Four Very Unique Wine Trails: Discover Maryland’s Wine Trails
Maryland grapes date back to the 16th century. But, its role as a competitor in the wine industry is relatively new. Fewer than 20 wineries existed 30 years ago. Maryland is now trending towards 100 wineries. As a wine geek, this is exciting to witness but why should you care? You should care because the industry is midst of a transformation. It is producing noteworthy wines that are more accessible to the consumer. Vineyard visiting is no longer reserved for elite wine snobs. It is an activity to be enjoyed by all wine lovers.
We discovered Maryland’s newer wine trails — Capital, Antietam Highlands, and Chesapeake in the first Discover Maryland’s Wine Trail blog. Today, we will discover four unique wine trails that have shaped the industry and are leading its transformation.
Carroll Wine Trail
Carroll Wine Trail has the fewest wineries, only two: Old Westminster Winery and Serpent Ridge Vineyard. Carroll Wine Trail is small but mighty. Mighty meaning its influence. The Trail had more wineries and tremendous influence on grape growing and wine production during the early years. Wineries closed, people retired or vineyards decided to only grow grapes are the reasons that attribute to the reduction of wineries.
Do not overlook this trail. It is still influential. Vino 301 frequently takes groups to these vineyards. They are warm and inviting. It is like going to your favorite aunt’s home. You know you are going to be welcomed and have a good time. Hal and Karen are Serpent Ridge’s owners. They offer many fun activities, like yoga, paint parties, chocolate and cigar pairings. But don’t just go for the activities, Serpent Ridge pours good wine. My personal favorites are Albariño and Serpent Kiss.
A couple years ago when you asked someone what Maryland wineries have you ever visited; Linganore Winecellars or Boordy Vineyard were always mentioned. Now, people say Old Westminster too. Established less than 10 years ago, the sibling trio (Lisa, Ashli and Drew) have re-invented how people imagine Maryland wine. Their mission is to produce noteworthy wines from Maryland. By the number of awards and accolades they have received, they can check the box. This year they were named by The Daily Meal one of the top 101 Wineries in America. Awards by pretentious wine judges are nice, but should not be the reason why you visit. You should visit because Old Westminster’s wines are exceptional. They continue to hone their wine making craft and produce wines that appeal to most wine drinkers— crisp balanced white wines, fruity long-lasting finish red wines, and trendy sparkling wine. You are not going to find semi-dry or sweet wines on their tasting menus.
Frederick Wine Trail
Frederick Wine Trail celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017. Congratulations! I think it is the second oldest wine trail. Please do not quote me on this fact. However, you can quote me on this fact… it is home to the largest winery. Linganore Winecellars is the largest winery. Here is another wine nerd factoid … it is home to two American Viticultural Areas (AVA) — Catoctin AVA and Linganore AVA. AVAs are a big deal in the wine world because it helps wine drinkers identify the type of wine in the bottle. It’s like a secret decoder ring.
Now that the facts are out of the way, let us get back to the wine trail. Linganore Winecellars, Loew Vineyard, Elk Run Vineyard and Catoctin Breeze are among the establishing wineries. They have produced wines for over 20 years and have had a tremendous imprint on Maryland’s wine culture. The vanguard is complemented by newer wineries. In the upcoming Frederick Wine Trail blog, I will discover how the newer wineries continue to bring recognition to the trail.
Noble grapes —Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon thrive in this region because of the ideal growing conditions. Wine blends and fruit wines (e.g., peach, apple) have garnered a following also.
Aside from the wine, what I love about this region is the wineries proximity to one another. They are clustered, so the drive between wineries on average is 15 minutes. You can make a weekend out of vineyard hopping and visit almost all eight vineyards.
Legacy Wine Trail
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. Romano Vineyard, Robin Hill Farms, JaneMark Vineyard and Gemeny Vineyard make up the Legacy Wine Trail.
Patuxent Wine Trail
Patuxent river runs through the southernmost wine trail. Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary counties are home to the Patuxent wine trail. Maryland’s Route 4 also runs through this trail. It is one of the easiest trails to navigate. Take a lazy afternoon drive south on MD Route 4 and you are can easily access many of the wineries.
Former tobacco farmlands influence the trail’s wine and architecture. Refurbished tobacco barns have a renewed use —charming tasting rooms. Great Frogs and Fridays Creek Vineyard have made great use of these barns. Local artisans display their work in Fridays Creek Vineyard’s loft. In an upcoming blog, I will explore tobacco’s relationship with current growing conditions.
Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid grape, is used widely as by winemakers from this region. It is a signature grape that is extremely versatile. It is expressed in different styles. The styles range from Cove Valley’s semi-dry wine, Fridays Creek Vineyard’s table wine, Port of Leonardtown Winery award-winning reserve to Running Hare Vineyard port style wine.
Piedmont Wine Trail
Piedmont means “the foot of the mountains”. The growing conditions along this trail mimic the conditions in Italy’s Piedmont region. However, in my mind Piedmont means the heart Maryland wine. The Piedmont trail is home to Maryland’s oldest winery — Boordy Vineyards. Boordy Vineyards along with Fiore Winery & Distillery, and Basignani Vineyard are the vineyards that gave face to Maryland wine. These vineyards cultivated Maryland’s wine character and personality. They continue to plow the path of its future. You will find very traditional wines along the trail. No trendy blue wine here. Old world traditional wine making methods are used.
One of the most popular wine trails, the trail traverses Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Harford County. There are almost a dozen wineries. It is a 30-minute drive from downtown Baltimore to reach the Trail. The transition from city to country is mesmerizing for many. People forgot how rural Maryland still is.
The trail has the only winery that is also a creamy. WineCream is a winery that serves “boozy” ice cream. Yes, the ice cream is made with wine. The trail is also home to cideries. I will discover other distinguishing traits in along the Piedmont trail in the blog series.
Read and sip along with Vino 301
Hopefully, your interest has been peeked and you will continue to follow our blogs published over the month. We will taste and discover the wines along all the trails.
2017 New To You Wine Challenge: Enjoying Orange Wine
It is 29 days into the new year and how are doing with your new year’s resolution? Are you rocking it out? I know you are! I know you are among that 64 percent that will make it beyond January. I am happy to report I am on the success train with you. I tried three New To You Wines this month.
I challenged my team and myself to try three wines each month. An attempt to move us out of our comfort zone and find new treasures. Specifically, we had to try three new varietals and/or styles of wine. At first look, this does not appear to be a challenge for a wino like myself. But, it is. Primarily enjoying local wines, I have tasted many varietals produced from this region. The quest has been equally as fun as trying the wines. Here are the discoveries for this month.
Fridays Creek Winery (Calvert County, MD) produces a Chardonel. When you first hear the name, you think someone mispronounced Chardonnay. It is not a mistake. It is a hint to the grape’s lineage. Chardonel is an American hybrid grape. A cross between a Sevyal and Chardonnay. The Chardonel is reminiscent of Albariño produced in this region. Beautiful straw yellow color, citrus and woody aromas, crisp medium acid, and mild tropical flavors like mango and pineapple. The Chardonel is intriguing.
Alius is Maryland wine produced by Old Westminster Winery (Carroll County, MD). Alius is a Pinot Gris. Alius makes the Challenge list because it is an orange wine. This is an alternative method of making Pinot Gris wine, known as orange wine. Pinot Gris grapes are not pressed immediately after harvest during the orange wine process. The skins remain on during the fermentation process. The Pinot Gris skins influence the wine’s color giving it an “orange” affect. The skins also influence the wine’s body and tannin. Alius has delicate floral aromas. It is a robust wine, with a structure and fullness. It is in a class by itself. View Periscope video on Alius tasting.
2013 Lab of Portugal Vinho Regional Lisboa
Lab is a red blend of Castelão, Tinta Roriz, Syrah, and Touriga Nacional grapes. As you can see, these are not regional grapes. It is a beautifully blended Portuguese table wine. Portugal is known for its fortified wines, but this table wine is a good representation of its dry wines. Lab has intense flavors, but does not overwhelm your palate. You get chocolate, blackberries, and currant on the nose. Dark cherries, and plums, and hint of vanilla on the palate with a medium finish.
The search is on for February’s wines. If you have any suggestions, please share them with us. You can join the challenge with us. Here is a wine guide you can use to help you chart your path. Share with us your wine challenge and #NewToYouWine
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Sparkling Wines in Maryland
Sparkling wines are synonymous with celebrations. And this time of year is no different to punctuate your holiday events with bubbles. Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco immediately come to mind when you are making your wine selections. Wait… before you grab an European selection, look a little closer to home. Maryland sparkling wines are available in various styles.
“Elk Run Vineyards, Bordeleau Vineyard & Winery, Great Shoals Winery Old Westminster Winery each offer a Blanc de Blanc (traditional dry sparkling wine), while Cygnus Wine Cellars produces a Blanc de Blanc plus four other sparkling wines in various styles. Knob Hall Winery offers white and rosé versions, and Crow Vineyards offers a Sparkling Vidal. Slack Winery offers five different sparkling wines, Fiore Winery offers a Prosecco and St. Michaels Winery has introduced Bubbly Wobbler, a sparkling addition to its Gollywobbler line of sweet wines.” according to Ms. Rebecca Dulka, Maryland Wine Association representative, in 2015 Maryland Offers Wide Variety of Sparkling Wines article. Old Westminster Winery introduced a Gruner Vetliner sparkling this year, a departure from the traditional grapes used in Maryland.
Sparkling wines are not limited to grapes. Maryland’s cider producers are making noteworthy bubbles. Distillery Lane Ciderworks makes a delightful Apple Cherry wine. A must try and welcomed addition.
Where You Can Find Maryland’s Sparkling Wines & Ciders*
- Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery, Eden: bordeleauwine.com
- Crow Farm and Vineyard, Kennedyville: crowfarmmd.com
- Cygnus Wine Cellars, Manchester: cygnuswinecellars.com
- Distillery Lane Ciderworks, Jefferson: distillerylane.com
- Elk Run Vineyard and Winery, Mt. Airy: elkrun.com
- Fiore Winery, Plyesville: fiore.com
- Great Shoals Winery, Princess Anne; tasting room, Silver Spring: greatshoals.com
- Knob Hall Vineyard, Clear Spring: knobhall.com
- St. Michael’s Winery, St. Michael: stmichaels.com
- Old Westminster Winery, Westminster: oldwestminster.com
- Slack Wines and Vineyards, Ridge: slackwine.com
- Springfield Manor, Thurmont: springfieldmanor.com
*Not a complete list
Tour Ambassadors of Vino 301 Wine Concierge are raising their glasses to support of the Alzheimer’s Association with the sponsorship of a charitable wine tour to the Westminster Wine Region.
The event is scheduled for March 6, 2016 at 10:00 am, and will include tours to the Old Westminster Winery and Springfield Manor Winery. Many of the vineyards featured on the tour are grown in Bordeaux style. Lovers of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Grigio, or Vidal Blanc will especially relish this tantalizing treat.
According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, there is an estimated 5.1 million people 65 years and older in the United States living with Alzheimer’s. Approximately 200,000 individuals below the age of 65 are afflicted with the disease.
Vino 301 Wine Concierge is the one of the latest sponsors to join forces with the organization in the fight against the disease. The company was asked to host the tour by a former tour guest, Ms. LeeAnn Charpentier, whose grandmother had the disease and died. LeeAnn wanted to do something to honor her grandmother’s memory and raise funds for Alzheimer’s research.
Discussing Vino 301 Wine Concierge’s response to Ms. Charpentier’s request, Managing Director of the company, Leslie Frelow said: “We thought it was a great idea and were eager to help. Ms Charpentier has been a tremendous supporter of Vino 301. We hope our contribution will further research for a cure for this debilitating disease.”
Net profits will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. For further information or to register for the tour, visit: Charitable Wine Tour for Alzheimer’s.