WESTMINSTER - A hearty crop of oenophiles is expected to cluster at the Carroll County Farm Museum next weekend, to raise a toast to state-grown grapes at the Maryland Wine Festival.
Though rain dampened the grounds during last year's festival, the two-day event still attracted 15,000 hearty spirits from across the state and mid-Atlantic region, said Jean Scott, program coordinator at the Farm Museum.
"We're hoping for more cooperation from the weather and even better attendance," she said.
The Maryland Wine Festival, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, marks its seventh annual celebration showcasing the state's commercial wine industry.
Daily admission of $10 for adults 21 and over includes an engraved wine glass, 10 one-ounce samples of the finest vintages produced by Maryland wineries, wine-tasting seminars and tours of the historic farm museum.
Eleven Maryland vineyards are participating in the festival. The four from the Carroll area are Montbray Wine Cellars Ltd. in Silver Run, and Lowe's Vineyards, Berrywine Plantation and Elk Run Vineyard Inc., all near Mount Airy.
Fred Wilson, owner of Elk Run near Taylorsville, said the 1990 grape crop grown in the gently sloping, four-acre vineyard he has tended since 1980 "looks good."
He and his wife, Carol, harvest red and white Vinifera varieties that produce chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet sauvignon, and others.
G. Hamilton Mowbray, owner and operator of Montbray Wine Cellars Ltd. for 26 years, says the grape crop from his 12 acres is small this year, but of good quality.
He said the heat and drought of 1988, excess rain in 1989 and an overabundance of birds and deer this year have led to a reduced crop for the third year in a row.
Growers are busy nearly year round in Maryland's vineyards. Pruning commences in late winter. In early spring, vines are tied to the trellis. Spraying and weeding throughout the summer leads into harvesting by hand from mid-September to mid-October.
Festival visitors will be able to taste the final product and get tips on how to put their taste buds to best use at seminars conducted by Westminster's Emily and Jack Johnston, who started the county chapter of the American Wine Society 10 years ago.
Jack will teach, in hour-long sessions, what to look for, how to judge quality and how to taste wine. And if you want your corn cob, dandelion wine or other home vintage analyzed, they can do that, too.
Emily and her crew of experts will evaluate amateurs' products and offer positive criticism and written evaluation along with a score and certificate.
Think you can stomp more juice out of a tub of grapes than anyone else? Volunteers will have a chance to try their feet each afternoon.
Festival-goers may also tour the Farm Museum's historic 19th-century mansion, which features 1800s furnishings and memorabilia. Nearby barns and sheds displaying tools, implements and relics offer a glimpse of a bygone era of rural life.
Visitors can explore 140 acres of green lawns and lush shade trees, hike woodland trails and enjoy demonstrations of tinsmithing, spinning, bird-carving, basket-making, weaving, quilting, blacksmithing and broom-making by Farm Museum craftsmen.
Twenty-seven vendors will offer handmade items from jewelry to baskets, said Scott.
Jugglers Mike Kushla and Herb Reising and violinist Leroy Heine will stroll the grounds, adding sparkle to the atmosphere.
Visitors will not go hungry, as every manner of culinary delicacy will be offered as an accompaniment to the fine wines.
"There'll be everything from fried chicken to gourmet cheeses," Scott said.
Thirty-one food booth operators will tempt appetites with tasty cuisines ranging from hors d'oeuvres, salads, sandwiches and seafood platters to raw bar, pit beef, pastries and international favorites.
Among local establishments serving up delicacies, McDaniel's offers seafood chowder and surf and turf; Fiori, soft-shell crab; Captain's Quarters, french-fried vegetables and chocolate strawberries; Yen's, Vietnamese food; Teresa Gertner, Hungarian pastries; Maggie's, Cajun pork sandwiches and crab soup; Friendly Farm, crab cakes; Champ's, raw bar and pit beef; and Dorothea's Breads features a "plowman's lunch."
The Carroll County Farm Museum is at 500 S. Center St., Westminster. Information: 848-7775 or 876-2667.