For Rachel Lipman, the stainless steel fermentation tanks represented a bright new beginning. But before they could be installed in the modest, cramped winery at Loew Vineyards, near Mount Airy, Md., a piece of history had to go.

The door was too small. When Lipman’s grandfather, Bill Loew, converted an old garage into a winery in 1982, he made the door just big enough to comfortably fit his six-foot frame. Lipman, considerably shorter than her grandfather, laughed as she showed me the door when I visited in July.

“We’ll have to bust this out a bit to get the tanks in,” she said. When the tanks arrived two weeks later, workers expanded the door by about two feet. Not much, but symbolic for Lipman.

Bill, now 95, started Loew Vineyards after retiring from a career as an electrical engineer with the Food and Drug Administration and private companies. The winery was his way of preserving the memory of his childhood in Lvov, Poland, where his extended family owned several meaderies in the city’s Jewish quarter. The family business was started by his grandfather in the late 1800s.

Lvov, now Lviv in Ukraine, was a city fought over and conquered by Hapsburgs, Poles, Ukrainians and Russians. Loew was 13 when the Soviets took over eastern Poland, and 15 when the Nazis drove them out. His family was forced into a Jewish ghetto in January 1942. A year later, he escaped to Slovakia and joined the Jewish underground as a courier. Taken prisoner on a mission, he was kept alive because his captors felt he had valuable information. He survived several months in Auschwitz and was liberated by U.S. soldiers while on a death march in April 1945. He was 19. Most of his extended family perished in the Holocaust. He came to the United States in 1949 and Anglicized his name from Wolfgang Löw to William Loew. In 1995, he told his story in an oral history interview with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Decades later, Loew made mead and wine in the basement of his home in Rockville, Md. “Mead haunted him,” Lipman says. “He had this fond childhood recollection of his family’s meadery, and a triggering memory of the sweet smell of barrels full of honey. That’s what he wanted to re-create.”

Lipman, 28, is the oldest of Bill and Lois Loew’s eight grandchildren. She recalls helping her grandparents prepare family feasts at Passover and Thanksgiving. As she grew older, she gravitated toward wine as a career.

Lipman earned degrees in communications and plant science at the University of Maryland and a certification in winemaking from Washington State University. She worked in wine retail and distribution to learn the business, and consulted for other wineries on fungal diseases. Whenever she wasn’t working elsewhere, she would help her grandparents at the winery. In November 2018, with her grandfather’s health weakening, Lipman took over the winery full time.

“I was inching my way to bulldozing my way through,” she says, perhaps thinking of the newly widened winery door.

Lipman produces several dry to semi-dry meads, called cysers (apple and honey wine) and pyments (honey and grapes), as well as chardonnay, petit verdot, malbec and other wines. Her efforts to rejuvenate the vineyard Loew planted long ago were frustrated two years in a row by herbicide drift from nearby farms, so she uses primarily grapes purchased from other Maryland wineries. She does make a delightful red from chancellor, an obscure French-American hybrid variety Loew planted back in the 1980s.

When the pandemic hit last year, the Loews self-isolated in their home, just spitting distance from the winery. Left alone, Lipman did online archival research about her grandfather’s family history in Lvov. And she started making changes in the winery.

“I decided to ask forgiveness rather than permission,” she says. When stay-at-home orders were lifted last summer, she scheduled live music events on weekends. “People were really eager to get out of their houses,” she says. “Best of all, we started selling out of wine.” Yoga in the vineyard followed, and a high school classmate of Lipman’s gave glass-blowing demonstrations. A make-your-own stemware workshop is planned for early October this year.

With the help and support of Lois Loew, whom Lipman calls “the smartest person I’ve ever known,” Lipman renovated the tasting room and updated the sales system. And she started modernizing the winery itself.

How did her grandfather take all these changes? “He has binoculars,” Lipman says. “But he knows we have to produce enough wine to sustain the future. Our family has always focused on the past. This remodel is really the first time we’ve looked ahead.” And so the new tanks and the wider winery door.

Loew’s retirement project, intended to preserve his family’s memory, is now Lipman’s future. She knows ensuring the winery’s longevity is the best chance for keeping her family’s legacy alive.

“He told me he doesn’t want to be global,” Lipman says. “I don’t want to be global either, I just want to be great. And I want the wines to be great, because of the family history they represent.”

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