Right on the heels of my Linganore visit, was a stop by nearby Black Ankle Vineyards after a short, ten minute drive. A long, winding lane snakes through scenic rows of Syrah vines on either side before emptying out in front of Black Ankle’s tasting facility, a beautiful Mediterranean looking villa.
Black Ankle has established itself as a serious producer of terroir driven wine. Unlike Linganore, Black Ankle currently only sells four wines. All reds & all harvested on site. And they have garnered a lot of hype. The word that I got on the street was “Best reds in Maryland”. That creates a lot of expectations for visitors, particularly biased red wine lovers who may or may not be visiting four other wineries the same week. Just saying.
The tasting room opened in 2008, the same year that Blank Ankle’s wines became available for sale to the public. The inside area has a very European feel, a stoic & serious wine tasting bar. In comparison to our last stop, although not unfriendly, the ambiance of the place seemed more suitable for austere wine tasters.
The hostess at the bar, Charlene, greeted us warmly and asked if we would like the featured tasting. She had a slight, knowing smile as she lined up the Riedel glasses on the bar. The wine here is good and the staff knows it. It didn’t disappoint, either.
1. Passegiata 2012 – Passegiata means “Evening Stroll” in Italian. This wine started out as 100% Syrah but evolved into a blend of almost every wine harvested from Black Ankle’s vines, including whites. Light & smooth in character, this unique yet complex wine is bursting with red fruit flavors. Aged in French Oak. $28/bottle $11/glass
2. Rolling Hills 2011 – The Rolling Hills is a blend of 76% Merlot & 24% Cabernet Sauvignon. Soft on the tannins, this wine had more dark fruit character than the Passegiata, and heavier on the oak. Another smooth, easy drinker yet complex enough to complement a variety of red meat dishes. Notes of baking spices & tobacco. $32/bottle $11/glass
3. Syrah 2011 – My favorite wine this afternoon. Black fruits on the nose & palate, evolving into a smooth, complex cornucopia of black cherries & tobacco flavors. A fantastic red wine for seasoned red wine drinkers. $38/bottle $12/glass
4. Terra Dulce III – Black Ankle’s Port Style offering. The Terra is fortified with grain alcohol, as evidenced by an ABV of 19%. A blend of twelve grapes, this Port like wine works well as a post meal treat. And a cigar if you’re so inclined. Rich, sweet and complex with notes of dark fruit that just last forever in a silky finish. Nicely done. $45/bottle $14/glass
Unfortunately, the 2010 Crumbling Rock was completely sold out at the time of our visit. Not a part of the tasting, this is Black Ankle’s signature, award winning blend of Merlot, Cab Franc & Petit Verdot. A very intense wine from a great year and suitable for aging. I regretfully cannot comment on the experience of tasting it personally. $52/bottle SOLD OUT
Acoustic entertainment was featured today, and there was a steady stream of visitors. A comfortable environment to enjoy the top notch juice produced on this magical slice of Italy. If I didn’t know better, I never would have thought we were just south of the Mason Dixon line. It feels more like Abruzzo. Or so I’m guessing, it’s on my bucket list.
If you remember my burger rant from Linganore, it was finally time to put my craving to rest. My restaurant savvy sister recommended that we stop by Lu & Joe’s, a busy gastropub & bar. The charcoal scented bacon cheeseburger really did the trick after an afternoon of tasting some of Maryland’s best wine. Lu & Joe’s looks kind of plain on the outside, but the combination menu of Thai & pub food here has a lot of variety and is fantastic. This is the place the locals don’t want you to know about.
In case you’re wondering how Black Ankle got their name, they explain it here.
Stay tuned, we’re going to do it all over again tomorrow. I love vacation.