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.
Vino 301’s Summer White Wines Picks
Crossing the Bay Bridge and seeing all the boats in the Bay lets me know it is official. Aww finally, summer is here. It is the start of lots of grilling, freshly made salads and really yummy desserts being served. And, let’s not forget to mention the crabs. I know it is still a little early to have Maryland’s blue crabs. But you cannot talk about summer without mentioning Maryland’s caviar. You must have wine with all this summer goodness. Here are Vino 301’s suggestions for summer white wines.
Sipping a cool glass of wine on the deck or rocking on the porch swing is quintessential summer fun.
Rosé, Great Frogs
Rosé was known as a transition wine bridging winter and summer seasons. A go to wine to drink in the Spring. However, Rosé popularity has emerged recently and is enjoyed year-round. Great Frogs Rosé is perfect to help make Maryland’s humid days tolerable. The Rosé is refreshing and fruity dry wine. Red fruit, like strawberries and raspberries will dance on your palate. A mild tart finish completes your sip.
Riesling, Basignani Vineyard
Basignani’s Riesling hits the spot when you are sipping wine at your favorite concert. The color is a beautiful pale straw. Notes of melon and honeysuckle are on the nose. It is a semi-dry wine, that is not syrupy sweet or overwhelms the nature flavors of the Riesling grape. It is a well-balanced wine that is best served cold.
Grilled Veggies and Summer Salads
My maternal grandmother made the best tomato salad. She used fresh tomatoes, spring onions, vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and finished with salt and pepper. I try to make it whenever I can get Eastern Shore tomatoes, usually when I do the Chesapeake Wine Tour. Some of the vineyards have fresh produces for sale.
Albariño, Serpent Ridge
Summer salads, like my grandmother’s salad, is complemented by Albariño. Albariño is becoming Maryland’s go to white wine. It is a Spanish grape that grows very well in the state. The first time I had Albariño was at Serpent Ridge five years ago. It is still consistently good after all those years. You will detect aromas of crisp green apples on the nose. You will taste peaches later followed by mild citrus fruit. Bright acidity on the finish is what makes it pair so well with summer salads. It will not overpower or detract from the foods flavors.
Franc Blanc, Thanksgiving Farms
Grilled vegetables are sometimes difficult to find the right wine to serve with it. The smokiness and charred flavors along the vegetables bright notes can be challenging. Franc Blanc accepts the challenge. It is a white Cabernet Franc. Franc Blanc is a full body wine white that has a floral nose. You will enjoy stone fruit flavors like apricots. Mild citrus flavor like kumquats will come across. The low acid and fullness of the wine is a good grilling partner.
Seafood and Crabs
An unoaked Chardonnay is the preference for many seafood lovers. I would challenge you to try a Vidal Blanc. Vidal Blanc style is typically semi-sweet or sweet. However, Hidden Hills has prepared a dry Vidal Blanc which is a delightful alternative to a Chardonnay.
Vidal Blanc, Hidden Hills Farms and Vineyard
It is a medium body wine. Pears and golden apples on the palate and nose. It has minerality and lemon on the finish. The lemon comes forward especially when it is paired with fish and shellfish.
You can purchase the wines online, just visit their websites. You can contact the vineyards to locate where you can purchase the wines at local wine stores or restaurants.
Always on the hunt for good wine, I heard rumors about a new vineyard opening near Mt. Airy, MD. I headed west to confirm the rumors. Stopping at Serpent Ridge Vineyard and Black Ankle Vineyard during my quest, I asked the tasting room staff if they knew about this new place. Some heard the same rumor but did not know the name of the new winery in Frederick, MD . Finally, I found one person who had a name…New Market Plains. But, she was not quite sure of its location. Armed with Google Maps, I was confident I could find it.
Minutes away from Mt. Airy, New Market Plains Vineyard is located in New Market, MD. The entrance is not obvious. The Vineyard shares the same road with Adventure Park USA. The road appears to dead ends, but it is actually the beginning of its driveway. Success, the rumors are true! (Hint: If you are using GPS, you should enter Monrovia, MD instead. The GPS may not locate the Vineyard if you use New Market, MD.)
When you enter the property, modern day noises are blocked out and you are taken back in time. The farm dates back to the 1700s and many of the original buildings remain intact. You forget New Market Plains is nettled between a major highway and a business park.
New Market Plains’s wines are all estate wines. Its first vintage was harvested in 2014 and bottled in April 2015. The first release included Chardonnay, Rich Forest Chardonnay and Rosé. Both Chardonnays are from the same vineyard. The Rich Forest Chardonnay was aged in oak and the other in steel. The Rich Forest has a very distinct character and is appealing to the palate. The wines are sophisticated and well-balance considering this is New Markets first vintage. The Rosé is a blend of reds. Its color is strikingly bold. I expected the nose to be fruity, but it was floral. The taste was reminiscent of a French Syrah Rosé. It is perfect to drink year-round. There wines are reasonably priced. ($25.00)
Sue and Howard proudly display the vineyard’s 2015 Governor’s Cup Silver Medal. An impressive feat for new winery.
During my visit, Sue offered to give me a tour of the property. I gladly accepted. Along the tour, Howard and Sue shared with me the history of the property. The property has been in Sue’s family for 10 generations. We toured their processing facility where they are aging their red wines. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah are aging. Looking forward to trying the reds.
It was a great adventure. Thrilled to try new Maryland wines. New Market Plains is a welcomed addition to Maryland’s wine community and a new winery in Frederick, MD. I encourage you to visit. New Market Plains is opened Friday through Sunday or by appointment.
Best Wines for Thanksgiving
Regardless if you are hosting or you going to someone’s home you are probably trying to decide what wine should be paired with dinner. People frequently ask, “What is the perfect wine to serve with Thanksgiving meal?” Answer: There isn’t a perfect wine. There are so many rich and varying flavors, it is impossible to select just one wine. However there are wines that pair better with thanksgiving. What are the best wines for Thanksgiving?
Start at your local fine wine store. Wine stores offer wine tastings on a weekly or daily basis during the holiday season. You can call or go on their website to find out what days the tastings are available. These tastings are often free. The store will pour between 4 to 6 wines. This is great opportunity for you to try different varietals.
Bring your dinner menu with you. The wine representative can offer suggestions on what to pair with the wine. You may find your new favorite wine.
If the store is not offering a tasting, you still may have an opportunity to try an instore tasting. You may ask the sales person to uncork the wine you are serious about purchasing. Some stores will uncork the bottle for you.
If you cannot attend an instore tasting, there are no fail wine selection tips you can employee.
TIP #1 – Go with sparkling wine. Everyone likes a sparkling wine (well almost everyone). Sparkling wine is the most versatile wine. It is the little black dress of the wine world; it is good for any occasion. It can be paired with almost any meal. Try a dry sparkling wine, a brut, with your meal and a demi-sec, sweeter sparkling with dessert. Great Shoals, 2012 Cuvee Blanc Sparkling Wine, is a Maryland sparkling that is a blend of Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc in a brut style. It is a great way to begin your meal.
TIP #2 – Some like white, some like red, offer both. Rarely will all your guests like only white wine or only red. Offer them a choice. You will look like a very sophisticated host.
TIP #3 – Vidal Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Albarĩno are great complements to side dishes. Stay away from oaky Chardonnay; it can overwhelm your meal. You can locate Albarĩno at local vineyards like Black Ankle Vineyard and Serpent Ridge.
TIP #4 – Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel complements your hearty and savory dishes. You also can try red blends. Red wine blends, like Meritage and Bordeaux, are excellent with turkey legs and dark meat.
Have a very, very safe and happy Thanksgiving! Vino 301 Wine Concierge is thankful for your continued support and we wish you well during this holiday season. Cheers!