At the 11th annual Wine in the Woods festival in Columbia this weekend, there will be plenty of room for wine novices.
While more than 10,000 expected visitors sample a variety of vintages among the trees of Symphony Woods, people who want to know when to sniff and when to swirl, what wine goes with their favorite meal or the difference between chardonnay and cabernet can get up to speed with four wine demonstrations each day.
"What we are trying to do in our seminars is take away some myths about wine," said M.R. "Yogi" Barrett, a presenter and executive vice president of the Tasters Guild, a nationwide society of food and wine enthusiasts.
Wine in the Woods, scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Symphony Woods in Town Center, raises money for the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks' heritage programs and scholarships.
Each ticket holder receives 10 samples from a choice of 11 Maryland wineries and a souvenir glass. Participants also will be able to buy wine by the glass, bottle or case.
For those who want to learn more, the demonstrations -- on wine tasting, dessert wines, red wines and white wines -- are included with the ticket price.
Among the advice Barrett and others will offer:
Hold the wineglass by the stem so your hands don't warm the wine.
Use the "Four S" method for enjoying wine: swirl, sniff, sip and swallow.
Store wines in a cool, slightly damp place (not in the kitchen, where the temperature changes frequently).
At the festival, the focus will be on wines made in Maryland.
"Maryland wines are rather unique," Barrett said. With the cooler climate and shorter growing season, local wines tend to be "softer, elegant wines" like those made in Europe, he said.
Many types of wine are made in Maryland, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and Riesling, Barrett said. Hybrid types of grapes also do well in Maryland, he said, such as seyval blanc, chambourcin and chancellor.
For Maryland wineries, Wine in the Woods and similar festivals are very important.
"We are able to get our product out before the public," said Bert Basignani, owner of Basignani Winery Ltd., near Sparks.
The ability to taste the wine takes away the risk, he said, so people will be comfortable buying his wine in the future. "It is the most significant thing we do," Basignani said of attending festivals. "Dollar for dollar, minute for minute, there is no better way to market our wine."
According to the Association of Maryland Wineries, sales of Maryland wines last year were about $5 million, an 11 percent increase over 2001. Even as the 2002 drought hurt other areas of Maryland agriculture, grapes were able to ripen longer on the vine and produce high-quality wine.
People who are not trying Maryland wines "are really missing out," Basignani said. Even though areas in Europe and California have longer histories of wine making, Maryland's industry "has come a long way," he said.
The festival will also offer food from 14 restaurants and caterers, and more than 80 vendors selling arts and crafts such as pottery, photography, furniture, home items and clothing.
On Saturday, those who attend can enjoy live jazz music from David Bach Consort, zydeco from the Crawdaddies and blues from singer Deanna Bogart. On Sunday, Al Maniscalco will offer jazz, the Mahoney Brothers will pay tribute to the Beatles, and Junior Cline and the Recliners will play rhythm and blues.
Both days, Bay Jazz Project will play in the picnic area, and other performers will entertain throughout the grounds.
Admission to Wine in the Woods, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, is $17 in advance, $18 at the gate and $5 for younger than age 21. Information: www.wineinthe woods.com or 410-313-7275 weekdays.