Checking out some Maryland wineries…

Greetings friends!  It’s been a while, but life has been a bit trying lately, so I hope you’ll forgive me.  I don’t know about you, but to me this has been one of the longest, coldest, Photo Feb 24, 3 01 23 PMand just plain saddest winters I can remember.  Just constant cold and gray.  Yuck.  Then when we finally do get snow it’s on the first day of spring, go figure.  Welcome to Northern Virginia, home of every single season in a week!  But, the season is slowly changing to spring, flowers are starting to bloom, and the days will start getting warmer and longer.  Thank god, I think we’re all ready!  To make up for it being so long since I’ve written I made this one extra long!  Lucky you!  So pour a glass of wine and have at it…

A couple of weekends ago, about eight of us decided to stray beyond our usual stomping grounds and check out two wineries and then enjoy dinner in Frederick, MD.  I know, I know, you’re probably thinking ‘Maryland has wineries?’  Turns out that yes, they do.  They aren’t nearly as numerous as ours here at home, but they have them, and we found out they make some pretty damn good wine!

Our first stop was at Elk Run Vineyards & Winery in Mount Airy, MD.  I’ve been looking forward to visiting this place for a long time.  I found out about it sometime last year when I was casually talking to a volunteer at work.  I mentioned that I’m working on a very sophisticated and high brow wine blog, and when she got done laughing at me she told me that her husband was one of the winemakers at Elk Run and we should go check it out.

We arrived around 3:00 on a drizzly gray Saturday afternoon to a really cute little tasting Photo Feb 24, 3 03 03 PMroom surrounded by a beautiful vineyard.  We were quickly greeted and it turned out my friend’s husband Neill was actually there and did our tasting himself!  That was an unexpected surprise.  They have A LOT of wines to pick from.  And their tasting is a bit different, than a lot of those in Virginia, in that they give you the list, broken down by Dry Whites (5 choices), Dry Reds (2 choices), Heavier Reds (5 choices), Slightly Sweets (4 choices), and Dessert (2 choices), and they let you choose the six you want to try.  So the eight of us set out to narrow the list of 18 wines down to six.  Yikes.

Once we finally agreed on our six wines, we set about the work at hand.  We tried the 2014 Malbec from the Dry Reds, 2015 Pinot Noir, 2015 Cab Franc, and 2015 Syrah fromPhoto Feb 24, 3 06 54 PM the heavier reds, and the Gewurztraminer and Annapolis Sunset from the Slightly Sweets.  All were delicious.  Our folks that gravitate towards lighter wines loved the sweets, with the Annapolis Sunset being a particular favorite, it was just sweet enough, nice and crisp.  It would be a fantastic wine to have on the deck on a nice summers day.  The red wine drinkers really enjoyed the Malbec, and Cab Franc, both were lovely and robust full-bodied wines with a delightful finish.  I’d drink them with steak, or pizza.  Red wine goes with everything as far as I’m concerned.

After the tasting and small talk with Neill, we settled on a bottle of Annapolis Sunset and a bottle of Cab Franc, we ordered some cheese and crackers and sat down to enjoy the afternoon.  As we were sitting there the star of the winery showed up, their 4 month old Golden Retriever puppy!  As golden lovers we were of course enthralled with the puppy and he was more than happy to have us rub his belly…and hope that we’d drop some food.  I can’t think of a better place to be a dog than a winery; you’re surrounded all day by people in a great mood who are most likely more than happy to slip you a treat, or drop them depending on exactly how good of a mood they’re in if you know what I mean.  I’m not saying we did that, but I’m not saying we didn’t either.  We had an awesome time at Elk Run.  The wine and the people and the puppy are all wonderful and we’ll definitely be back.  But it was time to move on to our next stop!

I’d read the reviews on Linganore Winecellars in Mount Airy and thought it looked cool.  This place is HUGE. The grounds are surrounded by vineyards, and in the middle are several beautiful red buildings which house the Photo Feb 24, 5 59 19 PMproduction areas, winery tasting room, and the Red Shedman brewery.  This place is a one stop shop for all your alcohol needs!  We had made a reservation and were promptly set up with our wonderful hostess, Amber.  She handed us each the wine menu, which was really long, and we asked how it worked.  She says ‘we start at the top and work our way down, let’s go.’  Ummm…that’s 12 wines, but we aren’t quitters so ok let’s do it!  We worked our way through two whites, Chardonnay and White Raven; one rose they call Seventh; three reds, Chambourcin (yay me my favorite grape!), Retriever Red, and Black Raven; one sweet white Traminette; and five fruit wines, Blueberry, Mountain White (white grape), Mountain Red (red grape), Indulgence (chocolate), and Blackberry Kiss.  Phew, that was a lot of wine.  THEN Amber said that we could each pick one from the back to try as well.  We flipped the tasting menu over and found 24 MORE wines to choose from.  We all picked something different and honestly I can’t for the life of me remember which ones, but trust me when I say they were all good.  For me, my favorites were the Chambourcin (surprise!), it as a delightful medium Photo Feb 24, 4 30 45 PMbodied wine that would go great with anything, and I also enjoyed the Retriever Red which was a nice soft subtly sweet red wine with a great finish.

After we were finally done with the tasting we learned that not only are their per bottle prices on wine incredibly affordable, if you buy a case you get 15% off!  WHOA!  Naturally, being the frugal wine connoisseurs that we are we set about choosing what wines we each wanted so we could buy a case between us.  Our house came home with 2 bottles of Retriever Red, 2 bottles of Chambourcin, a bottle of Strawberry (it’s from the secret back menu), and a bottle of Mountain Red.  Others in the group chose the Chambourcin, Retriever Red, and Black Raven.  They even brought us a cute little cart and an empty case to put it all in.  We felt like we were either pros or winos walking around there with a cart picking out wine.  Maybe we’re pro winos?  Hmmmm….

All that choosing made us thirsty, so we opened up a couple of bottles from our freshlyPhoto Feb 24, 5 10 15 PMprocured case and set about drinking and harassing each other as usual.  We had an awesome time and really enjoyed our time at Linganore.  We had planned to make it to the brewery, but alas, time got away from us and we never got there.  That’s just a great reason to go back soon, which we will.

Everyone was getting hungry, which was a good thing, because we had reservations at Brewers Alley in downtown Frederick, MD.  We’d never been before but had heard great things so we were excited to give it a try.  We were quickly greeted and seated.  We voted on the Deviled Eggs and Jalapeno Stuffed Pretzel for apps, both were delicious.  For dinner we tried the Country Fried Steak, Jerk Chicken, Fish and Chips, and the Lomo Saltado (it’s a Peruvian thing, look it up).  Everything was very good and everyone was pleased with their choice.  For dessert we ordered a few things to share; the Hazelnut Creme Brulee, Chocolate Peanut Butter Bread Pudding, and a Warm Double Chocolate Brownie Sundae.  Everything was delicious and the service was great, we’ll definitely be back.  Frederick is a cool place to visit, if you haven’t been there go check it out.

Well our day has come to an end, we were all full of wine, food, and as usual we’d laughed til our sides ached, so it must be time to head home and recover.  Visiting wineries and enjoying good food is an amazing way to connect with those you love.  I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of people to spend these precious days with.  Whether friends or family, or friends who’ve become family, get yourself a group and get out there and enjoy life.  If I’ve learned anything through this winter that has dragged on and on its that you never know what tomorrow will bring, so make sure today was worth it!

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Drink up!

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