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Big Cork Vineyard

Discovering the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail

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.


wine trails

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.

Cool Ridge Vineyards Red Wines

Cool Ridge Vineyards Red Wines


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.

Mazzaroth Vineyard in Middletown MD

Mazzaroth Vineyard in Middletown MD


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.

Toasted Goat and Charis Winery  neighbor Deep Creek.  They are in Frostburg.  Toasted Goat is the newest winery along the trail. Make a weekend of it and go wine tasting to our most western vineyards.

Orchid Cellars Tasting Room

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.

Blue Mountain Wine Crafters

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.Prize Package Give Away

10 Great Thanksgiving Value Wines

Thanksgiving Tips and Picks:

10 Great Thanksgiving Value Wines

Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  Are you ready for the prepping, the cooking, and the entertaining?  If not, no worries.  10 Great Thanksgiving  Value Wines is the second installment in Vino 301’s Selecting Thanksgiving Wines series.  Selecting Thanksgiving Wine series hopefully helps to increase joy during your holiday and reduces stress.

We selected 10 wines to serve with your meal.  These wines are under $25.00 and most importantly they are SO YUMMY! They pair well with most dishes.  You can entertain with these wines as well. You will be a rock star this holiday. Most of them can be located at your local wine store.

10 Great Thanksgiving Wines

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Wine Value Shopping Tips

Before you step foot in your wine store, keep in mind the following:

Call ahead – This is the busiest time of the year for the liquor industry.  Many stores make 70 percent of their profit between Halloween and New Years.  They are offering special for bulk purchases.  Ask what specials are they offering, like 10% off case purchases and when are the specials available.  Make sure you ask can the case be mixed.  There is greater value with mixed case (e.g., different types of wine in a case).

Shop for the holiday season, not for a day –  Realizing this blog’s subject is Thanksgiving; however, do not just purchase for that day.  Save time and money.  You can avoid multiple trips to the store when you purchase in bulk. There is value in purchasing in bulk. You can also serve the wine throughout the holiday season, or give bottles as gifts.

Avoid the displays –  I cannot say with 100 percent certainty, but the wine on the displays did not make Wine Enthusiast 90 point or higher ranking.  They are more for promotional value.  You may not get the best value for your purchase.

Taste, taste and taste some more – Remember wine store owners are joyous this time of year because they are making money! They want you to buy. They are going to offer FREE wine tastings at least once a week, if not more. Shop owners are hoping you will try it, you like it, you will buy it. I am not encouraging you to buy everything, but I am encouraging you to try everything. You cannot always know what you like by solely reading the label.  The bottle is open, try it.

Hope you have a safe, joyful, and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving from the Vino 301 Wine Concierge Team.

You can read more Vino 301’s blogs at Latest News.  Click here to subscribe to Vino 301’s blog.

Fall Foliage Excursions in Maryland’s Wine Country

Maryland’s Wine Country Fall Foliage Excursions

Delighted Maryland’s hot and humid summer is behind us; cooler days are gradually becoming our norm.  As the air turns cool and crisp, this region’s fall displays unforgettable foliage. Maryland’s Wine Country is the perfect back drop to view the leaves changing. October and November are peak season months.  Vino 301’s wine tours are idea for fall foliage viewing from the comfort of the car.  We spotlight a few tours and wines to sample.


Westminster Region Wine Tour & Wine, Beer and Spirits:  Beverage Adventure

Wine CountryWestminster Region Wine Tour expands beyond Westminster, MD.  Westminster is the most eastern point of the region and reaches west as far as Big Cork Vineyard  (Rohrersville, MD).  Big Cork Vineyard looks upon the mountains in Washington County.  The tasting room has breath taking views.  Enjoy sipping on Viognier during your visit. Viognier has become Maryland’s “IT” grape this season.  You will find it in several tasting rooms across the state.  Big Cork does it extremely well.  Viognier is clear and burgeoning on golden yellow. It is a dry wine with medium acid.  Immediately, aromas of apricot, peaches, and floral notes are detected.  Pear and honeysuckle are on the palate.  The finish is long and you cannot wait to take another sip. It is a very good wine.


Wine, Beer and Spirits: Beverage Adventure is Vino 301’s newest tour in the Westminster Region.  This is a journey takes you Mt. Airy to Thurmont, MD.  You travel through the rolling hills and you are at the foot of the Catoctin Mountains.    Travel in comfort as you literally drink in local wine, beer, spirits, history and culture of Maryland’s beverage industry.  You can select any combination of wine, beer, and spirits at the two vineyards we are visiting. Your tour begins when Vino 301 pick’s you up at one of our designated pick up locations. Your tasting adventure starts at  Linganore Winecellars and Red Shedman Farm Brewery & Hop Yard.   Linganore Wincellars is one of Maryland’s largest vineyards and home to Maryland’s newest brewery. Vino 301 completes the tour at Springfield Manor Winery & Distillery.  Springfield Manor offers fine wines, gin, rum and vodka.

Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid grape, has become Maryland’s native grape.  Springfield Manor’s Chambourcin 2013 is a favorite to have during autumn. It is a clean, ruby red dry wine.  By its color alone, you would expect high tannin.  Your expectations would be wrong.  It has medium tannins and acid, and traditional black fruit characteristics like black berries and currants.  Vanilla and clove spices on the nose.  When Sprispringfield-manor-chambourcinngfield first opened and released its first Chambourcin vintage was fair and had room for improvement.  Its current vintage is very good is shows complexity and winemaking maturity.


Patapsco Region Wine Tour & Chocolate and Wine Tour

Patapsco Region takes you to the heart of horse country in Baltimore County. The drive through this region is an array of spectacular tree-scape roads of yellow, orange and red. It is the perfect back drop to wine tasting.  Along this trail is Boordy Vineyard.  Boordy Vineyard’s Landmark Albariño 2015 was the 2016 Governor’s Cup Winner.  There is an emergence Albariño in Maryland you see in western Maryland as well as Baltimore. Boordy’s wine is a medium bodied, with notes fresh green apples, and grapefruit.  Clean, pale yellow appearance is crisp on the palate. Albariño typically high in acid, the Boordy Vineyard wine has medium acid. It is a very good wine.Wine Country


The Chocolate Wine Tour is located in the Patapsco Region.   Vino 301 visits Parfections (Cockeysville, MD).  ParfectionsParfections chocolate truffles and bark are paired with Maryland wine.  The wines served are selected from regions across the state.  As we like to say, “Your chocolate pairing is a trip through Maryland’s wine country without leaving your seat.” Parfections truffles are seasonal.  They have flavors like pumpkin spice, cranberry and walnut, and many more truffles.  Not to worry, they have the favorites like chocolate mousse, honeycomb, and dipped bacon in chocolate.

Family Friendly Independence Day Weekend Activities at Maryland Wineries

Tired of the traditional cookout, or going to the grandparents for Independence day? Try going to a Maryland winery or vineyard!  I know you wonder, what do I do with the kids?  No worries, bring the kids.  Yes, the wineries are indeed kid friendly. In fact, there will be many activities for the little one to participate in. The activities range from getting their faces painted, to arts and crafts, so let the kids enjoy themselves bounce while you indulge on some mouth-watering wines. In honor of our Independence Day, several wineries across the state will be hosting events. Here are a few events that will occur this weekend.Family Friendly Wineries


Don’t wait until Saturday to get the festivities started! Start a day early! On July 3, Basignani Winery having a movie night to kick things off.  Bring your blankets and lawn chairs and enjoy Mama Mia while sipping on some of their luscious wines. A small fee of $12 covers the movie, popcorn, and wine tasting.  This event will run from 6:00PM- 11:00PM on Friday night. Get your tickets today!


Join Big Cork Vineyard Saturday, from 2:00pm -5:00pm for their 4th  of July BBQ. They will have numerous food vendors loved by all. For the kids, they will have a bouncy house, balloon animals and face painting. Admission is free, so pack up your car and go! Moonbounce at Big Cork Vineyard


Running Hare Vineyard is hosting a fourth of July event also. Check out their 4th of July in the Vineyard. Enjoy Pizza Nocciano’s irresistible wood-fired pizza.  Running Hare Vineyard shares its home with Calvert’s Brewing Company.  Calvert’s Brewing Company’s will be serving beers.  Angie Miller will be performing live from 1:00PM-5:00PM, then from 6:00PM-10:00PM the Hot Buttered Nuggets will entertain you well into the night. A small price of $8 covers all of the beer and wine tastings as well as the live music.


Visit Maryland Wine Association for more information and to find an event near you this weekend.  Check out the site today! Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day celebration! DSCF1064

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