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February 8, 2013

Canal Place signs winery

Boutique will be first in Allegany

CUMBERLAND — Charis Winery Inc., which will be Allegany County’s first winery, signed a lease Thursday with Canal Place to open an operation there by summer, according to winery owner Charles Park.

“It will be a boutique winery. You will be able to see the whole process being done from the pressing of the grapes to fermentation and bottling,” said Park.

Charis Winery is not a grower but rather a producer of wine.

The winery, which plans to obtain nearly its entire stock of fruit from Maryland vineyards and farms, will make several types of grape and fruit wines.

“The state requires that our winery classification get at least 75 percent of its product from Maryland agriculture,” said Park, who is from Allegany County and resides in Ellerslie.

Grape varieties will include chancellor, chardonnay, pinot gris, vidal blanc, rose and blends. Fruit wines will include peach, pear, black cherry, watermelon and more.

“We are getting our licenses and other approvals in place. We need to get set up and hope to open in late May,” said Park.

“We are excited to have them. Canal Place is now completely full,” said Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director for the Canal Place Development & Preservation Authority.

Ritchie said that in addition to The Crabby Pig, Canal Place has European Desserts, Cumberland Trail Connection, J-R’s Custom Screen Printing and Embroidery, the Beginnings Montessori School and now Charis Winery.

“For a small fee people will be able to see the operation and sample various wines. It will be an educational experience as well,” said Park.

Tasting only is planned for 2013. In the spring, the winery will have its first run of wines and be doing sales as well, according to Park.

Chocolate and cheese products obtained from Garrett County businesses also will be available.

Canal Place has announced the hiring of Mary Jane O’Rourke, an English teacher at Fort Hill High School, for the position of events planner.

“I’m excited about it. I was born and raised in the city. I want to get the word out of what a marvelous heritage area we have,” said O’Rourke.

The position will be part time. O’Rourke’s responsibilities include educating people about the C&O Canal, increasing activities on the grounds and creating a quarterly online newsletter.

O’Rourke has degrees in English from Immaculata University in Philadelphia and Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

The widow of the late Tom O’Rourke, her family tree includes ties to the history of the canal.

“My father had an uncle who was a lock keeper on the canal,” said O’Rourke.

Andy Vick, president of the Canal Place Development & Preservation Authority, confirmed that a movie theater has expressed interest in locating in Cumberland.

However, Vick put to rest speculation that it was interested in locating to Canal Place or in the historic Footer Dye Works building.

“Any movie theater would not be part of the Footer building,” said Vick.

“Any offers from developers for Footer won’t be reviewed until the deadline to submit plans is here, which is Feb. 18,” he said.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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