A Weekend For Wine

May 18, 2006|By SAM SESSA | SAM SESSA,SUN REPORTER

In a word, this weekend's Wine in the Woods is relaxing.

Though thousands will slip into the wooded area near Merriweather Post Pavilion, sip wine from 15 Maryland vineyards and listen to live music, the event usually stays as calm as a picnic trip or mini-retreat.

"I just think it's the ambience of the location," said organizer Barbara Lett of Howard County Recreation and Parks. "[It] gives an opportunity to step back and relax and amble through the woods and listen to the music and talk to your friends and be entertained and sample wines. There's just a level of sophistication to it."

About 17,000 people went last year, and organizers are hoping for a larger turnout this time, Lett said.

This festival and the Maryland Wine Festival in the fall are the Maryland Winery Association's two largest showcases of local wine, said director Kevin Atticks. Vineyards and vendors set up tents and use the event to sell their products, such as white, red, sparkling and dessert wines. There's a different demand for each type, but there should be a lot of premium wines sold this weekend, Atticks said. Wine in the Woods helps introduce visitors to Maryland wine and encourage the vineyards to bottle more product, he said.

"When you have successful festivals, it helps show the vineyards how important their grapes are," Atticks said. "Hopefully, they'll see how successful these festivals are and want to put more grapes in the ground."

The smaller wineries usually bring about 1,200 bottles to Wine in the Woods, while the larger wineries bring much more, Atticks said.

So how do local wines rank? Maryland cabernets, dessert and sparkling wines can be a notch above some California wines, said Monty "Yogi" Barrett, executive vice president of the Taster's Guild.

"They're making world-class wines," Barrett said.

Guild members and other tasters will set up a tent for 45-minute demonstrations and seminars on the hour, starting at 1 p.m. each day. The presentations will teach how wines pair with food and the proper swirling, sniffing and tasting methods. Come early - the discussions fill up quickly, he said.

"We've gotten so popular over the years we have people come into the seminar tent, bring their lunches, sit there all day and go through the seminars with us," Barrett said. "It's gotten pretty popular."

About 10 bands, including the Doug Segree Band, the Crawdaddies, the Avett Brothers and the Junkyard Saints, will perform on two stages each day. The festival always has a great sound system, and the crowd is pretty laid back, said Crawdaddies vocalist/guitarist Chris Huntington.

"[There's] a little less hooting and hollering with the wine drinkers," Huntington said.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Wine in the Woods runs noon-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in Symphony Woods off Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $20 for adults and designated drivers. Call 410-313-7275 or visit wineinthewoods.com.

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