events out,” Dick shares. Although, he adds a note of caution.
“The last two weeks, I’ve had two friends have their profiles hacked. Facebook is getting a little bit scary for that reason.
“An App we use more than anything is Pinterest. We can show fun things we’re doing at the winery. It gives people a more visual aspect.”
Dick Shares A Quote To Inspire The Entrepreneur In Each Of Us
“Some people see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.” – Robert Kennedy
“I think too many people lack vision. Think of things that should be and then make a plan how to get there.”
Meanwhile, now is the perfect time to plan your visit to Knob Hall Winery where there’s a lot more inspiration, relaxation, fun and award-winning wines to be shared.
Knob Hall is the ideal venue for weddings, corporate events or your next party. Book it early! And — shhhhh — this is also the perfect hideaway for a tranquil, rejuvenating weekend.
Can’t make it to the winery? Check online to see if Knob Hall ships to your state. And, check out the Knob Hall Wine Club options while you’re at it. There are lots of sweet benefits for members and it’s FREE to join!
Knob Hall Winery
14108 St. Paul Road
Clear Spring, MD 21722
Contents Provided by Frederick Advice Givers Podcast #096: Eric Verdi Interviews Dick Seibert