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.