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Chesapeake Bay and Great Grapes Wine Festival

June 7, 2010

Two weeks after the first major Maryland wine festival of the year – Wine in the Woods – I headed out to scenic Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay for the aptly named Chesapeake Bay Wine Festival. Since this is also a Maryland Wine Association-sponsored festival, many of the same wineries appeared on the guest list. A couple notable additions: Port of Leonardtown Winey and Mark Cascia Vimeyard, two wineries on opposite sides of the bay. Port of L-town opened for business within the last month, while the latter winery has been bottling for some time but only attends some of the regular festivals.

The following weekend (June 12-13), we hit the Great Grapes festival at Oregon Ridge Park, just north of Baltimore on I-83. While a third-party promoter puts on this festival, giving it a different vibe than the MD Wine Association-run events, the lineup still featured all local wineries. This is a little different from the event by the same name held in July at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, which offers a more national/international selection from large-scale distributors.

Each festival presented a stark contrast to the theme park-like atmosphere often seen at the larger festivals. If you aren’t into the crowds at Wine in the Woods or the Maryland Wine Festival, this might be a perfect alternative for you. Not only were the pouring stations far more accessible, I had several opportunities to engage some interesting conversations with principles from some of the wineries. Special thanks to everyone I spoke with! If I listed out all the names, I’d run over my word count. 🙂

Here are some of my notable finds from the two festivals, which I look forward to enjoying soon:

  • Knob Hall Winery, Chambourcin: Not usually my favorite grape because it typically comes off with strong cherry notes (yuck), I really loved this one. Almost more like a merlot or cab franc. This is a relatively new winery with a strong focus on the grape; many of their wines are either all or some part Chambourcin.
  • Port of Leonardtown, Vidal Blanc: It’s already won some awards (but then, lots of wine does) and will serve as a nice, balanced table wine. Similar to a chardonnay but with a much more locally-viable grape.
  • Bordeleau, Chardonnay: Speaking of Chardonnay. They actually offer three at the moment, a barrel-fermented, California style with lots of oak; an oak/steel blend; and a completely unoaked. Although it’s trendy to make a ‘non-California’ chard right now, I’m a sucker for that oak finish so the all-barrel version wins for me.
  • Terrapin Station, Better Red than Dead: Post-style wine in a box. This is a new one from them, released since Wine in the Woods. It isn’t overly sweet, but like any port is better saved for a cool evening in front of a warm fire.
  • Orchid Cellars, Hunter and Archer: Wouldn’t be another Maryland wine festival without the chance to mention these excellent meads. Hunter leaves a spicy taste, while the archer is still dark and smooth but a little more mellow. Can’t wait for them to open a tasting room (hint, hint)!

Didn’t make it this year? Mark your calendar for 2011 now! And don’t forget to make your plans for the Maryland Wine Festival the weekend of September 18-19. There’s also the Annapolis Great Grapes festival the weekend of July 24-25; although not strictly a local wine festival, they will have some MD and VA wineries on site.

**This article is cross-posted at vinotrip.com. I will post on both sites for the rest of June as we permanently merge the two sites on the vinotrip website. Please update your bookmarks, RSS feeds, etc.

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