It's Sunday afternoon again - that one moment of the week when you can find time to grab the spouse or kids and head out to the park, the mall, the movies or ... the vineyard?
It might sound strange, but that's exactly what almost 100 people did last Sunday, as couples and families descended upon the intimate and inviting Boordy Vineyards in Hydes.
On Long Green Pike 15 minutes from the Baltimore Beltway, Boordy has been offering a weekly series of events this month called "Stew in Our Own Juices," where $8 bought three kinds of stew cooked with Boordy vintages, homemade breads and a wine tasting.
This is the first year of "Stew in Our Own Juices," planned as an annual event. The stew sessions are part of a calendar of events that that the vineyard is developing. In the coming months there will be a Mother's Day picnic and a Herb Festival at the end of May.
February featured "Fond of You Fondue Weekends," and every Sunday next month will feature three straight hours of "Red, Whites, and Bluegrass."
"We want to be integrated into people's lives ... having events where you can just show up on a given day works best," said Dottie Wilson, Boordy's events director.
Plenty of people showed up at Boordy last Sunday. Dressed in anything from jeans and T-shirts to ties and slacks (one young couple toted motorcycle helmets), a crowd quickly filled the small tasting room.
Boordy has an e-mail list and a Web site, but advertising is almost entirely word of mouth, which means lots of repeat customers and a neighborhood clientele.
Boordy's setting has caught the eye of more than a local crowd. Hollywood noticed the vineyard's quiet charm, and it was chosen as the backdrop for the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere film Runaway Bride.
The movie has turned Boordy into a hotspot for young couples to get married. Clearly, this just-off the-Beltway vineyard has a sense of romance and intimacy.
Steve Ferragamo, who goes to Boordy often with his wife, said, "We go to several wineries, but it's the ambience of this one that does it. Plus, the people are so friendly."
Maryland's oldest family-run winery, Boordy has a friendly atmosphere. The staff is cheerful and knows its wine. As the crowd started to get its fill of stew, everyone began to head for the tasting table. Three Boordy employees attend to all of the visitors, delivering sips of wine with advice:
"It's not a picnic red. ... You have to imagine a steak in your mouth. Or maybe a lasagna."
"It's really good at Christmastime, perfect for the holidays, makes you think of peppermint."
"It's a hard red to drink if you don't like reds. ... It's earthy."
With expertise, they guide connoisseurs and novices around the Boordy collection. The vineyard features 16 wines, including cabernets, chardonnays, seyval blancs, a sparkling wine and a Maryland port.
The Governor's Cup, a series of awards presented to Maryland wineries, has bestowed upon Boordy numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals.
Down a lonely road and nestled between family homes and farmland, Boordy is an accessible escape where you can catch roosters crowing without going a whole day out of your way.
The town of Hydes, with rolling hills, white and green silos, and old-fashioned farmhouses, provides a soothing backdrop for the day's casual events.
For now, the grapevines are a bit barren, but when the season arrives, everything will be in full bloom. The cold and snowy winter will have a minimal effect on this year's grapes, Wilson said.
The Maryland wine industry is growing, with sales up 11 percent from 2001 to 2002. Wilson said Boordy is looking for another good year in 2003.
"Our events this year are almost double the attendance we had last year. If attendance is up, I think that means interest [in wine] is up," Wilson said.