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Jaw Dropping Gifts: 2017 Wine Gift Giving Guide

2017 Wine Gift Giving Guide:  Jaw Dropping Gifts


“What do you want for Christmas?” are the six words that always stop me in my tracks.  Not because I am a scrooge or I do not like exchanging gifts.  On the contrary, I love the holidays and giving gifts to friends and family.  I love the look of joy and the smiles a perfectly selected gift brings.  Well then, why does “What do you want for Christmas?” bring on temporary paralyze?  It is stuff.  The thought of having more stuff.  I don’t want more stuff.  Stuff adds clutter to my overly generous furnished home.  I prefer to give experiences to people.  Something they hopefully enjoy doing, which will create lasting memories.  The jaw dropping gifts list is composed of items or experiences that will create memories for your wine lover.


Wine Stocking Stuffers and Small Presents


photo credit: Tasha Dooley

WineCream is homemade ice cream and wine.  The WineCream creators did the impossible.  They made dessert better.  They improved everyone’s frozen dessert by adding wine.  Located in Baltimore City, WineCream has a tasting room where you witness their unique process of making the ice cream and delight in tasting their fruity wine ice cream.  You can schedule private tastings.  Your visit includes a tour of the historical industrial building, ice demonstration and a tasting. They have seasonal flavors like Apple Pie, Caramel Pie and Peach Cobbler.  You taste between 4 and 6 ice creams.   If you not interested in the onsite tasting, WineCream does ship locally.  $15 for tasting fees,  $14.99 pint of ice cream (Shipping not included) purchased online WineCream


Make Your Own Wine

While sipping a glass of Pinot Noir do you ever say to yourself, “I could make this”?  We found a place that allows you to get your wish. The Urban Winery (Silver Spring, MD) offers wine making classes.   Here is your chance to show off your inner winemaker.  You can geek out over the whole wine making experience.  The wine classes are small… you and 5 of your favorite people are the average size group.   It is a two part experience.  During your first visit, you select the varietal and make the wine with the resident winemaker.  About 10 – 14 weeks later, you go back to The Urban Winery to bottle, cork and label your wine. When it is all said and done, you make approximately six gallons or 3 cases of wine.  Call or email The Urban Winery to book your event $500 – $700 per group


photo credit: Urban Winery

29 Bottle Wine Cooler

A couple years ago my brother gave me a wine chiller refrigerator for Christmas.  He immediately became my favorite brother. (By the way, he is my only sibling).  It has the dual temperature settings for white and red wines.  It is conveniently stored in my basement where I cellar my wine. The chiller’s compressor cycles, as a result it can be a little loud and expends a lot of energy are the only draw backs.  I heard similar concerns expressed by other chiller owners.  So, when NewAir contacted me about testing their 29-Bottle Black Stainless Wine Cooler, I had reservations.  How could this be different then my current wine frig?   In the name of wine, I gave it a try.

photo credit: NewAir


Immediately, I noticed NewAir 29 wine bottle cooler is a fourth slimmer than mine. Interesting.  It holds the same number of bottles, but it is slimmer.  The cooler is a sleek black stainless-steel model. It is perfect for people who do not have a lot of space, but need to accommodate at least two cases of wine. It has similar functionality, like dual temperature controls and adjustable wood rack trays, as in my current one.  However, it is noticeably quieter. I did not hear the compressor cycling. NewAir is energy efficient.  An unexpected surprise, was the lock.  I can secure the cooler. This feature is great for people with kids and keeping wine in the “right” hands.  I hope I do not lock myself out.  I look forward to filling my new wine cooler and the new experiences each wine bottle will bring.  The nice people at NewAir is offering a discount to Vino 301 followers.  Use code VINO for 20% off the NewAir AWR-290DB-B Black Stainless Wine Cooler when you are purchasing online.  $829.95 NewAir.com


Wine & Cheese Tour

Wine and cheese tourCheese frequently comes to mind when you think of serving wine.  So why not have cheese during your wine tour?  Vino 301 is offering a Wine and Cheese tour in 2018.  Your adventure begins with a cheese and wine pairing, where Romano’s finest wines will be paired with P.A. Bowen Farmstead (Brandywine, MD) award-winning raw milk artisan cheeses.  Romano Vineyard and Winery produces handcrafted award-winning wines from their estate grown grapes and grapes from custom growers.   PA Bowen make award-winning raw milk artisan cheeses, and we are a pasture-based sustainable farm.   Your next destination will take you to one of southern Prince George’s County local vineyards (Robin Hill Farm & Vineyards, JaneMark Winery &Vineyard, or Gemeny Winery & Vineyard). $115 per person.  Wine & Cheese Tour

Discovering Piedmont Wine Trail

Piedmont Wine Trail

wine trails 

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.


Fiore WInery & Distillery

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.

Prize Package Give Away

Four Very Unique Wine Trails

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.

Marylands wine trails


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.

Serpent Ridge

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.


Wine, Ice Cream = A New Way to Enjoy Wine at the Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival

The Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival was a lively day filled with great opportunities to explore the vast world of food and wine. Located in Hunt Valley, Maryland, the Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival was a huge success. Friends and families from across the state gathered together to taste the delicious food and wines the vendors had to offer. The food ranged from Caribbean beef patties to Good ol’ American burgers. And yes, they did have an ice cream station for the children. They also provided live music for everyone to enjoy. The music played consisted of classic rock to old school funk.


The vendor that stood out the most was WineCream. Man was it interesting! We all know that wine can be used for many purpose, like a base in a cocktail. Who knew that you could make wine ice cream?!?  WineCream has done it! You may ask yourselves how does it work? Well, first, you pick your wine. Lets say mixed berry for example. Then you mix it with an Ice cream base. Once you have done that it is flashed frozen with liquid nitrogen. And there you have it! A delicious 6 ounce cup of wine ice cream that contains the same alcohol content as a normal glass of wine.




Crossroad Company, creators of WineCream, is a small family-run business of Baltimore, Maryland.  They make their delicious creams made to order, so every serving of WineCream has a distinct twist and unique flavor loved by all. Check out Crossroad Company’s website to find out what festival their scrumptious WineCream will be next http://www.crossroadco.com/schedule/.


The combination of great food, delicious wines, and exhilarating music resulted in the Great Grapes Wine and Food Festival complete success. If you are interested in attending another event like this, visit the Maryland Wine Association Festival page for more Maryland festivals. Click here for details Maryland Wine Festivals.

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