Spring is here! The flowers are blooming and the wine is chilling. It’s time to head to Maryland’s vineyards and wineries.
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Decanter Wine Festival is when Maryland’s horse racing and wine traditions are celebrated. It is also the official start of the wine festival season in Maryland. Before you dust off your wine lanyard, and remove your picnic basket from storage, here are some tips on how to traverse the wine festival season.
- It is a marathon and not a sprint. There is a lot to see, taste, and experience at festivals. You need a plan. Do not go to the tents near the entrance when you first arrive. They are often crowded and overwhelming. Start at the back and work your way to the front. It is less crowded. Also, most festivals provide a map or guide. Use the guide to plan your route and you avoid missing your “must visit tents”. You have to pace yourself. If not, you can burn out in the first hour.
- Find a new favorite wine. There are hundreds wines available for you to taste. This is a great opportunity to find your next great wine. You cannot taste everything. It is not possible. Select a few varietals you want to taste that day include favorites and new to you varietals, like Petit Veridot, Cabernet Franc, or Vidal Blanc. Start with tasting the whites, then reds, and finally sparklings and you will find a new favorite along the way.
- Take notes, after the first few wines you will forget what you like. The wineries have tasting menus listing the wines being poured. Use the menus to record the wines you love. After the first 20 wines, everything begins to taste the same. If you are really sophisticate, use a small notebook to record you notes. You avoid having multiple pieces of paper to refer to at the end of the day.
- It is a tasting pour, not a glass of wine. Do not expect a glass of wine when you are tasting. The wineries will give you 1 or 1.5-ounce pour of each wine. You can ask for a second pour, but keep in mind it is just a sampling of wine. You can always purchase a glass or bottle of wine if you really like it.
- Upgrade your admission pass if you can. Most festivals offer a general admission and VIP passes. The general admission gives you access to tasting tents and food vendors. The VIP pass cost a little more, but gives you a little more. Usually you get access to exclusive events, like the premier wine tastings, food and wine demonstrations, and/or meet celebrity wine experts. The VIP passes often include food, so you do not have to purchase food at the festival.
- Snack throughout your time at the festival. There are several vendors on site you can purchase food from. Some festivals allow you to bring food from home into the festival. Check with the festival officials before you arrive to determine if you can bring your own food. Regardless if you bring food or purchase food, take time to enjoy this food as well as the wine. Your body will absorb less alcohol as a result.
- Drink water. You want to drink as much water as wine. Bring a water bottle with you so you can replenish throughout the day. You want to stay hydrated especially when the weather is warm.
- Use the dump bucket. You are not going to like every wine you try. The wineries provide a dump bucket or spittoon for you to discard the wine. You will not offend the winery staff if you pour the wine out. Some people will not swallow the wine and spit. Spitting is acceptable. Do not be surprise by spitting. Practice at home before you try it at the festival.
- Be Safe. Finally, the top tip for visiting festivals is to be safe. Have a designated driver. Many festivals offer designated driver tickets. Utilize transportation services if everyone in your group will enjoy wine. Food and Wine festivals, like Great Grapes or National Harbor Wine and Food festival, offers transportation with admissions. Someone else can provide the transportation while you enjoy the festival.
You are now ready for this wine festival season. Enjoy, drink, and be safe.
Going to vineyards in Maryland are such a treat. You are enjoying the sweeping views, the time with friends, and the wine…oh good the wine. When the tasting is over you are faced with the dilemma: how can I get this wine again? Do you join or not join wine clubs?
Maryland wines distribution are limited and not widely available in stores. You can purchase wine at the vineyard, vineyard’s website or wine festivals. But, those channels do not guarantee the wine you fell in love with is available. Vineyard wine clubs are a sure way to get what you love all the time.
What is a wine club?
It is a subscription to receive an allocation of wine on a regular basis. Your subscription is available monthly, quarterly or annually. Most clubs are quarterly. The allocation also varies from three bottles, six bottles (half of case) or a case. You have the options of having your wine mailed or you can pick it up at the vineyard.
What are the perks of joining?
The wine, of course. But there is more!
- Club members discounts. You receive a 10 – 15% discount on the wine. Often this is not limited to your club allocation but other wines you purchase. Some vineyards offer discounted tasting fees in addition.
- Preferred access to new or small batch releases. Vineyards will prepare a limited edition or small batches exclusively for their wine club.
- Special invitation to vineyard activities. Vineyards organize exclusive events for its members, like food and wine pairings, barrel tastings, harvest events, etc. These events are really fun. There is always a special treat at these events. The winemaker is at these events. You have an opportunity to chat with the winemaker and discuss the wines.
What to consider before you join?
- 3, 6 or 12 bottles? If you are new to a wine club, start with the smaller allocation. You can always adjust the allocation throughout the year. Consider sharing your allocation with a friend if you want to purchase a larger lot. Not only will share the allocation, you can share the cost and realize a greater savings.
- Cost? Most clubs are free to join. The cost generally starts around $100.00 for quarterly commitment. This does not include the shipping fees. Vineyards will request a credit card to keep on file, and notify you before charging your card.
- Commitment? You have the option to end your commitment at any time. However, you do not always have the option modify the frequency. The vineyards usually sets the frequency.
- Wine selection? Some places have a white wine only, red wine only, or mix wine list you select when you join. Once you select your preference the vineyards pre-select your allocation. Not to worry, most places allow you to switch wines if you change your mind.
In full disclosure, I belong to five wine clubs and will join more. I know, I know, it is a hazard of the job. It is a good decision to join a wine club. Start slow, and you will not be disappointed. I hope this helps you make your decision.