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Winery Trip: Maryland’s Eastern Shore

January 22, 2010

Barrel room at Bordeleau WineryLast weekend, we hopped in the car for a little road trip across Maryland’s Bay Bridge to the Delmarva Peninsula. Although predominantly agricultural, the region hosts ony a small – albeit growing – number of wineries. Our itinerary took us about three hours East from central Maryland to Bordeleau Winery near Salisbury, MD before turning back West toward Easton, MD-area St. Michael’s Winery on the way home.

Let’s take a look at our experiences with these two vintners.

Bordeleau Winery

Head winemaker Tom planted the first vines at Bordeleau’s sprawling estate in 1999. From the earth to the bottle, every step in the wine production process occurs on the estate – quite an investment, particularly from a financial standpoint, for a startup! That level of commitment, however, shines through in the finished product. It’s also a rare treat among a state industry still working to find a foothold, as many Maryland wineries outsource these tasks.

On to the wines! We were fortunate to have the place to ourselves on a fine Saturday afternoon and enjoyed a good conversation with our pourer about some of the interesting blends and new vintages. Their top-selling, semi-dry Wicomico Red blend would make decent everyday table wine, but our favorites were the white dry vidal (interesting Apricot notes) and the dry, peppery Merlot (check out my review of their 2006 Merlot from a couple weeks back). We also sampled the newly-released 2008 unoaked Chardonnay, their first all-steel chard. Disclosure: I love the smooth, buttery taste of oak, so this one wasn’t my favorite.

All in all, we left the Bordeleau estate impressed and refreshed after the long drive down MD Route 50. If you decide to make the trip yourself, watch out for the spotty Google directions once you leave the highway, as new construction and sparse signage make the home stretch a bit confusing.

Find directions, hours, and more information at bordeleauwine.com.

St. Michaels Winery

Unlike Bordeleau, St. Michaels [sic; there’s no apostrophe in their name] produces and bottles their wine but does not grow their own vines. Many of their wines do include or feature Maryland grapes, while others use more distant fruit, such as their California Cabernet Sauvignon. Their tasting room, located closer to Washington, DC and Annapolis, played host to several groups that afternoon and we missed the personal attention of a typical winery visit.

Some of the stronger wines we tasted included the aforementioned CA Cabernet (although it runs somewhat counter to our mission here at the Project), their Chenin Blanc, and an excellent Reserve Cabernet made exclusively with Maryland grapes. Unfortunately, the latter of these did not come home with us due to a sticker price double that of the better Bordeleau offerings. If dessert wines are more your thing, St. Michael’s is known for a wine perfect for your sweet tooth: their Chocolate Zinfandel.

Overall, I’d have to say the top wines from St. Michaels compared very favorably with anything we’ve tried in the region. The dessert offerings also stand out from a glut average fruit wines produced around the state. However, beyond those heavy hitters, I found the overall lineup lacked the depth of quality selections found elsewhere.

Find directions, hours, and more information at st-michaels-winery.com.

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