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.
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.