J. Randall Thompson, president and CEO of ThompsonGas, has started a vineyard and wine-making business called Big Cork at his family farm in Rohrersville in southern Washington County.
Thompson, who's known as Randy, and his wife, Jennifer, are partners in the budding business with Dave Collins, who joined them after about 25 years producing wine in Virginia.
Thompson said it will take three growing seasons before their first grapes are ready, but the company plans to buy some Maryland grapes before then to get started on making wine.
Next summer, the Thompsons and Collins plan to build a production facility, then, about a year later, open a tasting room.
They also are considering hosting events at the site.
Randy Thompson said the first white wines from their grapes should be ready in 2014, followed by reds in 2015.
"You have to have a vision that's several years out," he said.
Thompson figured that the grape planting and the production facility combined will cost about $1 million.
The vineyard is projected to produce 5,000 cases of wine a year and employ 20 to 30 people full and part time, the company said in a news release.
Big Cork would be Washington County's second winery, after Knob Hall in the Clear Spring area — and more might be on the way soon.
Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association, said two more wineries are in the planning stages in Washington County. News about them probably will come out next year, he said.
Atticks said former state Sen. Donald F. Munson, a staunch wine supporter during his time in Annapolis, deserves a great deal of credit for helping the industry grow locally.
Dick and Mary Beth Seibert started planting at Knob Hall Winery in 2007.
It has become one of the largest commercial vineyards in Maryland. The Seiberts are now at about 30 acres of grapes, with plans to expand to about 60 acres.
Knob Hall is making about 10 types of wine now. At least two new ones are planned for this fall, Dick Seibert said.
Three of Knob Hall's wines won gold medals last year in the Maryland Governor's Cup.
Atticks said Knob Hall's success is inspiring others to jump into the business, too.
"A lot of people wanted to see, in fact, that it could be done and done well," Seibert said.