We did it. The Maryland Wine Festival. All of them. Every single one. And we lived to tell the tale without even a hangover.
There's a disclaimer with that: we did every winery we could. Two were unattainable, please see the notes for details.
Let me back up. 6am every Saturday morning the dump truck arrives outside of my window and is very happy to be alive. Unfortunately I usually am inside, happy to be unconscious, and frequently in varying stages of a hangover. My slumber is typically disturbed by the truck and causes much aggrivation. This week was an exception as I was relying on the truck to wake me up and it did not fail me. Ah, the sweet sound of my burrito wrappers hitting the metal dump truck bottom. It's like nothing else, really. New Jersey, you are beautiful.
I dragged my sleepy boyfriend into the car. We hit up a hearty breakfast of pancakes at my favorite diner and headed out to the Hanover Parks' Household. Promptly at 1030am we arrived; promptly at 11:09am we left their home for the vino fiesta.
The 2010 Maryland Wine Festival was held at the Carroll County Farm Museum. Traffic was crazy getting in there and it took us almost half an hour for us to get parked. Half an hour is an eternity for a car with a gas warning light that reads "six miles left in the tank". Thankfully we made it through the traffic without having to call AAA.
(Wine Tents from the outside)
(The Carroll County Farm Museum)
We entered the event, stashed our picnicking stuff for after tasting, and booked it to the wine tents. Armed with the list of vendors, I took notes on every tent we went to. Here's what I've got, in order of visitation. Note: You paid for your ticket to get in and that covered your tastings for the entire day. However many of the wineries had some of their higher quality/specialty wines only available for an additional $1 for a taste. Acronyms: WP = Wine Pourer, UM = Uncle Michael
(2/3 of the group, Tracy, Mike, UM, Shannon)
1 Little Ashby Vineyards – The chardonnay was sweet; the Pinot Noir was the best I had the entire day. Mike paid for the $1 tasting of the Cab, which to me, didn’t top the Pinot. In my opinion the WPs were unfriendly, but maybe it was just the extreme crowd and the heat.
At this point in the game, Jonaid required food so we took a detour to the Philly Cheesesteak tent, where the employee was wearing a steelers hat. The girl behind me also announced she was a steelers fan. It was like a miniature iron city convention.
2 Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery – Our WP Shawn was very welcoming. My top choice was the chardonnay; it was very oaky and smooth.
3 Frederick Cellars – Tracy and Mike instantly enjoyed the Reisling. Mike also read their wine list and noted that “As an Orioles fan, any wine with the name Orioles in it must be tried.” Shannon, Mike, and Tracy all enjoyed that wine, named the “Eye of the Oriole.” Again, too sweet for me. Tracy ended up getting a bottle of their chardonnay.
4 Running Hare Vineyard – Shannon declared the Jack Rabbit White to be her “absolute favorite”. I was impressed with the Pinot Grigio, but did miss out on some tasting here as there was a Philly Cheesesteak disaster spill nearby that I needed to attend to.
5 Penn Oaks Winery – I could smell the cabernet simply from being poured into Jonaid’s glass. We both agreed it tasted like no cabernet either of us have ever had before. Someday I’d like to try more of that to see if I can pinpoint all of the flavors. Shannon loved the Rose. Leibfraumilch was described as “Mother’s Milk” by the WP, but it was too sweet for me. The Mosel was bland.
6 Knob Hall Winery – As it is the “Home of the Jealous Mistress” Jonaid and I were eager to try it. I always say Jonaid’s coral/fish tank is his real wife and I’m only the mistress because both his time and money go into it. Anyway the mistress was only alright in my book, but I loved the chambourcin.
7 Woodhall Wine Cellars – The WP here noticed my nameplate necklace. I asked for the Parkton wine (name resemblence anyone?), loved it, and recommended it to all around me. The WP laughed and said, “Carinne has to have it!” Jonaid also enjoyed all of their wines.
8 Legends Vineyard – Our WP wore a WVU hat and we gave him grief for working instead of watching the game. He laughed and said he was keeping up with the score still, and that WVU was currently winning. The wines here have won many awards and it is understandable as all were very well done.
9 Tilmon’s Island Winery – The chambourcin had a predominant licorice flavor, which is a taste I don’t usually encounter so strongly in this type of wine. Licorice rarely sits well with me and it did not work for my taste buds here. Girls at this tasting tent kept talking to Mike, who enjoyed trying the white wines with them.
10 Dove Valley Vineyards & Winery – I walked up to this tent and saw its wines had won many MD Governor’s Cup and Finger Lakes International Competition awards. Instantly I was excited, especially after last weekend’s trip to Alba, which had so many similar titles and was fantastic. Our WP laughed at my enthusiasm. I’m sorry to admit I was disappointed with all that I tried, mostly because I had such high expectations. I think this is one on my list that I would like to revisit the winery itself in person in the future to give it a second shot.
11 Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard – What a fantastic name. Who doesn’t need a bit of Sugarloaf in their lives? Certainly is better than my mum’s Meatloaf. Circe was my choice here, a very unique blend that wasn’t too dry and had a distinct flavor.
12 Far Eastern Shore Winery – Here were many sweeter fruit wines. The Strawberry Wine (Swan’s Blush) was very sweet but refreshing; Shannon bought two bottles of it. The blackberry wine (Black Swan Rouge) hit Mike’s favor and he got a bottle of it. The cranberry (Autumn Swan Blanc), as always, for those who are avoiding UTIs but want a buzz (just kidding). All wines here did not taste of alcohol. Also, now I have noticed I wrote down the wine’s description but not the actual wine names. From their website I have my best guess of the wine names, noted in parenthesis here.
13 Serpent Ridge Vineyard – Unplanned and ironic that the snake winery was our unlucky 13th on Saturday, and it certainly was sinfully good. Wines were named with the serpent theme, including a Basilisk which is not named after Harry Potter. The WP explained here that most wines are named after the grape but blends are given creative names since they have multiple grapes. Here was another $1 cabernet that we tried as the WP claimed it is the “best cabernet in the USA”. A bottle of this totals to$37 but both Jonaid and I agreed it may have been one of the best cabernets we have had in a very long time. We were not let down by the claim.
14 Perigeaux Vineyards & Winery – Cabernet was stunning. The bottles I saw on this list were mostly above $18.
15 Thanksgiving Farm – The Farmhouse Red here smelled oddly like syrup, but was very tasty and not too sweet. Bottles of the Farmhouse were on sale for $7.50 apiece, making it the cheapest bottle we saw.
16 Port of Leonardtown Winery – UM, Mike, Jonaid and I agreed this is a best buy. The quality of the wine was fabulous and we gawked at how inexpensive they were. The McIntosh Apple Wine was distinct and full of apple flavor, but I didn’t shudder at the sweetness.
17 Galloping Goose Vineyard – At this point in the game we meet Stranger Ben, who came up and started talking to Jonaid. “What’s the choice here?” he asked. I piped in and explained the Blueberry was very acceptable for a fruit wine. He marched up to the counter and asked for a tasted. Stranger Ben’s review was 7.2/10.
We chatted with Stranger Ben for a bit, but things got a bit weird as he started putting his arm around Jonaid. We parted ways here politely. At this point in the day Jonaid notes he was “feeling a buzz” but felt that it being winery #17 that it was respectable.
18 Terrapin Station – This was the all-boxed wine tent. One box is equal to two bottles of wine but is about the price of one bottle of wine. I had the Cayuga White but it was too sweet. The Shiraz was tangy. I loved their name of the port, “Better Red than Dead”, but I’m not a fan of ports and didn’t venture into trying it.
19 Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery – Fabulous wines for the prices. All were within the $10-20 range and were worth the values being asked.
20 Orchid Cellar – Mainly dessert wines here, which went well for the sweet wine drinkers in the group. Jonaid enjoyed giving these a shot, which is surprising as he usually only has dry tastes.
21 DeJon Vineyards – All wines tried were easy going down for the entire group, and we have varying tastes across the board. This is a good choice if you’re having a dinner party and want something to make the masses happy.
22 Cassinelli Winery & Vineyards – They had three wines, two were merlots and the third was a “chocolate kiss”, made from merlot and South American cocoa. You can distinctly taste both the chocolate and wine, but it was far too sweet for my tastes. Jonaid enjoyed it.
23 Harford Vineyard – The shirt on this WP read “nice rack” with a picture of a wine rack on it. When UM and Mike both read that to her, her face turned three shades of merlot. Her name was Jennifer and she was terrifically friendly. Her pick of wine was the Piedmont Pleasure, which was too sweet for me. She was honest though in saying her husband is a home winemaker and his personal blends are her preference.
24 Deep Creek Cellars – The WP’s shirt had three glasses of wine on it and read “Group Therapy”. Tracy, without realizing she was reading her shirt and not the wine list, walked up and asked for a glass of Group Therapy. Tracy was sober. Here, we tried a number of wines available, with the most memorable being the Blanc, as our WP explained “Blancs have more fun,” which I enjoyed a lot but Tracy was not impressed with. Going to their website I see a recipe for Pizza that I look forward to trying.
25 Friday’s Creek – All bottles were $11. The wines I tasted I enjoyed except for the Concord which was too sweet. Tracy got a bottle of the Traminette.
It is at Friday’s Creek where we run into the elusive WVU girls that we had been seeing all day. Jonaid spotted them early on and kept an eye out for them because he thought they were cute, but when we were next to them I started a conversation. Everything they said was in unison as if it were a tape recording. Some girls are just as bland as some grapes.
This ends the first half of our tasting. We took a food break at this point. I got a crab pretzel ($9 of heaven) and Jonaid got a pulled pork sandwich. Twice he dropped his fork and got a new one before succumbing to the five second rule. The woman next to us explained when she is not in public she extends her five second-rule to fifteen-seconds. Something to consider.
26 Cove Point Winery- The first winery after our break and after a diet coke, which I hope didn’t ruin my taste buds. The symphony was refreshing. I also tested my first sangria of the day and enjoyed it immensely.
27 Cygnus Wine Cellars – We tasted all of the wines here, but I was most impressed with the Cygnus Red. The flavor was fantastic and for $12 it is a remarkable find. The Cabernet was the WP’s favorite here, which we tried and agreed it was good, but the attractive price on the Red made it more appealing. It was also at this point I accidentally shot my hairtie across at another WP, who pretended he had been mortally wounded before returning it to me. I’m twenty-four years old and am still entertained by this kind of silliness.
28 St. Michael’s Winery – It is here that I learned what a Gollywobbler is, both in “real life” and in terms of this winery. The Gollywobblers here are a sweet wine but the sugar isn’t overpowering. There is still a lot of flavor and I could see Alex really enjoying this. I vied my best for UM to buy a shirt from here, but he said they were in chick colors. Maybe next time.
29 Solomans Island Winery – “Aint nothing but the blue” blueberry here was the favorite out of our tasting group. Additionally the label on the bottles were very impressive.
30 Fiore Winery & Distillery - Approaching their tent we noted their sign that read “Maryland Wine with an Italian Accent”. Another taster stepped away from the tent and commented his wine tasted like a “granny apple on a stick”, but I couldn’t tell if that was meant as good or bad. We volunteered Mike to try the High Heeled Slipper, just because of the name. After his first sip he was in love and bought a bottle. To me, it was too sweet, but to each their own.
31 Basignani Winery – UM commented that two years ago he bought a bottle of Seyval from here while at the festival. Trying the Seyval again, we were unimpressed. On the other hand, the reds here were mostly quite tasty to me. With a price of $11.75 you couldn’t beat it. My pick was the Piccolo and was one of my favorites all day; on the other hand the Cabernet was very sharp and distasteful to me. On top of the tasting our WP had a ton of personality. She jokingly gave UM some lip about his lit cigar, saying her baby was going to be born with 1 eye. “Your baby!” I exclaimed, shocked she was pregnant. Turned out she was 37 years old and on her fifth child. She looked great for her age.
32 Linganore Winecellars / Berrywine Plantations – at first I was horrified because I couldn’t find Linganore on the provided list, but it was noted under “Berrywine” (very misleading). Linganore is the native home to my good friend Chloe, and I’ve been to this winery’s music festivals before with my family (RIP UM’s blackberry, lost in fall 2007). The wines are still a bit sweet for me, but I’ll always love their vineyard for the atmosphere and beauty of the winery.
33 Elk Run Vineyards – A good friend of mine is from the town of this winery, and her mother is named Katharine. Is it simply a coincidence this winery has a wine named Sweet Katharine? I think not. Anyway, yes, it was very sweet like the title described. It is recommended to be used to make Sangria.
34 Boordy Vineyards – As we walked up Jonaid commented, “This winery has abstract art labels. They’re probably expensive.” UM replied, “The great thing about abstract art is that you don’t have to get it.” We continued into the tent to meet Earl, our female pourer. UM was in shock and asked her if her name was really Earl, or if there was a name tag mixup. She laughed and explained it was short for Earlene, her mother’s dad. This winery wins my best label award of the day and also another good value award. The wines I tried were well defined and very reasonably priced. Also if you’re in the area they have “ladies night” events, so girls! Look it up!
35 Cascia Vineyards – (the sign read “Mark Cascia Vineyards”) All wine tasted was excellent. The pourers were somewhat inefficient at handling a large crowd as they devoted their entire attention to only one customer at a time. I waited in the owner’s line for some time before I noticed he was talking to the woman in front of me about traveling as he poured her wine. I switched to the other side, where another WP was doing similarly. I think if I were to visit the winery itself, I would love this kind of personalized attention and ability to discuss; however here, it was too time consuming.
36 Black Ankle Vineyards – Only at the premier tent (an extra $30. Money’s tight. It got cut.)
37 Slack Winery – the one we couldn’t find, but it is noted to be “in the giant tent”. I even double-checked for it. Failure on our part.
The voluntary breathalyzer as we were exiting the event resulted in a 0.03 for Mike and a 1.2 for me. I think the 1.2 for me may have been inaccurate because I think I'd be dead, and also I didn't feel more than buzzed. Luckily I was not driving regardless.
In addition to wine there were a number of food tents, crafts/vendors, and wine courses. I didn't take the classes because I believe in my tried and true, "Do you like it?" method. If I am to return next year, I think I'd try to come earlier in the day to allow time to see what the classes are all about. Tracy and Shannon bought a few things from the craft vendors, and the Maryland crabs were enjoyed by all.
The whole day was a blast. We met many more fellow wine tasters, fabulous pourers, and loved the music. For $22 this is an amazing wine opportunity. My one complaint is the attitude of some of the event employees themselves. These people were not the winery associates, but were the personnel running the whole show and were remarkably unfriendly. As the day neared ending I was looking for a few final tents to finish my tour. Two employees were both quite impatient and rude when I asked for help, and one woman was very nice but was on her cell phone with a personal call for more than a few minutes as I waited. Other than that, perfect day.
Learning for next year, I'll bring a hat and my spare liver.