Cove Point Winery

 

Owner(s): Tim and Sheryl Lewis

Winemaker: Tim Lewis

Open to Public

Wed-Sun 11:30 to 5:30

755 Cove Point Road; Lusby, MD 20657

phone: 410-326-0949

email: sales@covepointwinery.com

website


Cove Point Winery Profile

Written by Brian—Jun 28, 2017

Tim Lewis started making wine as a hobby. That is a recurring theme. Hobby winemakers are frequently lured in by the siren song of commercial production. In 2004, Tim produced his first vintage and opened the doors of Cove Point Winery not far from the town of Lusby, Maryland.

Tim and his wife Sheryl planted about an acre of grapes on property that was once devoted to tobacco. Growing conditions conspired against them and they were forced to pull up their existing vines. Replanting is underway and in the meantime they are sourcing from local Maryland sources to produce about 3000 cases of wine annually.

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Their production levels seem to indicate that they are a boutique winery. Cove Point literature, on the other hand, refers to the operation as a micro winery, which may be a reference to wines made in very limited batches. In either case the production facility is quite small and Cove Point has probably reached a level of maximum production.

When I visited the tasting room, assistant manager Randae was pouring wine. There were two dry whites a single sweet white and eight dry reds on the menu. There were also a large number of fruit and dessert wines available for purchase.

Randae stepped me through each of the offerings. We started with a nice Chardonnay and then moved on to a Pinot Grigio, which was may favorite wine with its tropical fruit notes. The reds included some surprises like a Petite Sirah and a Shiraz. Oak chips were added to many of the reds to lend a bit of complexity. The wines are produced for immediate consumption and are not necessary meant for the cellar, but they were all drinking well

I had a very pleasant experience at Cove Point Winery. I though the service was good and the wines also quite nice. If you are passing by, you should stop in and support this small-batch producer. After you do, please let me know what you think.


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Fridays Creek Winery

 

Owner(s): Frank Cleary

Winemaker: Richard Cleary

Open to Public

Thur-Mon 11 to 5

3485 Chaneyville Road; Owings, MD 20736

phone: 410-286-WINE

email: See website

website


Fridays Creek Winery Profile

 Written by Brian—May 18, 2017

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South of Annapolis, in Maryland’s Southern Plain, near the town of Chaneyville is a lone wine producer. On the map, it appears to be part of a cluster, but Fridays Creek Winery is separated from its nearest neighbors by the Patuxent  River that flows south to the Chesapeake Bay. Despite this, the winery appears to be popular. There was a large crowd when I arrived and the owners schedule multiple events throughout the year to attract visitors. 

Brothers Frank and Richard Cleary are the owner and winemaker respectively. Frank started planting grapes in 2004 and opened their doors two years later to become Maryland’s 23rd winery. The 10.5 acres of Fridays Creek fruit recently produced about 1400 cases of wine. Richard indicated that this is on the low end of production. They aspire to 2200 cases annually. 

Richard is a retired firefighter with a degree in chemistry. The chemistry is a common thread among makers of award-winning wine. Richard uses only estate grapes to produce the Fridays Creek wines. According to Frank, his brother sort of fell into the winemaking role, but based on the quality of the wine he is a natural. Part of that may be the result of quality fruit, but Richard definitely exercises skill in the winery.

I tasted about a half dozen of the Fridays Creek wines. All were well crafted. A couple of the standouts were the Chardonel that contained nice fruit and bright acidity. The Barbera is also worthy of mention and the Cabernet Franc, despite the youth of the vines, shows great promise for future vintages.

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In addition to public events, some produce is sold in the tasting room. There are also plans to open a brewery on the premises. So a number of activities and products contribute to the vibrant nature of the venue.

Fridays Creek Winery is certainly worthy of our support and anyone exploring the Maryland wine scene needs to make this one of his or her stops. When you do, please let me know what you think.


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Gemeny Winery and Vineyards

 

Owner(s): Gordon Gemeny

Winemaker: Sean Henderson

Open to Public

See website for hours

8606 Cedarville Road; Brandywine, MD 20613

phone: 301-442-4670

email: No available email

website


Gemeny Winery and Vineyards Profile

Written by Brian—May 14, 2017

Gemeny Farms is part of a property that has been in the Gemeny family since 1879. In 2007, Gordon Gemeny planted two acres in grapes and produced the first vintage of estate wine in 2009. More recently management of the estate has changed hands and Gordon’s son Michael now oversees day-to-day operations.

Offerings are made from a combination of estate fruit and juice from New York and California. Winemaker Sean Henderson joined the team as an aspiring chemist with little background in his craft, but has risen to the challenge. His wines are uniformly well crafted.

There is a long-term plan to reduce dependence on imported juice. Over the next four years, another five acres of vines will be planted. This may increase annual production, but those exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, because the winery uses a system of continual small-batch production. In other words, wine is produced in cold-stabilized batches of 100 to 200 liters. This is possible with imported juice, but it will be interesting to see what happens after the introduction of additional estate fruit.

There were 10 wines on the menu when I arrived and I tasted through each of them in addition to a couple of reserve wines. The whites included a Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and a pair of Traminettes. All were well crafted. The reserve blend of Chardonnay and Vidal was definitely the top white. It was perfectly balanced with nice acidity and demonstrated attributes of both varietals.

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Among the reds, I sampled a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc that were both very well done. A couple of less common grapes, however, were the standouts. Rougeon, typically used to make Port, is bottled as a single varietal. Light oak gave it nice structure and big fruit notes came through mid palate. 

Gemeny is probably the only grower and producer of Norton in Maryland. I will say that I am not normally a fan, but this example was quite good. It lacked the heavy astringency that is often an attribute of the grape. The softened acidity really allowed the fruit to shine through in this unoaked wine making it one of the best Nortons I have sampled.

This is a winery for us to keep an eye on. In the mean time, I urge you to give them some love. Drop by the tasting room and, where you do, please let me know what you think.


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Additional Resources

Yelp

Janemark Winery & Vineyard

 

Owner(s): Jane and Mark Vogt

Winemaker: Jane and Mark Vogt

Open to Public

Sat. 12 to 5

15200 Baden Naylor Road, Brandywine, MD 20613

phone: (301) 535-9126

email: info@janemarkwinery.com

website


Janemark Winery & Vineyard Profile

Written by Brian—May 24, 2017

As I pulled into the parking area at Janemark Winery and Vineyards, I noted a distinct lack of infrastructure. Instead of a tasting room, the owners had a table set up under a small tent in front of their house. A barrel press was sitting just outside the garage and the vines looked young. Based on these clues, I posited that this young winery might not have much to offer. I was wrong.

The tasting room and other amenities will come later. Jane and Mark Vogt were anxious to open to the public and start pouring wine. At the time of my visit, they had been officially open for less than two months. 

The winemaking operation began back in 2013, when the Vogts began planting vines on the property that has been in Jane’s family since 1877. Today there are just over two acres under vine. In the first year of production, Janemark bottled only 900 cases and there is no tasting room, but they are off to a great start.

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Tasting the wine, I could see why they were so eager to start pouring. There were only four wines on the menu, but each was singularly excellent. It is one of those rare Mid Atlantic wineries where every one of the wines is worthy of note. Seriously. There is no hyperbole in this description. The wines are just plain fantastic.

Vidal Blanc was the only white wine in the lineup. I will say that it is perfectly balanced and extremely well crafted with tropical fruit on the nose. On the palate, there are rich melon and pear notes that end crisply in bright acidity. The last wine on the menu is a sweet Vidal called Sweet Heidi. The desert wine is far from cloying. The sweetness is accompanied by enough acidity to make this a sipping wine or one that will pair well with something spicy. They are two very different Vidals, but both are genuinely exceptional.

There are plans to build a formal tasting space and the 5-year plan shows production levels increasing to 2000 cases annually. So things will continue to evolve. In any case, you need to check out this winery sooner rather than later. Based on the quality of the wine, Janemark Winery and Vineyards is poised to become one of the best wineries in Maryland. I simply cannot say enough good things about this winery. You need to see for yourself and after you do, please let me know what you think.

The roster was rounded out with a pair of reds. I am not typically a fan of Chambourcin, but this one was over the top with big berry notes and structured tannins. Finally, in a lineup of allstars, the Barbera simply blew the doors off the other wines. OMG! It was big and jammy with hints of spice and a bit of earthiness. Oh, and the finish just went on forever. I have had a few east-coast Barberas and none of them came close to the Janemark offering.  


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Additional Resources

Trip Advisor

Yelp

Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery

 

Owner(s): John Behun and Mark Flemming

Winemaker: John Behun and Mark Flemming

Open to Public

Wed-Fri 2 to 8; Sat 12 to 8; Sun 12 to 6

8650 Mackall Road; St. Leonard, MD 20685

phone: 410-586-2710

email: info@perigeaux.com

website


Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery Profile

Written by Brian—Jul 27, 2017

Maryland’s Southern Plain Region is a broad, peninsular land mass bordered in the west by the Potomac River and the east by the Chesapeake Bay. Within easy driving distance of Washington DC and Baltimore, this largely agricultural area is gaining recognition as a producer of fine wine. One producer of note is Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery.

John Behun and Mark Flemming began planting grapes in 2002 with an eye toward opening a winery as a retirement project. They quickly discovered that it was difficult to make money by selling the grapes, so a tasting room was opened in 2006.

Flemming remarked that the area reminded him of the French village of Perigeaux, where he had studied winemaking. It was from this conversation that the winery took its name. 

I am unable to substantiate the similarities between this Maryland winery and the French village of the same name, but it is a remarkably lovely spot. After driving through the vines and leaving my car in the parking area, I discovered a wooded lot that offers shaded outdoor seating. The tasting room is in a relatively small, single-story structure, but inside it is tastefully decorated with ample seating. A musician played guitar on the front porch, while several guests looked on and a small crowd was gathered inside. 

Current production stands at about 1200 cases, which makes Perigeaux a relatively small boutique winery. The wines are currently made from 90% estate grapes. Additional fruit is sourced in state when possible and out of state when necessary. It is the owners’ intention to make exclusively estate wines. Behun and Flemming’s plan to eventually increase the current seven acres under vine to 15, will help make that possible while also allowing them to increase output to between 4000 and 5000 cases.

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The wines are of exceptional quality. I tasted only one white wine, which was a lovely, well-balanced, lightly oaked Chardonnay. The real story here is with the reds. The single varietal Merlot and Cabernet Franc were very good, but the Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blend were just over the top. The Cab Sauv was a big, full-bodied, complex wine with notes of dark fruit, firm tannins and a nice finish. The blend had many of the same attributes. My notes for each wine contained multiple stars and exclamation marks. 

Perigeaux Vineyards is a relatively short drive from DC and it is on the way to Solomon Island. The wines are only sold in a handful of local shops, so you need to stop in to taste the offerings. There is music every weekend, the staff is very customer oriented and the venue is lovely. Do you need more reasons to stop in? Put this one on your list and after you visit, let me know what you think.


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Port of Leonardtown Winery

 

Owner(s): 14-Vineyard Cooperative 

Winemaker: Lauren Zimmerman

Open to Public

Sun-Fri 12 to 6; Sat 12 to 8; 1st Fri 12 to 9 

23190 Newtowne Neck Rd PO Box 535; Leonardtown, MD 20650

phone: 301-690-2192

email: info@polwinery.com

website


Port of Leonardtown Winery Profile

Written by Brian—Jun 25, 2017

One hears a great deal about Port of Leonardtown Winery. That is in part because winemaker Lauren Zimmerman is such a vocal proponent of Maryland wine. Well, that’s how it first came to my attention, but I have since heard a great deal of buzz about the winery. Anyway… In order to find out more, a road trip was in order.

I arrived at the tasting room just before they opened and was a little surprised to find that the winery is located in a city park on the edge of Leonardtown. There are no expansive acres of vines lending to a breathtaking rural panorama. Nevertheless, other visitors were lining up at the door. At noon, I and about a dozen other patrons flooded into the tasting room.

Once inside, I struck up a conversation with Stephanie, the tasting room manager, who subsequently poured my wine. I learned that Port of Leonardtown Winery is owned by a cooperative of 14 local growers. The cooperative formed in 2008 and opened their tasting room in 2010. The participating vineyards range in size from one half to eight acres and only the largest grower sells grapes outside the cooperative arrangement. Together they are responsible for about 3500 cases of Port Leonardtown wine annually.

This is an interesting arrangement and I have not encountered anything else like it in the Mid Atlantic. It does seem to work and makes sense, because there are dedicated growers who are totally invested in producing the best possible fruit. I must say that their agricultural efforts are evident in the quality of the wine.

I always feel compelled to comment when I drop in at a tasting room and like everything on the menu. It is fairly rare to visit a winery and be completely satisfied with every wine, but Port of Leonardtown falls into that exclusive bucket. All of the wines are not just well crafted; they are made to compete on a national or even international level.

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Of the three whites that I sampled, even the Vidal Blanc dessert wine displayed balance. The stainless steel Chardonnay was blended with a touch of oaked Chardonnay. Rather that overpower the fruit, it just lent a slightly bigger mouth feel and it still displayed nice acidity in the finish. The white blend, however, was my favorite with its bright tropical notes. 

The reds included a pair of blends on the regular menu. Both won multiple medals in state and national competitions and I could go on at length about either of them. They are genuinely great wines. Instead, I want to tell you about two wines that make up the premium tasting. The Barbera Reserve is just off the charts. It is a deep garnet, full-bodied wine that saw between 18 and 20 months in French and American oak. The complexity of this wine mingles well with the dark fruit and ends in a beautiful finish. It was my overall favorite, but I am also a fan of the Port-style Chambourcin with hints of clove and allspice.

The entire tasting room experience was first rate. The staff was focused and professional. Stephanie did a great job and was able to answer all of my questions. One feature that I should mention is the tasting lineup that rotates on a bi-weekly basis. This means that visitors can expect something different during a return visit. An effort is also made to balance dry-style and sweet offerings, so tastings will appeal to nearly every palate.

Now some of you may need to come to terms with the socialist undertones of a cooperative system. That is the only reason I can imagine for not visiting Port of Leonardtown Winery. It is, perhaps, more of an urban tasting experience, but it is also an exceptional introduction to the wines of Maryland. If you live nearby, you should join the wine club and become a regular. If you are visiting, this winery needs to be part of or, better yet, at the top of your itinerary. After you stop in, please let me know what you think.


Romano Vineyard and Winery

 

Owner(s): Joe and Jo-Ann Romano

Winemaker: Joe Romano

Open to Public

Fri 1 to 6; Sat 12 to 6

15715 Bald Eagle School Rd; Brandywine, MD 20613

phone: 301-752-1103

email: info@romanowinery.com

website


Romano Vineyard and Winery Profile

Written by Brian—May 22, 2017

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Located just east of the Patuxent River, Romano Vineyard & Winery seems remote. It is not far from Cedarville State Forest on a back road that is all farmland, but upon closer examination of the map you will note that it is probably only 45 minutes from the DC beltway. It is also within minutes of 3 or 4 other wineries. So it is very easy to justify the drive in the name of exploring Maryland wine.

The property was originally planted in tobacco, then corn and soy. It was the tobacco buyout that finally transitioned some of the farm to grapes. Joe and Jo-Ann Romano started planting in 2007 and currently have five acres under vine. They opened a tasting room in 2011 and moved to the current space in 2014.

Joe is the winemaker. He learned his craft primarily through reading and workshops. Jo-Ann is the vineyard manager and points out that she is intimately familiar with each vine. The couple has clearly mastered each of their roles, because the wines are uniformly excellent.

With the exception of Barbera, which was recently planted, the Romanos are growing hybrids. Barbera and Merlot are sourced from California, but everything else is estate fruit.

I tasted seven Romano wines during my visit. White blends are a feature of the tasting lineup and that is Joe’s superpower. They were uniformly balanced with bright acidity. The Vidal Blanc/Cayuga blends were the real standouts.

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The only red varietal grown at Romano is Chambourcin and they were sold out. Jo-Ann did pour the Barbera and Merlot. Both were well crafted, but it will be interesting to see how the estate Barbera develops. 

The tasting room is quite spacious and there is ample space outside as well. A couple small groups of visitors were picnicking on the covered porch. The operation seems well oiled and customer oriented. It is a winery that gets high marks across the board.

I can heartily recommend stopping in as part of a wider regional exploration. After you do, please let me know what you think.


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Running Hare Vineyard

 

Owner(s): J. Michael Scarborough

Winemaker: Jerson Garcia

Open to Public

Fri-Sun 12 to 6

150 Adelina Road; Prince Frederick, MD 20678

phone: 410-414-8486

email: See website

website


Running Hare Vineyard Profile

Written by Brian—Jul 2, 2017

This winery was not really on my radar beyond simply being one of many Maryland wineries that I intended to visit. I will say that I am surprised that I did not hear more about this winery before stopping in. First of all, the business model at Running Hare Vineyard is different from most wineries I visit in the Mid Atlantic. More importantly, it is a genuinely spectacular venue that sports a real wine country vibe.

After turning off of Adelina Road near Prince Frederick, Maryland, the gravel drive seemed to wind through the woods for miles and that is only a slight exaggeration. After breaking out of the trees, I noted several acres of vineyards and on the distant hill there appeared a Tuscan-style villa. As I followed the parking signs around the vineyard, I thought there was a special event underway. Well, there was sort of…

There is a very large parking area at Running Hare. After exiting my car, I noted numerous food trucks and it is necessary to be carded and receive a wristband before entering the main event space. Just inside the gate there is a shaded area filled with picnic tables. Beyond that there are two primary structures. One serves beer and the other wine. They both offer tastings in addition to glass and bottle sales. Between the tasting structures, there are numerous tables in what looks like a sea of colorful umbrellas. This seating faces a small stage where a band played. According to owner Mike Scarborough, this is a typical Saturday at Running Hare.

According to Scarborough, the vision is for Running Hare to become the epicenter of regional agro tourism. It was toward this end that he purchased the 292-acre property in 2000. Planting was started in 2003 and today there are eight acres under vine. The first vintage was bottled in 2007 and a brewery was added in 2014. Current annual production stands at around 7500 cases of wine and 2400 barrels of beer, which is sold exclusively on the premises.

With regard to the wine, a majority of the fruit is sourced from around the world and only 20% is grown locally. Scarborough indicated that this is entirely by design. The idea is to concentrate only on varietals that can be grown reliably in Southern Maryland. This idea is to make wine only from good fruit, so Scarborough has contracted for a specific quality with his international sources and it is evident in the quality of the Running Hare wines.

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I tasted through the entire menu and the reserve wines. All of the wines made from sourced fruit were of the highest quality. I am, however, much more interested in what is being grown and produced from local grapes. There were three wines that met those criteria.

The Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin rosé was exceptional. It was done in a dry, Provençal style that was perfectly balanced. The honey and stone fruit notes ended in a dry, crisp finish making it my favorite of the Maryland wines. I also tasted a pair of blends. I felt that the Cayuga/Niagara Jackrabbit White was a nice summer sipping wine. Like all the whites, it was balanced and very well crafted. The Concord/Rougeon Jackrabbit Red was something of a surprise. The Rougeon stood up to the Concord and muted the grape jelly notes. It is a perfect “gateway” red for wine drinkers just learning to appreciate red wine. It was fruit forward and displayed few tannins, which also make it a nice summer sipping wine.

It is difficult to compare Running Hare Vineyards to other wineries. I am just unfamiliar with any other similar program. Nevertheless, they do appear to pull in a great deal of repeat business and patrons are drawn from as far away as DC and Baltimore. So it works. At the end of the day, Running Hare is attracting wine drinkers, educating them and entertaining them. In my estimation, this winery and tasting experience are something of an anchor for other local producers.

I can absolutely recommend stopping in. In fact, I think you need to experience this winery and find out what they have to offer. Running Hare Vineyard is a must-see winery in Southern Maryland. After you stop in, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts.


Thanksgiving Farm Winery

 

Owner(s): Doug and Maureen Heimbuch

Winemaker: Doug Heimbuch

Open to Public

Apr-Dec 18 Sat-Sun 1 to 5pm

By appointment thru Mar

195 Harwood Road; Harwood, MD 20776

phone: 410-630-1511

email: customer_service@ThanksgivingFarm.com

website


Thanksgiving Farm Winery Profile

Written by Brian—Jun 27, 2016

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Doug Heimbuch attended Grad School at Cornell. One might naturally assume, because he and his wife Maureen own a winery, that his studies had something to do with oenology. That is not the case, but while at Cornell he did pick grapes in the Finger Lakes and he began making wine as a hobby. More accurately, he was a grad student and made wine as a cheap source of alcohol. In any case, it began a lifelong interest in wine.

In 1996, Doug and Maureen purchased a piece of the old Richland Farm in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. They restored the 19th-century farmhouse and were interested in preserving the rural nature of the land. So in 1998, they started planting grapes. Thanksgiving Farm became the first wine producing estate in the county and the inspiration for numerous other wineries throughout the state. The Heimbuchs planted exclusively Bordeaux varietals and concentrated on quality dry-style wines. Thanksgiving Farm was licensed in 2006 and they opened a tasting room in 2010. 

Thanksgiving Farm is a small, boutique operation dedicated to high-quality wine made in small, handcrafted batches. Today they are producing between 500 and 600 cases annually. When all of the vines are productive, it is possible that they will increase to 1000 cases per year, but that is the upward limit. Doug, who is both winemaker and vineyard master, was insistent that the operation remain small and the emphasis remain entirely on the highest possible quality. I think Doug and Maureen are on the right track.

When the tasting room first opened, Thanksgiving Farm had no white offerings. The real interest was on Bordeaux-style reds, but customers began to ask for a white wine. So the decision was made to create a white wine from Cabernet Franc. Nobody else in North America is making a white Cab Franc. To the best of my knowledge, it is unique to the Loire Valley in France. The production method involves pressing the grapes and collecting the free-run juices so there is no contact with the skin. The wine does take on a slightly darker, golden hue, but it is a white wine. I found the Franc Blanc to be both complex, balanced and full of melon and pear notes. This wine alone is a reason to visit.

They are also pouring a very nice Merlot Rosé and an amazing Petit Verdot Port-style wine, but the real story here is the Meritage. They are typically pouring more than one, so there is the bonus of a vertical tasting. I tasted the 2010, 2011 and 2013. They are all blends of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Petit Verdot, but dominated by the first two varietals. Of course 2011 was a terrible year, so the wine was a bit thin, but 2010 was just out of the park. The 2013 needs more time in bottle, but will be a fabulous wine. The Meritage is one of the best red blends in the state and simply must be tasted.

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The wine is not the only reason to visit. Thanksgiving Farm occupies a rather stunning venue. When you turn off of Harwood Road, you will pass by the other half of the old Richland Farm. You will drive by a number of agricultural outbuildings. Do not pass judgment. A little further down the gravel lane, you will see the vineyards and the property will open up. It is a lovely rural setting and one where you will want to linger with a glass of wine. I recommend a picnic. 

If you want to visit Thanksgiving Farm (and I encourage you to do so), check the website. They are open most weekends, but it is a small family-run endeavor. There is no tasting room staff. It is only the Heimbuchs. So in the event of a conflict, the tasting room will not open. Having said that, I strongly recommend making an effort to stop in. This is one of Maryland’s premier wineries and really needs our support. After you visit, please let me know what you think.


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The Vineyards at Dodon

 

Owner(s): Polly Pittman and Tom Croghan

Winemaker: Seth McCombs

Open to Public

Email info@dodonvineyards.com or call 410-798-1126

391 Dodon Road, Davidsonville, Md. 21035

phone: 410-798-1126

email: info@dodonevineyards.com

website


The Vineyards at Dodon Profile

Written by Brian—Apr 25, 2016

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I have been making a concerted effort to know more about Maryland wine. It was not that long ago that wine enthusiasts speculated Maryland would be the center of fine wine production in the Mid Atlantic. While the state may not have as many producers as Virginia or Pennsylvania, the existing wineries are definitely producing wines of distinction. I recently attended a couple different events that showcased amazing Maryland wines and that has only fueled my desire to explore the state. So when I was up north attending a wine festival, I made some enquiries about nearby wineries. Rebecca Dulka of the Maryland Wineries Association recommended The Vineyards at Dodon in Anne Arundel County. 

The 550 acre Dodon farm was purchased from its original owner by the Steuarts (now Pittmans) in 1725. It has known several agricultural uses over the years, which include row crops, horses and tobacco. Horses are still raised on the property and the farm has one of the largest equine pastures in the county. In 2007, some of the land was converted to vineyard and today there are fifteen acres under vine. This most recent use of the land is likely to draw far more attention to Dodon.

Prior to leaving the wine festival, I called ahead and then made the 45 minute drive to the winery. I was met at the tasting room by Tom Croghan, who is one of the current owners along with his wife Polly. There are no regular tasting hours, so a reservation is necessary. Be forewarned that you should not expect a quick visit. Tom spent three hours showing me around the property, providing background and conducting a formal tasting. The typical program unfolds in three stages. First we took a glass of wine out to a picnic table and Tom provided details about the history of the farm, growing conditions and long-term vision. This was followed by a tour of the immediate property and winery. Finally, we sat down and tasted the Dodon wines. 

Tom’s philosophy is that “wine is more than a beverage” and he wants to share this idea with visitors to Dodon. The idea is to provide a substantive experience that will provide education and a real understanding of the wine. Tom pointed out that “it is about knowing the soil and bringing people together.” By any measure, this is an extrodinary tasting experience and I felt fortunate that my first Maryland winery experience was so instructive.

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Tom refers to the vineyard and winery as “the project” and he brought together a team that was certain to insure success. Among the consultants was no less a figure than Lucy Morton, who has been a singularly important influence on Virginia wine. Lucy selected the best sites for viticulture and directed Tom toward cultivation of primarily Bordeaux varietals. Tom aspires to make "balanced, harmonious wines with both depth and character,” so no detail was overlooked. Today the winery produces about 1200 cases annually and there are plans to expand to about 3500 cases. The expansion will not sacrifice quality; of that I am sure. A tasting will demonstrate that the vision has become reality.

I tasted three Dodon wines (in addition to the Rosé I sampled as a cocktail). All of the wines were of exceptional quality and ideal for pairing with food. Minerality was a feature of each offering, which included a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Bordeaux blend. The whites were perfectly balanced, well-crafted wines, but the Bordeaux blend was the standout. It was a complex wine with beautiful aromatics, structured tannins and a long finish. Dodon also produces another red and a white blend that were unavailable during my visit. The entire wine program is first rate and sets the bar quite high for other Maryland wineries I may visit.

Let me just reiterate that this is not a venue for a casual winery visit. You will not see a parking lot full of busses or limos and the tasting room will not be filled with drunken revellers. Having said that, this is a must-visit for anyone serious about exploring Maryland wine. If it is your first winery, as it was for me, you can do far worse. I encourage you to call ahead and pay a visit. It is an excellent venue for learning about Maryland wine or just wine in general. If you do stop in, please let me know what you think.