“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”
– Galileo Galilei
When you think of the state of Maryland, do you think of Maryland wine? Most people don’t.
As a native Marylander, I grew up enjoying (and perhaps, taking for granted) many of the things that have become synonymous with Maryland:
- Delicious blue crabs caught in the Chesapeake Bay
- Brilliant yellow Blackeyed Susan’s, the State flower
- Miles of beautiful white beaches along the Eastern Shore
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to take an interest in wine – any wine. Now, I love it and have begun visiting wineries wherever I go. I’ve only been to a few in Maryland (so far), but that’s about to change.
At the beginning of March, Governor Larry Hogan issued a proclamation to kick off the 2nd annual Maryland Wine Month, a celebration full of fun events and activities at wineries across the state. Participating in this month-long celebration is a great way for me (and you) to discover Maryland wine.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MARYLAND WINE
1. Winemaking in Maryland goes back at least 370 years.
Maryland winemaking began many, many years ago, with the first recorded instance in 1648. Fourteen years later, the state’s governor planted 200 acres of European grapes along the bank of St. Mary’s River in St. Mary’s County.
It took nearly 300 years before Maryland had any wineries. Then in 1945, Maryland’s first winery, Boordy Vineyards, opened its doors and is still thriving today.
2. Maryland has 4 distinct growing regions.
When you travel through Maryland, you’ll discover that the landscape and climate changes, sometimes dramatically, depending on where you are within the state.
This diversity has resulted in 4 distinct grape growing regions:
- Western Mountain – characterized by mountains; long, cold winters; and shorter growing seasons
- Piedmont Plateau – characterized by a moderate climate and longer growing seasons
- Southern Plain – characterized by hot and humid days and nights
- Eastern Shore – characterized by flatter land and sandy soil
3. Maryland’s diverse climate and topography have resulted in the production of 36 different varieties of grapes.
In order to produce quality wine, winegrowers need to have a complete understanding of the grapes that will not only grow but thrive in the region where they are planted. There are 36 reported grape varieties used to produce Maryland wines, many of which are combined to create wonderful blends.
In the Western Mountain region, grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, Norton, and Chambourcin do well. In the Piedmont Plateau region, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes thrive. And in the Southern Plain region, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Vidal, and Blaufrankisch grapes flourish. Almost any variety of grape can do well in the Eastern Shore region including Sangiovese.
“Maryland wineries support and grow over 1,000 acres of grapes throughout Maryland…Grapes are long-term crops, preserving open space, creating ‘de facto’ preservation of land…” [Source: Maryland Wineries Association]
4. Maryland wineries offer something for every wine lover.
Whether you like white wine or prefer red, you’ll be able to find something to suit your palate at one of Maryland’s 90+wineries along 8 wine trails.
Throughout the month of March 2018, you can join in the Maryland Wine Month Challenge by having your card stamped at each Maryland winery you visit. The more you visit, the better the prizes you’ll be eligible for. Win-win!
And if you want to save some money as you sip and swirl your way along the wine trails (and who doesn’t want to save money?!), you can purchase a Maryland Wine Pass, which offers discounts on tastings, the purchase of bottles of wine, and more.
5. The Maryland wine industry has grown exponentially over the past 10 years.
Like the luscious grapes growing throughout the state, the Maryland wine industry continues to thrive.
According to an article in the City Paper, published May 4, 2017,
“Before the Maryland Winery Modernization Act of 2010 and direct shipping rules that passed shortly after, the state only had 40 wineries. In seven years, it has more than doubled, and there is now winemaking in every county in the state.”
6. Many Maryland wineries have produced award-winning wines.
Virginia wine has become known for its taste and quality, earning it the nickname “the Napa Valley of the East Coast.” However, Maryland vintners are giving those in Virginia vintnets a run for their money. Maryland wineries keep producing better and better wine, resulting in numerous awards in state and international competitions including but not limited to the ones mentioned below.
Maryland Governor’s Cup Competition
The 29th Annual Governor’s Cup Competition was held this past August. To be considered, all entries were required to be made from Maryland-grown grapes and other fruits.
The 2017 Best in Show winners were:
- Cool Ridge Vineyard‘s Cool Red 2015 – Governor’s Cup Winner
- Great Shoals Winery‘s Hard Plum 2016 – Jack Aellen Cup Winner
Maryland Comptroller’s Cup Competition
Several Maryland wineries have produced wines that have competed with and won against well-known and well-respected international wineries.
Tasters Guild International Competition
At the 2017 Tasters Guild International Competition, five Maryland wineries (Bordeleau Winery, Fiore Winery, Elk Run Vineyards & Winery, Royal Rabbit Vineyards & Serpent Ridge Vineyards) took home prestigious awards.
Fiore Winery, however, did amazingly well and pulled off a hat trick, walking away with 3 prestigious awards:
- Fiore Winery Cabernet Franc 2014 – Double Gold 🏆🏆
- Fiore Winery Chambourcin 2010 – Gold 🏆
- Fiore Winery Merlot 2013 – Gold 🏆
7. The Maryland wine industry has a huge and positive impact on the State’s economy, employment, and tourism.
In the Fall of 2017, WineAmerica, the National Association of American Wineries, published the results of a national economic impact study. Some notable information about the at was discovered includes:
- Economic Activity: In Maryland, the wine industry generates close to $2.6 billion in total economic activity
- Tax Revenue: Maryland’s wine industry…benefit[s] Marylanders by [c]ontributing more than $4 million in taxes back into our economy
- Employment: The total wages generated by direct, indirect, and induced economic activity driven by the wine industry are $920.1 million
- Tourism: Wine tourism generates 167,039 tourist visits and $68.6 million in annual tourism expenditures
Have YOU visited any Maryland wineries? If YES, what are your favorites?
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