Wine festival-goers taste fruit of Maryland vines Eager learners joined by experts

September 19, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Clusters of would-be and established wine connoisseurs gathered around brightly striped tents to swirl, smell and swallow the grapes of Maryland's 10 wineries yesterday at the 10th annual Maryland Wine Festival.

The two-day event at the Carroll County Farm Museum included plenty of scrumptious food -- ranging from a raw bar and roasted ham sandwiches to crepes and vichyssoise. But that wasn't what brought an estimated 10,000 visitors from all over the country to Westminster.

Organizers said they expect to attract at least that many people from noon to 6 p.m. today.

"In the past two years, we've had over 20,000 people attend," said Carroll County Farm Museum administrative marketing specialist Dottie Freeman. For those visitors who needed to brush up on their tasting skills, seminars were given every hour by experts from the American Wine Society.

"Swish it like mouthwash, chew it, get it all around your mouth and then swallow it," the instructor cajoled his new students. "You have taste buds all over your mouth . . . and each tastes different sensations. You are trying to get as many as possible that appeal to different aspects of your taste buds."

Thanks to the seminars, "I see a big change in the people who are coming," said Carol Wilson of Elk Run Vineyards in Mount Airy. "People are actually carrying around [the brochures that list the various wines], taking notes and trying to taste and swirl the wines."

During the festival, visitors 21 and older pay $12 and are given 10 tickets for one-ounce samples and a glass. Children under 21 are admitted free with a paying adult.

"We designed this as a family event," said Ms. Wilson, noting the juggler and other entertainment for children. "Wine drinking and tasting is part of eating, part of living, so we tried to include them."

The first festival 10 years ago, at the Union Mills Homestead, was the brainchild of Carroll County's Department of Recreation and Parks. Organizers saw it as a way to promote the wine industry and grape growing as agriculture, Ms. Wilson said.

The overflow crowd of 5,000 people on that rainy cold day convinced county officials to move the festival to the more spacious Carroll County Farm Museum, Ms. Wilson said.

Carroll County was a natural site, since it was home to the now-closed Montbray Wine Cellars Ltd. in Silver Run, she said. "Montbray has a very good reputation all over the East Coast."

Tasting tickets were designed to encourage moderate drinking, she said. And Maryland State Police officers set up a booth providing voluntary Breathalyzer tests.

"People line up to take the test as a way of educating themselves about alcohol," Ms. Wilson said.

This weekend's 10th anniversary includes hourly door prizes, including posters, T-shirts, bottles of wine and certificates for dinner.

"This is our way of saying thanks to all the people who have supported this all these years," Ms. Freeman said. Nearly 70 gifts were donated by area organizations and businesses.

For more information on the festival, phone 876-2667 or 848-7775.

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