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Four Very Unique Wine Trails

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.

Marylands wine trails

 

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.

Serpent Ridge

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.

 

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.

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.  Prize Package Give Away

The Greatest Myth about Maryland Wines

As everyone knows, Vino 301 Wine Concierge is a big cheerleader for Maryland wine and culture. I can safely say no one has ever questioned our love for local wine.  A few, some, … actually a lot have questioned why.  Why do you love Maryland wine?

 

Most people do not directly ask why. They give me a strange look or a raised eyebrow when I mention the many virtues of Maryland wine.  Some will actually make statements  like, “Maryland primarily makes sweet, fruity wine.  That’s ok if you like that type of wine.”   Translation:  How could you possibly call that wine.  It is an adult version of Kool-Aid.”  More direct individuals will state, “It is ok to drink, but I would not recommend it.”

 

As one of Maryland’s biggest cheerleader, it is my obligation to debunk the greatest myth ever told.

Myth – Maryland primarily makes sweet, fruity wines.

There is some truth to this statement like most myths. Yes, winemakers make sweet, fruity wine. Sweetland Cellars is a great example.  Sweetland Cellars is a brand of Boordy Vineyard.  Sweetland are grape and fruit wines. They are intended to be light,refreshing, and sweet hence the name. They are perfect to drink by themselves or as base to a cocktail.

 

Many Maryland winemakers have semi-dry or sweet wines in their profile for those with a sweeter palate.  However, all Maryland winemakers make dry vino.  They use traditional methods that are artisan crafted resulting in noteworthy aromas, flavors and body.  They are recognized nationally and internationally. The Daily Meal All Things Food & Drink, a national publication, recognized Black Ankle Vineyard   in its list of 101 Best Wineries in America in March 2015. This list consisted of the country’s most acclaimed wineries.

 

Maryland Wines

 

Why does this myth exists?  I have a theory.  Maryland is a victim of its success.  The Maryland Wine Festival is a wildly popular event.  Thousands of people from several states attend this event.  Facts to keep in mind: (1) The Festival is held in September. September is still humid and warm. (2) Majority of Americans prefer fruity and semi-sweet wines styles, according to the 2015 Survey of American Wine Consumer Preferences conducted by Wine Business.com.  (3) The Festival is the only exposure some have to Maryland wine.

 

Put yourself in the vineyard managers’ shoes.  You want people to try and buy your wine at the Festival. What do people want when it is hot and humid — a cool refreshing beverage.  What do the majority of Americans enjoy drinking — fruity and sweet wines.  In the same 2015 survey, 74 percent of people said red wine is their favorite.  However, less than a quarter of the same people indicated they like dry, savory or tannic.  Most people say they want a traditional wines, but they really prefer sweet.   As vineyard managers, do you pour your higher price drier wines or your less expensive sweet and semi-dry?  You give people what they really want. The sweeter wine resonate with the Festival attendees leaving the impression all Maryland wines are fruity and sweet.

 

Where Can You Try the Traditional Wines?  Believe it or not, many of these wines are at the Wine Festival.  Maryland Wine Festival showcases its Governor’s Cup winners in the premier tent.  These are recognized as the best wines in Maryland. There is an additional cost to the admission to taste the wines.

 

You do not have to wait until the Festival.  You can visit the vineyards.  These wines are apart of the tasting menu at most vineyards at no additional cost. You get an opportunity to experience the full complement of Maryland’s grapes.  Explore and see for yourself if the myth is true.  

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