State's wineries pouring into Westminster

Maryland Wine Festival is 'like the Super Bowl of wine'

  • Many of the state's 40 wineries will be at this weekend's Maryland Wine Festival in Westminster.
Many of the state's 40 wineries will be at this weekend's… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
September 16, 2010|By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's vineyards are tucked into the hills in the west, anchored near the Eastern Shore and have established roots throughout the rest of the state in between.

Sampling the wares of all 40 of the state's wineries would take days, if not weeks, who knows how much mileage and a heck of a good map. Or you could simply hit the Maryland Wine Festival this weekend, where almost all of them will be pouring the best they have to offer.

The 27th annual festival celebrating Maryland's grapes runs Saturday and Sunday in Westminster, spread across the grassy fields of the Carroll County Farm Museum.

For anyone interested in local wine, there is simply no better chance to sample what Maryland has to offer.

"This is the one everybody comes to — it's like the Super Bowl of wine," says Tanisha Townsend, a wine expert from Suitland with a blog called the Grapevine who helped judge this year's Governor's Cup for the state's top wine. "It's just a good time."

Lynne Basignani of Basignani Winery in Baltimore County has been bringing her vintages to the festival for 23 years. This year she'll have 13 wines — everything Basignani makes.

That's three dry whites, six dry reds and four sweet varieties.

"You get instant feedback for your wines," she says. "The festival has been the single most important sales tool that we have to get the word out about our wine and reach more people."

The festival is easygoing and unstructured. People can come in, get their tasting glass and simply wander the fields from booth to booth, sampling anything that strikes their fancy. Bringing picnic makings is encouraged, so after folks buy a bottle or two from the wineries, they can spread out on blankets, listen to a band and sip all afternoon.

Though the wine gets top billing, there will also be a craft fair featuring dozens of artists, live music and a chance to tour the buildings and grounds of the farm museum.

People interested in learning more about wine can drop into seminars that will be running hourly all weekend. They also might want to check out the amateur's competition where people enter wine they've made at home. Judging takes place at 1 p.m. Sunday. Past entries have included Makin' Bacon White, Spiced Apple, Dandelion and Semisweet Strawberry.

The festival doesn't overlook food, either — there's almost as much to eat as there is to drink, with offerings ranging from basic festival fare to more upscale or local options. For instance, there will be cheese from Firefly Farms, Ostrowski's Polish sausage and interesting snacks such as portabella fries, apple dumplings and chocolate strawberries.

Wine connoisseurs won't want to miss trying the winners of this year's Governor's Cup. They'll all be at the festival and they include the Fiore Winery's 2007 Sangiovese, which was named Maryland's premier wine, and the various "best of class" winners, which are:

Best red: Sangiovese 2007 from Fiore Winery

Best rose: Rose Reserve from Knob Hall Winery

Best red blend: Basilisk 2008 from Serpent Ridge Vineyard

Best off-dry: St. Michael's White 2009

Best fruit: Apple-luscious from Fiore Winery

Townsend recommends people keep an eye out for two types of wine that she says Maryland does particularly well — Seyval Blanc, a white, and a red called Chambourcin. She's also been impressed with the state's roses.

"The Maryland Wine Festival is a great way for people to become familiar with a lot of Maryland wines at one time," she says. "If there's something you like you can buy it right there. Which is helpful because a lot of retailers don't carry Maryland wine and you can't get it shipped."

If you go

The Maryland Wine Festival is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday at the Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St. in Westminster. Tickets, which include entry, wine tastings, a logo-engraved wine glass and attendance at the wine education seminars and farmhouse tours, are $25 for adults. Tickets for designated drivers are $20 and include two bottles of water but no samples of wine or glass. Tickets for those ages 7 to 20 are $5. Go to

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