Are we allowed to get excited about an event just based on the genius of its name? Sure, puns aren’t everybody’s bag, but come on! This one is really irresistible. If you’re not up to speed on your wine/horse lingo, to “decant” a wine means to aerate it by pouring it into a glass vessel; and a “canter” is a horse’s run. Put them both together and you’ve got a perfectly apt name for what should be a fabulous event brought to us by the Maryland Wineries Association.
Combining two of Maryland’s beloved traditions (horse racing and wine), the third annual Decanter event comes on the heels of this year’s Drink Local Wine conference. The national conference is being held (this weekend, in fact) in Baltimore, and will feature Maryland’s finest wineries, discussions, talks, and of course gourmet local food to pair with all of the fabulous wine. That all happens this Saturday, the 13th. But the following weekend (for those who just can’t get enough—and we’re assuming that’s most of us) Decanter offers the opportunity to taste the finest wines from 28 Maryland wineries. You can meet the people who make the wine, ask them anything, and then purchase a bottle for the day, or a case to bring home.
The Drink Local Wine conference is sure to enlighten us about many of the subtler joys of going “locapour.” But local wineries often offer benefits that any layperson can appreciate. For example, Slack Winery’s “Maestro’s Symphony” (which happens to be at its peak right now) was created as a tribute to the Chesapeake Orchestra, and 20% of the profits from this wine are donated directly to the Chesapeake Orchestra. Millstone Cellars, which crafts ciders and meads, doggedly seeks out local farmers whose honey or apples reflect the local ecology and sustainable agricultural practices. Says one of its founders, “Half the fun of what we do is tracking down passionate local farmers who have really wild cider apple varietals and interesting floral sources for their honey.” The historic Boordy Vinyards has actually placed their farm in permanent preservation with the Maryland Environmental Trust as an act of dedication to conscientious stewardship of Maryland’s agricultural land. The list of participating (and do-gooding) local wineries goes on, but you can find out all these details and more by striking up a conversation with any of the many winemakers you’ll meet at Decanter.
At the event, you’re free, of course, to taste as many wines as you’d like, though we’d caution you against too many samples if you’re also planning on betting on the races. That’s right. It wouldn’t be Pimlico without the racing—so we personally suggest that you place your bets before sampling every vintage this side of the Susquehanna. Then, once you’ve raked in your winnings (which, of course you will…right?) you can go ahead and spend them on a case of your favorite new wine. There will also be “equine focused” arts & crafts for sale from local artisans, in case that case of wine doesn’t eat up all your winnings.
Decanter is a two-day event, taking place on April 20 and 21 and there are a few different options for enjoying your time there. The General Admission Pass ($30) provides a Grandstand (read: the best) vantage point of all turf and dirt races of the day, samples of fine Maryland wine from Free State wineries, access to local artisans, and specialty food (at an extra cost—not included). For the dedicated Decanterer (yes, we’ve just decided that’s a word), you can upgrade to the Decanter Pass ($50), which includes all of the above, but you also get to take home a full size Riedel wine glass, samples of an exclusive Decanter wine from each attending winery, and a six bottle carrying bag. Tickets for youth and designated drivers (yes!) are available at a discount as well.
Decanter takes place on April 20 and 21 at the historic Pimlico race track in Baltimore. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can visit www.marylandwine.com