When Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville sent the label for its Russian Kiss wine to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for approval, the agency initially turned them down. “It wasn’t political,” says Dave Collins, co-owner and winemaker, “The federal government just didn’t want people to think this was a Russian wine.”

In fact, the white wine was made from three varietals originally from Russia. Collins learned of their existence from University of Maryland’s small fruit specialist Joe Fiola and tracked them down to a research farm on the Eastern Shore. “We made the first batch with a muscat grape we grow and because of that marriage called it the Russian Kiss.”

The first vintage of the off-dry white won the 2018 Maryland Governor’s Cup best in class in the white blend category and the 2018 San Francisco International Wine Competition gold medal.

Big Cork eventually cleared the name with the feds, says Collins, “We were also thinking about Russian Tryst. But that might have been a little too risqué.”

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