I’ve lived in my neighborhood for over a decade, but I’ve not been a good neighbor. I like my neighbors but I realized recently I hardly knew them. I thought an exploration of some wineries not too far from our homes would be a nice way to start fixing that, so I invited my neighbors to join me on this “day trip.” Two neighbors, Terrie and Paula, graciously agreed to join me.
“Owning a vineyard and winery was a passion of ours and something we had been dreaming about,” Karen said. She noted that after doing some research, it seemed like an “impossible dream” due to the amount of time and effort it takes to start a vineyards from the ground up. “We have visited numerous wineries and vineyards, enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, the character of each one, and of course the experience of learning about and tasting new wines!” The difficulties in starting up a new vineyard from scratch caused them to explore purchasing one that was already operating.
Serpent Ridge was a logical choice, in part, she said, because they had volunteered at Serpent Ridge and learned more about growing grapes, harvesting them, and the whole production process. “Working with our friends, the former owners of Serpent Ridge, we learned about the business and all its operations — we loved everything about it — the hard work, the lifestyle, the beauty and serenity of the vineyard, and of course, all the wonderful people we’ve met and continue to meet!”
|Zork the Cat greets visitors to Serpent Ridge’s wine tasting room.|
As before, Serpent Ridge’s wine tasting cost $5, and came with a souvenir wine glass, with which you sample 6 wines: a 2011 Seyval Blanc, the 2011 Albarino, a 2011 Cab Franc rose, the 2011 Basilisk, the 2010 Vintner’s Cabernet, and Slither, a desert wine.
Each vintage is grown and/or vinified in small lots followed by gentle ageing in stainless steel, traditional and new age oak. “We want to make a quality product, we want to show demonstrate all the goodness in Maryland wines, and most of all, we want to create a unique and pleasurable experience for all of our guests,” she said.
When we sampled Slither, a dessert red, the server advised us to take a sip of the wine, then eat a bite of a dark chocolate Hersey’s kiss, then take another sip. Yum! The chocolate really brought a cherry taste in the wine to life, and I could well imagine serving Slither with some chocolate candy as an after-dinner dessert. (This is why I usually like to bring a few Hersey’s kisses with me. It’s surprising how much the chocolate can affect the taste of the wine.) As with my previous visit, I very much enjoyed the Albarino, and left with a bottle of it to enjoy at a later time.
Bertero Basignani inherited his love of winemaking from his grandparents, Annunziata and Scandiano Bechini, who brought the tradition of home winemaking with them from their native Italy. Just after he married his wife, Lynn, in 1974, he planted 60 vines, 10 each of 6 different varieties. Using his grandmother’s grape press, Bert began experimenting with winemaking. Four decades later, and his winery is highly regarded in Maryland, and his wine tasting room quite crowded!
Terri and Paula preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Villa Sangria, neither of which I tried. Terri and Paula also tried the Lorenzino Reserve, and when I noticed our server (whose name escapes me but was very chatty and nice–pictured here) pull out two Hersey’s kisses, I offered to drop one of the sweeter wines I’d selected so I could try the Lorenzino with the chocolate. Our server pooh poohed that idea, and poured me a sample of the Lorenzino anyway. Although this wasn’t necessarily a dessert wine, I was impressed by how, once again, the pairing of chocolate with a red wine really creates a nice palate change, changing both for the better (which just proves to me, again, that everything can be improved by adding either chocolate or wine).
One of the nicer aspects of all three wineries we visited this Sunday was that none minded that we brought our own food along (most allow you to bring your own food into the winery, but some do not — it’s best to call ahead and ask what is permitted). We’d brought some whole grain and white baquette bread, assorted cheeses, and grapes.
Woodhall wines are fermented in small lots, keeping the fruit from each vineyard separate, so that Woodhall’s blending program can take maximum advantage of “terroir” (the effects of climate and soils on fruit, hence wine, quality). The wines are aged in barrel and bottle until ready for consumption.
In addition to its grape wines, Woodhall also offers two nice apple wines: a semi-dry apple wine and its “Sparks Apple Ice Wine,” a rich dessert wine, both made from blends of six varieties of apples from Milburn Orchard in Cecil County, MD.
**I emailed all three wineries, in the interest of fairness, to ask them questions about their vineyards. Only Serpent Ridge responded.
Tip: Avoid the crowds — go on Sunday. Wineries tend to be less crowded on Sundays than on Saturdays.
|Wine bottles being labeled at Woodhall Winecellars.|
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