Insider's guide to Harford County wineries

  • Wine displayed at Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery in Havre de Grace, Md.
Wine displayed at Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery in Havre… (Photo by Brian Krista )
April 16, 2013|L'Oreal Thompson and Jennifer Broadwater

With four vineyards conveniently located in practically each corner of Harford County, you don’t have to travel all the way to Sonoma to sip award-winning wines, experience scenic vistas and learn all about the winemaking process.

In 2010, Harford County government, along with Baltimore County government and the Maryland Winery Association, created the Piedmont Wine Trail “in hopes that people would cross county borders and spend more time (and money in local businesses) in their quest for good wine,” according to Wini Roche, tourism and marketing manager for Harford County government.

The Piedmont Wine Trail comprises 10 wineries, including Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery in Havre de Grace, Fiore Winery in Pylesville, Harford Vineyard in Forest Hill and Legends Vineyard in Churchville. Five years ago, the Maryland Winery Association found that local wineries generated more than $40 million in economic activity.

“That was with 22 wineries,” explains Roche. “Maryland now has 60 [wineries], so we can surmise a threefold return now.”

In Harford County, there are plenty of opportunities to sample local wine at annual festivals, restaurant week and special promotions, such as the Wine & Roses Tour, which pairs local wineries with Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton for a picturesque day trip.

“More and more, visitors want to experience their time like the locals do … so enjoying locally grown food and wine is a trend that Harford County can certainly capitalize on,” says Roche.

Peter Ianniello, owner of Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery, agrees.

“Harford County is a great agri-tourist destination,” he says. “Many consumers enjoy ‘oenotourism’ when they may visit clusters of vineyards within relatively close proximity to one another.”

For the stunning view:
Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery

2000 Level Road, Havre de Grace  |  410-939-0913  |  mountfelix.com

Overlooking the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River, Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery takes the crown in the way of scenery.

The setting is special the moment you turn onto the country lane approaching Mount Felix, passing the grazing cows on the neighboring Keyes Creamery property. Then you reach the stately 19th-century Georgian-style manor house, where Peter and Mary Ianniello live with their three teenage children, and rent out a separate wing — called The Villa — to visitors.

The Ianniellos purchased Mount Felix Manor and its surrounding 15 acres of property in Havre de Grace in 2004, and opened their winery and tasting room in 2008.

“We started a vineyard because the beauty of the right vineyard in the right setting feels soothing to the soul. We wanted to create that experience for our friends and customers,” says Peter. “Mount Felix’s landscape spoke to us in that light. On the right days, or on moonlit nights, the tranquility and beauty of Mount Felix delivers that experience.”

Originally from New York , the Ianniellos have lived in Maryland for 22 years. But the family’s wine-making ancestry stems from Southern Italy. Indeed, the passport photo of Peter’s grandfather Louis Ianniello adorns the label of Mount Felix’s Emigranti wine.

The vineyard includes four acres of Chambourcin grapes. The Ianniellos purchase other grape varieties for their wines locally as much as possible, according to Mary, mainly from Maryland growers or those in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

Although the 9,000-square-foot Mount Felix Manor dates back to the 1830s, the 2,000-square-foot Villa is a wing added in 1900 with a private entrance on the opposite side of the manor from the tasting room. It includes two king bedrooms and a full bath on the first floor. By design, the open-space gathering areas — the kitchen, living and dining rooms (and another half-bath) — occupy the second floor to take advantage of the water view. The refined décor is intended to complement the manor’s Georgian architecture.

Guests at The Villa are as varied as scrapbook clubs, golfers playing at Bulle Rock, families checking out the attractions in nearby cities and artists seeking inspiration (including the sculptor whose sketch of the property now adorns the label for C’est le Havre, a semisweet white wine).

The Ianniellos keep The Villa’s kitchen stocked with breakfast staples like muffins, cereal and coffee for guests.

Available to all guests is a sizable patio furnished with tables and chairs and overlooking the Bay to the south and the river to the east. The property is equipped with surround sound for live music during outdoor events starting in the spring and running through November.

Visitors are welcome to bring blankets for picnics here, or to wander the grounds. On breezy days, the Ianniellos provide kites to keep young visitors entertained.

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