Virginia is getting fairly well known for its wines, and many a weekend there is some festival or other at a winery featuring food and music along with the libations.
Poor Maryland gets over-shadowed, but I hear from some very good sources that there are more than 50 wineries in my new state.
I got to sample some of the offerings at Wine in the Woods, a two-day festival at the Merriweather Post Pavillion grounds in Columbia, MD, between DC and Baltimore.
My neighbor Pat has befriended a couple who make wine commercially out of their garage here in suburban Silver Spring. They go to a few wine festivals each year and need volunteers for all the pouring. Ted and I happily offered our services a couple of weekends ago.
It was quite overwhelming at first, walking onto grounds that were packed with people on a sunny, hot day. A few stages had live performances going on while tents provided all-you-want tastings for the $40 entry fee and other tents sold all kinds of food.
We wandered around a little before our volunteer shift began and tried a variety each at several wineries. There was a Cabernet Sauvignon at Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery, the Syrah at St. Michael’s Winery, Black Swan Rouge (made with blackberries) at Far Eastern Shore Winery and a watermelon wine from Layton’s Chance Vineyard and Winery (which was surprisingly good, if you’re thinking of a summerlike wine cooler and not a traditional wine).
When we returned to the Penn Oaks Winery, where we were scheduled to volunteer, it was crazy crowded. We jumped right in, pouring from wine bottles with spouts that mesaured out only a half-ounce at a time. We didn’t know what we were doing at first but soon got the hang of pouring the drinks, handling money and credit cards, packaging wines to be picked up later and having a good time talking with people.
In this day and age of fears of liability, it’s amazing that this event happens at all. There is no limit on how much people can sample, and there were two young guys near the end of the day who were boasting of tasting all the wines at each of the 32 wineries there that day. Our table alone had 9 offerings. And not only did people enjoy the free samples, many also bought opened bottles of wine that they carried around the grounds and sipped from throughout the day as well.
There were police parked just outside the gates, so I can only hope that they spotted inebriated people and steered them away from driving. And the event did publicize reduced admission fees for parties’ designated drivers. Still…
We were so busy that I didn’t even get to sample the wines from Penn Oaks until things started slowing down later in the day. I especially liked the Müller Thurgau, a sweetish white, and the Montépulciano, which was a lot of fun to say as well as being a really rich red with all kinds of flavors floating on the tongue. The dessert wine, Noble Rot, was much too sweet for my tastes but lots of people really liked it and came back for repeat samples.