Vintners, guzzlers at fest Participants learn of hops and grapes

July 27, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Twelve years ago, Jerry Deal cleared the sheep from his 5-acre farm near Morgantown, W.Va., and planted about 10 grape vines.

Over the next decade, what he learned surprised him.

It wasn't so much that the hills of West Virginia produced grapes that made quality wines. It was that people were so fascinated with them that they would come from miles around to tour his vineyard and buy a bottle or two of the Chambourcin, Leon Millot, Vidal or other varieties of wine he produced.

That fascination with wine and beer brought an estimated 9,000 to Annapolis over the weekend as part of the fifth annual Celebrate Annapolis Wine, Beer, Food and Music Festival, held this weekend at the Elks Lodge athletic field on Rowe Boulevard, next to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Previous festivals were held at St. John's College, but the site was changed this year after school officials banned alcohol on campus.

Jerry Hardesty, who owns the Middletown Tavern and organized the festival, said the event brought together 18 vintners and seven micro-breweries, offering 17 types of brews. Brewers and vintners came from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and West Virginia, he said.

Attendance hit 4,600 Saturday. Mr. Hardesty said he anticipated about 4,500 more by Sunday night at dusk, when the festival closed.

For their $10 ticket, participants were provided six 1-ounce samplings of their favorite spirit.

Mr. Hardesty said the festival was designed to give people a taste of the best wine and beer the region has to offer.

At every booth, beer and wine merchants answered questions as they poured their wares into clear plastic cups. A seminar tent was set up for lectures on such topics as "Starting a Wine Cellar" and "The Differences Between Beer."

Tom Mallonee, a wine instructor and co-director of the Annapolis Food and Wine Society, told one group that they should not only open any red wine an hour or two before serving it, but should try pouring it into a carafe ahead of time, to give the wine more exposure to the air. This gives it more time to "breathe," enhancing its flavor, he said.

White wine is always served in smaller glasses than red wine, he said. And he urged imbibers to stick their noses into a glass of red wine and smell it as they drink.

"Drinking wine is done as much with the nose as with the palate," he said. "You smell the wine more than you taste it."

Hugh J. Sisson, president of Sisson's, a micro-brewery and tavern on East Cross Street in Baltimore, reviewed the four ingredients of beer -- barley malt, yeast, hops and water -- and advised drinkers to taste a variety of beers.

"The idea is to appreciate as many different styes as possible. If you don't, you're just not trying hard enough," he said.

Many of those in attendance yesterday said they came because they were interested in learning more about how wines and beers are made and how different flavors, colors and varieties are produced.

Michelle Connatser, 22, of Bethesda, said the primary appeal of micro-brewed beers is that they vary so much.

"I think a lot of people are tired of the same old mass-produced product day after day," she said.

She and her boyfriend, James Lathom, tried to brew beer in his Bethesda home, but they learned quickly that the brewing process is both a science and an art.

"It came out tasting terrible," said Mr. Lathom, 25.

Those who make wine or beer say pitfalls are common. For many vintners and micro-brewers, it is a part-time occupation. Mr. Deal still makes his living as a real estate broker.

But wine is his passion.

These days, he has about 4,000 vines and produces about 2,500 gallons, or roughly 1,000 cases, of wine a year.

While 85 percent of his wine is sold to customers who tour his vineyard and live within 50 miles, he often travels to wine festivals and tastings along the East Coast and Midwest, and has won awards for several of his 10 varieties.

He is currently carving an 80-foot cave out of the side of a mountain near his home to transform it into a wine cellar.

He hopes his 22-year-old son, who now works in the vineyards, will take over the winery.

"It all took a lot of patience -- patience and winning awards for the wines, that's what's kept me in it," he said.

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