Thousands attend despite the lack of Maryland wines

A FESTIVAL IN FINE

July 25, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Johanna Jager, a 25-year-old college student from Austria touring the eastern United States, stood at a tent yesterday and sampled a chardonnay, joining thousands of others at the Mid-Atlantic Wine Festival in Annapolis.

"It smells wonderful," she said, tipping the partially filled glass of white wine under her nose. She grew up on a winery that her father owns just outside Vienna.

"I think this is fantastic," Ms. Jager said, explaining that she is staying in Washington and saw an ad for the outing. "I said I must come down and see what they are doing."

The sixth annual wine and beer tasting festival won her approval.

"There are some wines here that we know nothing about in Europe," Ms. Jager said. "We know about the California wines, but we don't know anything about the wines from the East Coast."

But Ms. Jager won't get much of a taste of what Maryland has to offer.

Most of the 25 wineries participating in the weekend festival were from Virginia and West Virginia. Only one of Maryland's 11 wineries showed up, continuing a trend set in 1991 when the Association of Maryland Wineries decided not to participate, citing poor attendance.

But Jerry Hardesty, the founder of the festival and owner of Middleton Tavern in Annapolis, said he expects 12,000 people to attend this weekend's event, at a field next to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Rowe Boulevard.

Gates open at 11 a.m. today. Tickets cost $13 and include a wine glass and several samples.

In addition to the wineries, seven micro-breweries from Maryland are participating.

The festival also features music, crafts, food and a variety of seminars. Today's topics include how to make beer and wine, and "Brewing the Micro-Brewery Way."

The Annapolis festival has been in the midst of controversy the pastseveral years, starting with the pullout of the Maryland wineries and culminating in a dispute with the Maryland Wine Festival, held in Carroll County, over whether to allow breweries and wineries from outside the state to participate.

"This is not the Maryland Wine Festival," Mr. Hardesty said. "This is an event distinctive for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. We do not try and compete, nor do we want to compete. We want to create our own niche."

Herb and Pat Shaffer, who live in Perry Hall, volunteer at wine tastings at Linganore Winecellars in Mount Airy, the only Maryland winery to show up.

The couple, who said they are avid wine collectors, were taken aback by the lack of local participation.

"I was really surprised," Mr. Shaffer said, calling it "silly" that the dispute has led to a pullout. "There is really no competition. They really should come. There is room for everybody."

Anthony Aellen, who owns Linganore, said he chose to come because many liquor stores and restaurants sell his wines in the Annapolis area.

"They asked us to come," said Mr. Aellen, who took over the winemaking business from his father 11 years ago. "I figure if they support us by selling our wine, we ought to support them."

As for his colleagues who stayed away, he said, "That's a lot of politics. I don't like to get involved with that. I like to do what's best for my customers."

But at the booth for North Mountain Vineyard and Winery, which sells Virginia wines, owner Dick McCormack said his Maryland counterparts should come. He said the festival is well-run.

"The Maryland wineries didn't want to compete with Virginia wines," Mr. McCormack said. "The only way you can sell wine is to compete."

Next year, the festival will be at Sandy Point State Park.

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