Local winery breaks into show business

Wine has been featured on House of Cards

Laurencio Hernandez and Bruce Magladry, left, gather grapes picked that morning at Elk Run Vineyard and Winery in Mount Airy Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.
Laurencio Hernandez and Bruce Magladry, left, gather grapes picked that morning at Elk Run Vineyard and Winery in Mount Airy Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. (DYLAN SLAGLESTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group /October 8, 2014)

By Wiley Hayes, Times Staff Writer5:55 a.m. EDT, October 13, 2014

MOUNT AIRY — Fans of the Netflix series “House of Cards” may know characters Francis Underwood and his wife Claire, played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, enjoy their fair share of cabernet sauvignon. What they may not know is during the second season, the award-winning show chose to use a Mount Airy area vineyard to supply the wine.

Elk Run Vineyards & Winery, off Liberty Road just inside Frederick County and north of the Mount Airy town limits, had its Liberty Tavern Cabernet Sauvignon chosen by “House of Cards” producers to be featured in the show. Fred Wilson, co-owner of the vineyard with his wife Carol, said they have a good reputation in Maryland and throughout the national wine scene.

The majority of the “House of Cards” is filmed in and around Harford County and Baltimore City, but during filming of season two from May through November of last year, a few scenes were shot in Carroll County as well, said Kristina Klite, prop master for Knight Takes King Productions, an Edgewood-based company that oversees production of the series.

Producers wanted to use a local wine, considering the show is set in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, and in their hunt, Elk Run Vineyards & Winery came to their attention. Since the wine was going to be the favorite of the main character, they wanted a label that would stand out, Fred Wilson said.

“Some of the people who do the props [for the show] had our wine before and they mentioned our name,” he said. “They wanted a unique wine, a good wine, and an expensive wine.”

Carol Wilson said she was first contacted by representatives of the show in February 2013. At the time, season two had not been filmed yet, and they had decided they wanted to showcase Elk Run as Underwood’s go-to wine. Though they chose the cabernet sauvignon to be his favorite, they also took other wines, both reds and whites.

“I haven’t seen all of the second season, but I was told they wanted to have other varieties so if Spacey ever opened the refrigerator, watchers would catch a glimpse of an Elk Run white wine,” Carol Wilson said.

Though it is a matter of speculation, Carol Wilson said, she believes the producer’s decision to use Elk Run wines stemmed from their success in 2012. The grapes used to produce their wine released that year were picked in 2010, which was a great year for Maryland wineries because of how long, hot and dry the growing season was, she said.

Elk Run won 13 international gold and silver medals and four best of class along the Atlantic seaboard in 2012, something no other winery has ever done before, she said.

“I don’t know if that had anything to do with [Elk Run being chosen], but that’s what I’m thinking,” Carol Wilson said.

Klite said since Underwood’s favorite beverage is wine, she is always on the lookout for different wines to be on-screen.

She first heard about Elk Run 15 years ago and had frequented the operation’s tasting room in the past.

After contacting Elk Run, Klite selected both Liberty Tavern wines, which includes the cabernet sauvignon and the chardonnay, but said Carol Wilson has given them many bottles to choose from.

“The [chardonnay] hasn’t been featured yet, but I’m hoping to find a place for it,” Klite said.

The cabernet sauvignon was featured in episodes three and seven of the second season, Klite said, and fans of the show and of the wine should look for it again in season three.

For good reason, the actors do not actually imbibe the alcoholic beverage on screen, she said. Mostly they use grape juice or colored water. If it is a white wine they might use apple juice.

“We are shooting take after take so it wouldn’t be a good idea to have the actors drinking the real thing,” Klite said.

The success of Elk Run in recent years and its popularity gave her the idea to feature other local wineries.