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.
Discover Maryland’s Wine Trails
Maryland’s wine industry has experienced rapid growth over the past few years. So much so, I joke there is probably a vineyard a few blocks from you during Vino 301’s wine tours. Every county has a vineyard. Almost every county has a wine tasting room including Baltimore City. Yes, Baltimore city has a tasting room. Howard county is the only county that does not have a winery tasting room. Maryland’s wine industry growth is an impressive fact considering there were less than 30 wineries 20 years ago… now over 80.
Maryland’s vineyards and wineries are along seven wine trails. Over the next several weeks, Vino 301 will take a journey along each trail and highlight the splendor of each trail. Let’s discover Maryland’s wine trails.
Maryland’s Wine Trails
The Maryland Wine Association (MWA) established seven trails:
Antietam Highlands Wine Trail (Western Maryland)
Capital Wine Trail (Washington Beltway – Montgomery County)
Carroll Wine Trail (Central Maryland – Carroll County)
Chesapeake Wine Trail (Eastern Shore)
Legacy Wine Trail (Prince George’s County)
Frederick Wine Trail (Central Maryland – Frederick County)
Patuxent Wine Trail (Anne Arundel County and Southern Maryland)
Piedmont Wine Trail (Central Maryland – Baltimore County)
Antietam Highlands Wine Trail
Antietam Highlands is Maryland’s westernmost trail. The trail’s name is inspired by the historical Antietam battlefields. The Antietam National Battlefields commemorates the American Civil War Battle of Antietam. The Trail spans from Deep Creek to Hagerstown. This region is ideal for growing grapes. It’s high elevations and cool evenings are the perfect for cultivating grapes. The grapes in this area is the source for many wineries in the state. Wineries throughout the state purchase grapes from vineyards in this area.
Although Antietam has ideal growing conditions, there are not many tasting rooms along the trail. A cidery and meadery are among the wineries. Similar methods of make cider and mead are share with wine making; and therefore included in Maryland’s winery count. The wineries are small in production and size, except for Big Cork Vineyard and Knob Hall Vineyard. They are the quintessential boutique wineries. Their wines are not widely distributed outside of the state. So, I encourage you if you find a wine you like buy it. It may be difficult to locate later.
The tasting rooms have limited staff. If you are travelling with a group, I would encourage you to call before you arrive. Do not let the size discourage you from visiting. You will receive personal attention and care. You will learn about about the winemakers’ philosophy and style.
There are many orchids in this region, so you can incorporate apple picking and other outdoor activities during your wine tasting adventures. Late summer and early fall are extremely scenic along the byways and hiking trails.
Capital Wine Trail
The Capital Wine Trail is the newest trail. The wineries are located Montgomery County. You can get the best of the countryside and urban experiences when you visit Montgomery’s wineries. Because Montgomery county borders the Nation’s Capital, people forgot there are agriculture areas in the County. The vineyards are in the northern part of the County. Rockland Farms, a traditional farm, added grapes to their farm. They began growing grapes and producing wine near Poolsville, MD.
But if you are not interested in traveling to the countryside, you can stay in the urban areas. Montgomery county wineries popularizes the “urban winery” concept. Wineries are in city centers like Silver Spring, MD. The grapes and juices are purchased from local and international vineyards. The wine is made onsite.
Chesapeake Wine Trail
The Chesapeake Wine Trail is the most diverse trail. The trail spans from the northernmost part of Maryland bordering Delaware and Pennsylvania to the southernmost part of the state bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Virginia. The climate and terroir vary in this region. Micro-climates exist producing very distinctive wines. Grape growers are able to achieve success with grapes, like Barbera, that are challenging to grow in the rest of the state.
Similar to the Antietam Highland trail, the tasting rooms are uniquely apportioned and charming. Many venues welcome visitors by appointment. Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery and Chateau Bu-De Winery & Vineyard are the exception and are large estates. People perceive the Eastern Shore as only a summer place to visit. However, the wineries and vineyards are opened year-round. There are so many places to see and to enjoy tastings. Take a long weekend trip along the shore to enjoy its diversity.
Our journey continues next week. We will discuss the other four trails. Join our mailing list to receive the Discover Maryland’s Wine Trail series.