Piedmont Wine Trail
Most people who have ever visited a Maryland winery have traveled along the Piedmont Wine Trail. The Piedmont Wine Trail is home to the oldest vineyard and attracts over 80,000 visitors a year. The Trail’s attraction may be due to its diversity. It is pleasing to a variety of palates. Wine, spirits, cider, mead and ice cream, yes I said ice cream, can be found along the Piedmont Wine Trail. The Trail’s setting is another element of its attraction. Spanning from Baltimore City to Harford County, it attracts both sides of the coin… those who enjoy an urban tasting experience as well as those who prefer a traditional countryside wine tasting. Let’s begin our journey discovering the Piedmont Wine Trail:
Basgnani Winery (Sparks, MD)
Boordy Vineyards (Hydes, MD)
CharmCity Mead Works (Baltimore, MD)
Dejon Vineyard (Hydes, MD)
Fiore Winery & Distillery ( Pylesville, MD)
Harford Vineyard (Forest Hill, MD)
Millstone Cellars (Monkton, MD)
Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery ( Havre de Grace)
Royal Rabbit Vineyards (Parkton, MD)
WineCream (Baltimore, MD)
Traveling the Trail
People often forgot vineyards are farms. They are small family-owned farms. You witness this when you travel the Piedmont trail. Beautiful acres of vineyards, corn and other crops native to Maryland. The tasting rooms are quaint, cozy places like Basignani Winery and Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery. The venues are often staffed by family members. This is kinda cool. The staff works side by side the winemaker. The winemaker is also pouring wine in the tasting room. You can meet Roy Albin, Royal Rabbit’s wine maker when you visit. Tasting room staff are able to give you first hand account of the wine making process. You get interesting stories about whats in the bottle. You will never get by reading the back of the bottle.
Redefining Dessert Wine
Sherry, Port, Maderia, Ice Wine are the styles of dessert wines commonly mentioned when people discuss dessert wines. Ice cream is sometimes accompany these dessert wines. But, what about ice cream wine. Your dessert wine is ice cream. Wine is one of the main ingredients of this homemade gourmet ice cream. Just because they use wine in the ice cream, how does this make the Piedmont Wine Trail? WineCream makes the wine, they are winemakers. You cannot buy the wine independently. The wine is made to use in the ice cream. It is Maryland’s first and only winery and creamery.
Prior to this year, you could only try WineCream at wine festivals or private tastings. WineCream officially opened its tasting room early this summer. Located in west Baltimore City in a historic industrial building, it is like other tasting rooms. You are guided through their tasted menu during your visit. You must make an appointment and 21 years and older to try the boozy delight.
Maryland’s Oldest Vineyard
Boordy Vineyard is the oldest commercial vineyard in Maryland. Yes, Maryland winemaking has been around since 16th century, but Boordy Vineyard has been operating consistent for over 70 years. It is widely popular its summer concerts brings hundreds of people to the vineyard on a weekly basis. It is great family fun. You can bring a picnic, the kids, and your friends. Buy your ticket in advance; the concerts usually sell out.
What brings hundreds of people to these concerts? The music is great. The bands are fun cover bands but you are not going to see headliners like Beyonce. So what is it? It is the wine. Boordy has a three tier wine series. There is something for everyone. Sweetland is Boordy’s sweet wine series, like Sangria, Jazzberry and peach wine. Boordy has a table wine series, known as the Maryland Icons. Sketchings of iconic Maryland symbols such as the crane, oriole and blue crab are on the wine labels. The Icon series has dry and semi-dry wines. The last series is the Landmark series. It is Boordy’s reserve wines. Your serious wine drinkers would have appreciation for the Landmark wines.
Ciders and Meads
Cider and mead evoke thoughts of New Year’s Eve sparkling aperitif. The cider reserved for the designated driver. Well…erase those thoughts from your mind. CharmCity Mead Works and Millstone Cellars ciders and meads are dry. You may find a semi-dry on their tasting menus, which is the closest you will get to New Year’s cider. The ciders and meads are contemporary, even trendy. So trendy, the beverages are used in cocktails in DC’s hotest restaurants. Unlike many Maryland wines, these meads and ciders are widely distributed. You can find them in many grocery stores, fine wine stores, and restaurants.
CharmCityMead Works taproom is moving to a new location on Preston Street in Baltimore City. The taproom new location is scheduled to open late September or early October. When you visit you can enjoy mead tastings and a tour.
A mile or two before you arrive at Millstone Cellars you will notice cars parked along the roadway. People abandon their cars to tube or to kayak along Gunpowder River. The River runs under Millstone Cellars building. The building is a historic mill. Millstone offers a tour of the mill to everyone. The staff shares with you during the tour how the building was used by bootleggers during Prohibition. The mill is just as interesting as Millstone’s cider and cysers. The ciders are gluten free and vegan friendly. They locally source the apples and fruits. Ginger, rhubarb, and strawberry are some of the fruit and spices used as accents in the ciders. You can try a flight of ciders or a glass on tap. Take a visit to Millstone. You must experience the Mill at least once.
Distillery and Tradition
Fiore Winery and Distillery is known for its traditional Italian-style wine. They have been making wine for over 30 years. While you are visiting Fiore try their distilled spirits. True to their Italian heritage, they offer Italian spirits like Grappa, an after dinner drink, and Limoncello, Italian liqueur. I encourage to try them after your wine tasting. It will top off your visit. In addition to the Grappa and Limoncello, Fiore offers other spirits. Whisky, Brandy and Vodka are also on the menu.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Legacy Wine Trail
Maryland’s newest wineries are in Prince George’s County. The latest winery is opening fall 2017. Brandywine, MD is home to many of Prince George’s County vineyards. Former tobacco farms are now thriving vineyards. The wineries are close in proximity, so you can visit them all in the same day. Romano Vineyard, Robin Hill Farms, JaneMark Vineyard and Gemeny Vineyard make up the Legacy Wine Trail.
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.
I am a self-professed wino. I am not alone. There are hundreds probably millions of people who are equally passionate about wine if not more. Another beverage would not compare. When offered a beer or whiskey, we politely turn up our nose.
So why am I writing about adding a Maryland distillery to your wine travels? No, I have not been sitting in the sun too long. Spirits tasting is very similar to wine tasting. Adding a whiskey or rum tasting along your wine travels will be a pleasant surprise.
Here are three reasons why you should try to visit a Maryland distillery.
- Spirits and wine are more alike than you think
Wines share the same characteristics as spirits. For example, Nebbiolo or Barolo are full-bodied Italian reds that have a wide range of aromas and flavors. You will find those similar aromas and flavors in many whiskeys. Compare for yourself at Cassinelli Winery and Distillery (Chestertown, MD). Sample Cassinelli’s 2010 Barbera Reserve and its Corn Whiskey and see if you detect the same flavor notes. Sauvignon Blanc has similar botanical notes like gin. Tell the tasting room host what characteristics you enjoy in wine, this will help them serve you a rum, whiskey or gin with those similar notes.
- Spirits can be sweet or dry
Just like wine…spirits can be produced to be sweet or dry. Gin, specifically, has this versatility. Adding flavor agents can achieve complexity, and entirely unique flavor profile. Springfield Winery & Distillery (Thurmont, MD) uses these techniques to enhance the tasting experience. Springfield’s vodka and gin are infused with lavender. The lavender is subtle distraction from gin’s traditional juniper flavor.
- Spirits tasting is available at your traditional wine tasting
If you do not want to choose between wine or spirits, you do not have to. You can do both at Fiore Winery & Distillery (Pylesville, MD). Fiore is the quintessential Italian winery (in Maryland). Mike and Rose Fiore, owners and winemakers, have been making wine for over 30 years. Visiting Fiore Winery and Distillery is like taking a trip to a Tuscan countryside. After your wine tasting you are treated to Limoncello or Grappa. Both are liqueurs served as an after dinner drink. You experience traditions of Italy along your entire visit to this Maryland distillery.
Give it a try and visit a Maryland distillery. Email me or post your comments and let me know about your experience. Will you add local spirits to your wine travels?