Discover Maryland’s Wine Trails
Maryland’s wine industry has experienced rapid growth over the past few years. So much so, I joke there is probably a vineyard a few blocks from you during Vino 301’s wine tours. Every county has a vineyard. Almost every county has a wine tasting room including Baltimore City. Yes, Baltimore city has a tasting room. Howard county is the only county that does not have a winery tasting room. Maryland’s wine industry growth is an impressive fact considering there were less than 30 wineries 20 years ago… now over 80.
Maryland’s vineyards and wineries are along seven wine trails. Over the next several weeks, Vino 301 will take a journey along each trail and highlight the splendor of each trail. Let’s discover Maryland’s wine trails.
Maryland’ Wine Trails
The Maryland Wine Association (MWA) established seven trails:
Antietam Highlands Wine Trail (Western Maryland)
Capital Wine Trail (Washington Beltway – Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties)
Carroll Wine Trail (Central Maryland – Carroll County)
Chesapeake Wine Trail (Eastern Shore)
Frederick Wine Trail (Central Maryland – Frederick County)
Patuxent Wine Trail (Anne Arundel County and Southern Maryland)
Piedmont Wine Trail (Central Maryland – Baltimore County)
Antietam Highlands Wine Trail
Antietam Highlands is Maryland’s westernmost trail. The trail’s name is inspired by the historical Antietam battlefields. The Antietam National Battlefields commemorates the American Civil War Battle of Antietam. The Trail spans from Deep Creek to Hagerstown. This region is ideal for growing grapes. It’s high elevations and cool evenings are the perfect for cultivating grapes. The grapes in this area is the source for many wineries in the state. Wineries throughout the state purchase grapes from vineyards in this area.
Although Antietam has ideal growing conditions, there are not many tasting rooms along the trail. A cidery and meadery are among the wineries. Similar methods of make cider and mead are share with wine making; and therefore included in Maryland’s winery count. The wineries are small in production and size, except for Big Cork Vineyard and Knob Hall Vineyard. They are the quintessential boutique wineries. Their wines are not widely distributed outside of the state. So, I encourage you if you find a wine you like buy it. It may be difficult to locate later.
The tasting rooms have limited staff. If you are travelling with a group, I would encourage you to call before you arrive. Do not let the size discourage you from visiting. You will receive personal attention and care. You will learn about about the winemakers’ philosophy and style.
There are many orchids in this region, so you can incorporate apple picking and other outdoor activities during your wine tasting adventures. Late summer and early fall are extremely scenic along the byways and hiking trails.
Capital Wine Trail
The Capital Wine Trail is the newest trail. The wineries are located Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. You can get the best of the countryside and urban experiences when you visit Montgomery’s wineries. Because Montgomery county borders the Nation’s Capital, people forgot there are agriculture areas in the County. The vineyards are in the northern part of the County. Rockland Farms, a traditional farm, added grapes to their farm. They began growing grapes and producing wine near Poolsville, MD.
But if you are not interested in traveling to the countryside, you can stay in the urban areas. Montgomery county wineries popularizes the “urban winery” concept. Wineries are in city centers like Silver Spring, MD. The grapes and juices are purchased from local and international vineyards. The wine is made onsite.
Maryland’s newest wineries are in Prince George’s County. The latest winery is opening fall 2017. Brandywine, MD is home to many of Prince George’s County vineyards. Former tobacco farms are now thriving vineyards. The wineries are close in proximity, so you can visit them all in the same day.
Chesapeake Wine Trail
The Chesapeake Wine Trail is the most diverse trail. The trail spans from the northernmost part of Maryland bordering Delaware and Pennsylvania to the southernmost part of the state bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Virginia. The climate and terroir vary in this region. Micro-climates exist producing very distinctive wines. Grape growers are able to achieve success with grapes, like Barbera, that are challenging to grow in the rest of the state.
Similar to the Antietam Highland trail, the tasting rooms are uniquely apportioned and charming. Many venues welcome visitors by appointment. Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery and Chateau Bu-De Winery & Vineyard are the exception and are large estates. People perceive the Eastern Shore as only a summer place to visit. However, the wineries and vineyards are opened year-round. There are so many places to see and to enjoy tastings. Take a long weekend trip along the shore to enjoy its diversity.
Our journey continues next week. We will discuss the other four trails. Join our mailing list to receive the Discover Maryland’s Wine Trail series.
Blue Ribbon Wine Tasting… Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyards
Before Christmas, I had an early Christmas present. I visited and enjoyed a wine tasting at Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyards. The wine tasting was a blue ribbon experience. Hidden Hills is one of Maryland’s newest vineyards. Located in Mount Airy, Maryland, Hidden Hills is a gorgeous 103 acres property nestled in the very rich grape growing region. This region is home to popular vineyards like Linganore Winecellars and Black Ankle Vineyard. Another interesting wine nerd fact about this region, it is the Linganore AVA. “An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury”, according to TTB. There are only three AVAs in Maryland (Catoctin AVA, Cumberland AVA and Linganore AVA) .
Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyards started as a horse training and riding facility. The rolling hills and open landscape epitomizes Maryland’s horse country. The property is breath-taking. The property was stunning in early winter. I can only imagine how beautiful Hidden Hills will be during Spring and Summer when the vineyard is lush and in full bloom. Robin and Art Sagoskin, Hidden Hills proprietors, are just as passionate about equine and as they are about wine. They encourage their visitors to experience the horses, the vineyard and the wine during their visit. When possible Robin or Art will take you to the barn to view the horses. This is truly a Maryland experience…horses and wine. It was an unexpected highlight of the visit.
Robin and Art always had a love for wine. Traveling to different wine regions, they were passionate about bringing their travel experiences and their knowledge they gained to Maryland. Their Maryland wine journey begun in 2013 with planting Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin, and Cabernet Franc. The vines are still very young and probably will not produce Hidden Hills first harvest until this year. In the meantime, they buy fruit from local grape-growers. There is an old saying, good wine starts with good grapes. This is a Hidden Hills wine truism. The locally sourced grapes are the start to very good wines.
Hidden Hills has four wines on their tasting menu ( Vidal Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc). All the wines are dry and are aged in stainless steel except for the Cabernet Franc.
The tasting begun with a 2014 Vidal Blanc. The Vidal Blanc was very aromatic with honeysuckles, fresh blossoms on the nose and pear on the palate. It is a very well balance with moderate sweetness on the finish. The 2015 Pinot Grigio stood out among the white wines. It is a pale orange when the wine is first poured and slowly transforms to a pale yellow. As to say look at me, look at me; I’ve finally arrived. There is some contact with the skins during the processing, but not enough to be notable or influence the flavor. The Pinot Grigio possesses aromas of fall spices. Grapefruit and melon are on the palate with medium acid and finish. The 2015 Cabernet Franc is the only red wine. It is in a category by itself. It is jammy, and fruit forward and I love that in my Cabernet Franc. Not everyone appreciates these characteristics, and too bad for them. You will also experience hints of black pepper and clove.
Hidden Hills opened its tasting room in October 2016. You must make an appointment to enjoy a wine tasting. They cannot accommodate walk-ins. You will experience a very personal and educational tasting. You will not be disappointed. The wines are in limited production, similar to many Maryland boutique vineyards. If you are interested in purchasing wine, you should contact the vineyard directly.
Welcome Hidden Hills to Maryland wine. Hidden Hills is will not remain hidden for long. They offer a unique tasting experience that is inviting, intimate, and extremely pleasing to the palate.
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Boutique Wineries in Maryland: Newest Generation in Maryland Wine
Maryland’s wine industry has experienced tremendous growth over the past few years. Over 70 vineyards and wineries claim Maryland as their home. The latest generation is not looking to compete with the established vineyards size or production volume. This generation of vineyards is interested in producing small quantities and high quality wines. Many of the newest wineries in Maryland are boutique wineries.
Boutique wineries’ philosophy is to grow exceptional grapes and to make remarkable wine in small volumes. The winemakers produce 5,000 or less bottles of wine annually. Many produce estate wines. They do not use outsource grapes. This is to ensure the quality of the product, according to Gary Cohen, co-owner of Mazzaroth Vineyard. Mazzaroth Vineyard is a small vineyard, less than two acres, located in Middletown, Maryland. Mazzaroth sits on a slope and at the top of the hill is their home. From the top of the hill, you experience an amazing view of Frederick County countryside and the South Mountain. In their vineyard, you will find Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat. Surprised to see Tannat among the varietals. Tannat is typically found in very warm climates with low humidity; however it appears to be doing well in Maryland.
Gary is passionate about maintaining its boutique size vineyard. He is not interested playing host to crowds of people. He prefers the intimate setting and hosting members of their wine club. Catering to smaller groups is another characteristic of boutique wineries. You will not find grand tasting rooms. In fact, the winery may not have a tasting room. Mazzaroth host guests on their patio overlooking their vineyard. You will have a very personal tasting experience at Mazzaroth. You learn about his growing philosophy and a tour of the vineyard. It is inviting and relaxing visit. If you are a wine geek, like myself, you will find it an memorable experience and appreciate the hands on care. Make an appointment to visit Mazzaroth. Other boutique wineries will require an appointment; they do not have a walk-in policy. Some wineries are not open to the public. You can only enjoy their wines at farmers markets or small wine festivals.
Because boutique wineries production is limited, you will not find them in many wine stores. You can purchase their wine at their vineyards, online and/or join their wine clubs.
I was not able to sample Mazzaroth’s wine, because I was the designated driver. However, the others who were with me thoroughly enjoyed the wines. Mazzaroth is a new vineyard, but their wines are showing maturity. There is something to be said about small quantities, high quality.