2017 Wine Gift Giving Guide: Jaw Dropping Gifts
“What do you want for Christmas?” are the six words that always stop me in my tracks. Not because I am a scrooge or I do not like exchanging gifts. On the contrary, I love the holidays and giving gifts to friends and family. I love the look of joy and the smiles a perfectly selected gift brings. Well then, why does “What do you want for Christmas?” bring on temporary paralyze? It is stuff. The thought of having more stuff. I don’t want more stuff. Stuff adds clutter to my overly generous furnished home. I prefer to give experiences to people. Something they hopefully enjoy doing, which will create lasting memories. The jaw dropping gifts list is composed of items or experiences that will create memories for your wine lover.
WineCream is homemade ice cream and wine. The WineCream creators did the impossible. They made dessert better. They improved everyone’s frozen dessert by adding wine. Located in Baltimore City, WineCream has a tasting room where you witness their unique process of making the ice cream and delight in tasting their fruity wine ice cream. You can schedule private tastings. Your visit includes a tour of the historical industrial building, ice demonstration and a tasting. They have seasonal flavors like Apple Pie, Caramel Pie and Peach Cobbler. You taste between 4 and 6 ice creams. If you not interested in the onsite tasting, WineCream does ship locally. $15 for tasting fees, $14.99 pint of ice cream (Shipping not included) purchased online WineCream
Make Your Own Wine
While sipping a glass of Pinot Noir do you ever say to yourself, “I could make this”? We found a place that allows you to get your wish. The Urban Winery (Silver Spring, MD) offers wine making classes. Here is your chance to show off your inner winemaker. You can geek out over the whole wine making experience. The wine classes are small… you and 5 of your favorite people are the average size group. It is a two part experience. During your first visit, you select the varietal and make the wine with the resident winemaker. About 10 – 14 weeks later, you go back to The Urban Winery to bottle, cork and label your wine. When it is all said and done, you make approximately six gallons or 3 cases of wine. Call or email The Urban Winery to book your event $500 – $700 per group
29 Bottle Wine Cooler
A couple years ago my brother gave me a wine chiller refrigerator for Christmas. He immediately became my favorite brother. (By the way, he is my only sibling). It has the dual temperature settings for white and red wines. It is conveniently stored in my basement where I cellar my wine. The chiller’s compressor cycles, as a result it can be a little loud and expends a lot of energy are the only draw backs. I heard similar concerns expressed by other chiller owners. So, when NewAir contacted me about testing their 29-Bottle Black Stainless Wine Cooler, I had reservations. How could this be different then my current wine frig? In the name of wine, I gave it a try.
Immediately, I noticed NewAir 29 wine bottle cooler is a fourth slimmer than mine. Interesting. It holds the same number of bottles, but it is slimmer. The cooler is a sleek black stainless-steel model. It is perfect for people who do not have a lot of space, but need to accommodate at least two cases of wine. It has similar functionality, like dual temperature controls and adjustable wood rack trays, as in my current one. However, it is noticeably quieter. I did not hear the compressor cycling. NewAir is energy efficient. An unexpected surprise, was the lock. I can secure the cooler. This feature is great for people with kids and keeping wine in the “right” hands. I hope I do not lock myself out. I look forward to filling my new wine cooler and the new experiences each wine bottle will bring. The nice people at NewAir is offering a discount to Vino 301 followers. Use code VINO for 20% off the NewAir AWR-290DB-B Black Stainless Wine Cooler when you are purchasing online. $829.95 NewAir.com
Wine & Cheese Tour
Cheese frequently comes to mind when you think of serving wine. So why not have cheese during your wine tour? Vino 301 is offering a Wine and Cheese tour in 2018. Your adventure begins with a cheese and wine pairing, where Romano’s finest wines will be paired with P.A. Bowen Farmstead (Brandywine, MD) award-winning raw milk artisan cheeses. Romano Vineyard and Winery produces handcrafted award-winning wines from their estate grown grapes and grapes from custom growers. PA Bowen make award-winning raw milk artisan cheeses, and we are a pasture-based sustainable farm. Your next destination will take you to one of southern Prince George’s County local vineyards (Robin Hill Farm & Vineyards, JaneMark Winery &Vineyard, or Gemeny Winery & Vineyard). $115 per person. Wine & Cheese Tour
Antietam Highlands Wine Trail
Lately Vino 301 has been spending more time along the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail thanks to our great partnership with Inn Boonsboro. Guests at the Inn book a wine tour with their overnight stay. Since most of our tours do not take us along this trail much, I just at the opportunity to visit the wineries along the Trail. It has been a joy traveling this part of Maryland. The Trail is only 90 minutes outside of Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. But when you enter Washington County, it is like stepping back in time. The Region has preserved the historical sites and small towns. One of our tour guests said to me, “Where is the closest Target?” The big box stores presence is not looming here.
The Antietam Highlands Wine Trail is home to several vineyards. Many wineries whose tasting rooms are along other trails have vineyards in this region. This region is known for the South Mountain area. Some of the best grapes in Maryland are grown there. In addition to the vineyards, wineries call this Trail home. Here are the Antietam Highlands wineries and cideries:
Antietam Creek Vineyards (Sharpsburg, MD)
Big Cork Vineyards (Rohrersville, MD)
Blue Mountain Wine Crafters (Funkstown, MD)
Charis Winery (Cumberland, MD)
Cool Ridge Vineyard (Hagerstown, MD)
Deep Creek Cellars (Friendsville, MD)
Knob Hall Winery (Clear Spring, MD)
Mazzaroth Vineyard (Middletown, MD)
Orchid Cellar Meadery & Cidery (Middletown, MD)
Red Heifer Winery (Smithburg, MD)
Toasted Goat Winery (Frostburg, MD)
Willow Oaks Craft Creek Cider & Wine (Middletown, MD)
Years of Experience, New to the Trail
Antietam Highlands trail is less than four years old. The trail was created when several tasting rooms opened after 2013. However, the age of the trail does not correspond with the years of wine making experience. Knob Hall Winery, Cool Ridge Vineyard, and Big Cork Vineyards are established vineyards. The winemakers at these vineyards have years of experience crafting award winning wines that are recognized nationally and internationally.
Dave Collins is the winemaker at Big Cork. I first met Dave when Big Cork was under construction five years ago. At that time, Big Cork operated out of the old Frederick Cellars property. Collins is an unassuming man, who is passionate about wine making. He is a natural educator. His every day conversation shares wine knowledge without trying. Dave has been making wine for over twenty years. His years of experience and the collaboration with Randy Thompson resulted in a BIG success. Big Cork’s wines were awarded 13 medals in the 2017 Governor’s Cup last this month… an outstanding accomplishment. You should visit Big Cork for its wines, but stay for the views and atmosphere. Big Cork, Red Heifer, Cool Ridge, and Mazzaroth have scenic views. Late summer and earlier fall are perfect times to travel along the trail. Plan to spend the day enjoying wine and viewing nature show off.
Go West, Far West
Deep Creek is a four-season vacation destination. Skiing during the winter, kayaking on the lake in the summer and wine tasting year-round. Deep Creek Cellars is a small winery at the intersection of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland. It is overlooked because it is so far west, but is deserving of a visit. The first ice wine I ever tried was from Deep Creek Cellars… AMAZING vidal blanc wine. The best way I can describe it is a beautiful pale straw color, syrupy body, ripen pears and honeysuckle on the palate. And honestly, the ice wine is not what they do best. Try their red wines. They were a boutique winery before it was vogue.
Mead and Cider
How does mead and cider make a wine trail list? Wine, mead, and cider have a lot in common. All three use similar processing methods. Mead is fermented honey and water. Mazers, mead makers, use yeast identical to yeast used by wine makers. Like wine, cider is made from fermented fruit that is crushed or pressed, usually apples. Pears are also used. The juice is extracted and aged. Mead and cider range from sweet, semi-sweet, dry to sparkling. So, it is not surprising to find meaderies and cideries along the Antietam Wine Trail.
Orchid Cellar and Willow Oaks make wine but their specialties are mead and cider. People sometimes avoid mead or cider because of the misconception of being too sweet. As I mentioned previously, there are several styles of mead and cider. Antietam trail is a great place to change your impressions and reintroduce yourself to mead and cider. Willow Oaks award winning ciders are made with organic apples. Willow Oaks is one of the first organic cidery’s in Maryland. Try their 2017 Governor Cup’s Gold and Silver medal winning ciders. One of my favorites is Orchid Cellar’s Scorpion Hunter. Scorpion Hunter is a mead. It is a bevy of spices on the palate and heat. The heat is gradually and is subdued by the tropical notes like banana and mango.
Make Your Own Wine
Blue Mountain Wine Crafters is a store front winery. They make their wines on site, sourcing grapes locally and nationally. You can taste every type of wine imaginable at Blue Mountain. But if you have dreams of being a winemaker, Blue Mountain can help you realize your dreams. Their tasting room as doubles as a wine maker’s class room. They offer make your own wine classes. You can make small batches of wine. You can also purchase home brewing supplies and at-home wine making kits.
Read and sip along with Vino 301
It isn’t fun to just read about the wine, you should taste too. We are giving away prize packages every week of the series. You can try the wine with us. Enter a chance to win Vino 301’s give away.