Maryland’s Eastern Shore – Part 1 of 4

There’s a lot to be said for getting out of the house, even if it’s only for a day or two. So, in celebration of Fran’s birthday, I whisked her away to a bed and breakfast near the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Maryland.

Heading south!I was really looking forward to this trip and the opportunity to sample some new offerings from our neighbors to the south. We were meeting up with a few friends in that area over the course of the weekend and the beautiful weather in the forecast helped with the positive vibes. I’ve been feeling like a caged animal lately and itching to travel.

So anyway, on Saturday morning, we set off for the historic village of Chestertown. We picked up our cohort Debbie, who lives on the bay near there. Chestertown hosts a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings and some local wine producers pour there. It seemed like a great way to kick off the weekend.

Farmers’ markets rock. You find all kinds of awesome, regionally-grown food and local artists showing off their wares. I was surprised to see some Amish this far south selling their fantastic baked goods.

Side note: If you’ve never tried shoo-fly pie, heated in the microwave and covered in whipped cream, you’re missing out. We were late, they had sold out of it already.

Don Tilmon of Tilmon's IslandThe state of Maryland really supports its wine producers and I was fortunate to experience three of them at the market. Remember that it’s okay to sample wine in the morning if you refer to it as “tasting.” I’m just saying. If you have a couple of glasses with your pancakes, we’re in a different ballpark.

Don Tilmon is a local winemaker who originally made his elixir out of his basement. A retired college professor, he shared with me that he makes wine to primarily stay out of trouble. Don’s first grapes were planted in 1999, and he holds the distinction of establishing the “First winery in Queen Anne’s County” when he opened his doors in 2004. He was pouring his Kent Narrows Chianti this morning, which is dark, well balanced and complex. Another notable offering of his is the Rock Hall Rosé. All of Tilmon’s grapes are from surrounding counties in Maryland.

Crow's 2012 Merlot based RoséSide note #2: If you are thinking of Rosé as the pink, sweet stuff from days past, well, this ain’t it. Rosé wine is undergoing a renaissance right now and the styles are very varied. There are many wine producers, local and otherwise, that offer high quality, outstanding Rosés, most of which are on the drier side. Excellent summer wine that goes great with pasta. Don’s Rock Hall fell into this category.

Donna and Mary Jane of Clovelly VineyardsThe next winery stand that we stumbled upon was Clovelly Vineyards. Clovelly bottled their first wine on April 11th of this year, after planting vines on their farm in 2009. They grow their own grapes on about ten acres overlooking the Chester River. Their first offerings consist of Vidal Blanc, their Riverside Red blend and, surprise, an excellent dry Rosé. I anticipate that we’ll be hearing big things from Clovelly in the future.

Last stop before lunch (not a practice that I recommend, the fuller the stomach during wine tasting, the better) was Crow Farm. Catrina and Ally were pouring the wine today. Crow has a farm in nearby Kennedyville, where they raise grass fed beef, grow grapes and run a bed & breakfast. Not so ironic that this is where we stayed for the weekend.

Ally and Catrina of Crow FarmCatrina recently brought her winemaking talents to Crow after getting her chops in California and Australia. She most recently gained recognition for her award-winning ice wine during her tenure at Galer Estate in Chester County, PA. Stay tuned for more on Crow as the weekend is only getting started.

And in case you were wondering, they sell not one, but two excellent Rosés.

Thanks for stopping by. Next up, we’ll be skipping over the Delaware state line to visit Harvest Ridge. Cheers!

Links:

Chestertown Farmers Market
Tilmon’s Island Winery
Clovelly Vineyards
Crow Farm and Vineyard
Chesapeake Wine Trail

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Fireworks & Wine? Yes, please.

Fireworks & Wine 2014Once upon a time there was a winery on the Philadelphia countryside, whose owners realized that on July 4th of every year a farm across the street held a large, private, no-holds-barred fireworks show at dusk.

They decided to stay open late that night to sell a few bottles to patrons, have an enjoyable little gathering and share the festivities with the approximately fifteen guests that showed up.

Fast forward four years.

The secret is out. On Friday, July 4th, 2014 after much planning, live music & food vendors booked, and plenty of social media buzz, Penns Woods got more than double of their expected attendance. We’re talking over a thousand visitors. Dia Doce sold all of their cupcakes. The Meat House ran out of meat. But fortunately, there was enough wine to take the event to the end. Although the popular Viognier didn’t last.

Record breaking crowd today!This is quite a feat in an area that had hundreds of fireworks shows going on at he same time slot, not to mention a world class celebration in the birthplace of America, less than an hour away. I’m sure that quality local wine & food had a hand in this. The perfect weather didn’t hurt either, and a Friday holiday will get people out & about, for sure.

A little bird told me that the event will be set up differently going forward, perhaps in a reservation format. Even though it was a resounding success, Fireworks and Wine brought about borderline craziness from the enormous turnout and a real strain on the staff. Though I’m happy I got to experience it in it’s raw format.

Happy 238th Birthday, America!Amidst the parking problems, unruly patrons (they show up everywhere, folks) and long lines, this event was pulled off with poise and class. I want to thank the staff at Penns Woods for busting ass and maintaining professionalism throughout the event.

Oh, a special shout out to McKenzie Brew House right up the street for the mouth watering roast chicken pot pie. Paired nicely with a Route 202 Pale Ale, this made for a pleasant dinner.. God Bless America.

McKenzie's Roast Chicken Pot Pie!

Raise a glass! See you next year.

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3rd Annual Brandywine Food & Wine Festival – June 14, 2014

3rd Annual Brandywine Food & Wine FestivalIn the four short years that I’ve been chasing the local wine scene, there has been a noticeable growth spurt. Tasting rooms are going up all over the place, some of them even representing wineries outside of the region. The populace has embraced the surge in availability of PA grape juice, and personally, I’ve noticed an overall increase in quality. Apparently the competition is good for everyone.

Grace WineryThe Brandywine Food & Wine Festival, now in it’s third year, was showcasing nine wineries along with some innovative food vendors in the area. It was a perfect day, not too hot and no rain in the forecast.

Since this event is only one day, and I swear, exponentially more crowded than last year, I had to be selective in my visits. As a member of the media, I was graciously given free range throughout the event, but that didn’t make the lines any shorter.

Ten Gallon Hat's Cranberry Wine w/ limeTen Gallon Hat Winery was one of my first stops, as they just set up shop in Chadds Ford and I have not yet had a chance to visit. I sampled the Cab & Barbera and these are BIG wines, powerful, deep & full of flavor. They provide some alternate fruit wines as well. Ten Gallon Hat was serving up the Cranberry Wine with a slice of lime. Delicious and lots of presence on that also.

Jimmy's BBQThe long lines that I mentioned made it difficult to access the wineries so We killed time sampling some of the food and checking out vendors. The smell of crab cakes over at Sherri’s was screaming my name. However, before I could get over there, Fran and I gave into the temptation of short rib tacos at Jimmy’s BBQ. It was a good move. I never would have thought of putting ribs on a taco.

Later in the afternoon, the crowds died down a bit and I hit some local favorites. Penns Woods had a crowd all day but I got my face in there for a glass of Bancroft Merlot. Black Walnut was showing off their magnificent Merlot as well, and who was I to turn it down? Smooth & flavorful & the new batch of 2010 just hit the shelves. I made it a point to get over to Borderland, as I have only been there once and am really impressed by their offerings.

Our good friend, Thais of Dia Doce!Pennsylvania is in a position to be one of the next big wine destinations. Remember, you heard it right here. The quality is good, and it has a character all it’s own. They make more than Chambourcin here, folks. California wine didn’t take off until the seventies. We’re next. Try it for yourself.

 

Links:
Brandywine Food & Wine Festival
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail

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Cancel the missing persons report

Yeah, you heard me.In case anyone has noticed, Uncorked Remarks been sort of incognito since late last year. I hate it when real life gets in the way of things I really want to pursue. So, I thought that I would share a quick summary of what’s going on lately.

WSETRight now I’m finishing up the WSET Advanced program in Wine & Spirits. It’s an insane exercise in memorizing global wines, their regions, grape varieties, soil types, spirits, etc. It’s a lot of fun but requires hours of study & exam preparation. Not to mention, evaluating minute differences in taste & color under the scrutiny of instructors and an online audience. But I digress. I have to say that it’s a great distraction from the everyday rat race. I have aspirations of completing the full diploma program, which doesn’t get any easier. The exam is in May, wish me luck.

I still visit wineries on a regular basis, but have taken a step back for awhile. I wanted to enjoy the experience without the distraction of taking pictures & scribbling tasting notes. The posts will eventually return, I’m itching to get back into it. I have great passion for the wine industry & respect for all of the awesome people I have met through this endeavor. I want to thank the following gracious hosts for providing memorable visits during my sabbatical. You guys make it all worthwhile!

Janell & Karen from Serpent RidgeCarley, Andrea & Cliff – Penns Woods Winery
Tim, C.J. & Tracy – Twin Brook Winery
Karen – Brandywine Valley Wine Trail
Mario & Pam – Patone Cellars
Dr. Brad, Lele, Alicia & Catrina – Galer Estate
Karen & Janell – Serpent Ridge Winery
Drew – Old Westminster Winery

Please forgive me if I missed anyone. I almost certainly did and it most certainly was not intentional.

Philly Wine Week, March 23 to 30, 2014This is day two of Philly Wine Week and I’ll be celebrating with a class on sparkling wines on Tuesday, a blind tasting with classmates on Thursday and ongoing studies. Not exactly the happy hour filled week I had in mind. I admit that it probably falls into the First World Problems category so I’ll keep any complaints to myself. If any local wine lovers are looking for something to do this week, check out the diverse events planned in restaurants & wine bars around the city during and take advantage of Philly’s growing wine presence. Please click HERE for full details.

This is starting to sound like an Oscar speech, but I want to extend gratitude to my classmates Beth (aka TravelingWineChick) of Anderson’s Conn Valley for her tireless dedication to exam preparation and Dan from Pinot Boutique for offering up his facility for blind tastings.

Good times.Last, I would like to thank my wife, Fran for her patience during my seemingly never ending mid life crisis.

I had a full four day weekend planned in July for the North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, California. I was really looking forward to this. Even though this event fell in direct conflict with Fran’s birthday, she was ok with me going. I opted to cancel the trip and spend the weekend with her. This will be the fourth consecutive one that I’m missing but there will be others.

Attention WBC organizers, maybe the next one on the East Coast? Maybe?

I promise that it won’t be another five months before my next post. Thanks for reading.

Cheers!

– Doug Z.
@uncorkedremarks

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