For Denise and John Wilkerson, owning a vineyard had always been a shared dream, but not one they thought would ever be realized. Wandering through the French regions of Dijon and Bordeaux on their honeymoon, the two sampled myriad wines and mustards, refining their palates and developing an appreciation for wine-dipped mustard sandwiches. Back in the states, the two tried their hand at cattle farming before making a dramatic decision: they'd sell the cattle, work on beautifying their 20 acres of land, and find a sunny patch of earth to plant those first few rows of wine grapes.
Today, the two curate tastings of their award-winning wines in a renovated barn, where barrels have been re-purposed into tables, and grapes have been re-purposed as alcohol. Through open doors, the rustic tasting room looks out over the Wilkersons' 20 acres, which are populated by rows of grapes and the lush undergrowth of native plants.
Established in 1986, Basignani Winery cultivates and bottles hand-crafted red and white wines using a traditional cellar method and techniques perfected over several years. Owners Bert and Lynne Basignani have named some of their favorite wines after their four children, such as the dry Elena, a white seyval blend aged in oak, or the Lorenzino Reserve, a rich blend of cabernet sauvignon and franc melded with fruity merlot. Wednesday–Sunday, the winery holds half-hour tastings of its creations and encourages—weather and Dionysus’s mood permitting— self guided tours of the vineyard. A 20-minute drive north of Baltimore, the winery boasts rows of plump green and burgundy grapes hanging off vines as the winery’s resident border collies run and play in the fields. In spring, vibrant fuchsia petals burst from branches and delicate blush blooms droop low to the ground to provide cover for a romantic meal or microfiche exchange among visitors.
Carved from the remnants of a late-1800s carriage building and corncrib, the Woodhall Wine Cellars tasting room serves samples of small-batch wines surrounded by a warm, rustic ambiance befitting its barrel- and bottle-aged wares. The boutique family winery has grown its menu of five varieties in the mid-1980s to its current library of more than a dozen wines, including whites, reds, and dessert styles that are made entirely from Maryland-grown grapes. Each wine goes through an extensive tasting process, creating a hierarchy of reserve wines and varietal and non-varietal blends, some of which have gone on to garner awards and mark significant anniversaries.
Perched on a hill overlooking northern Baltimore County's scenic valleys, Royal Rabbit Vineyards typically provides guests pleasing views throughout the year. It isn't until late spring and summer, however, that the landscape begins to change: heavy green and purple orbs crop up along 4 acres of climbing grapevines. By fall, the heavy, ripened grapes are ready for harvest—later on they’ll be turned into the winery’s award-winning wines or used as low-impact marbles. The small winery lies along the Piedmont Wine Trail and Mason-Dixie Wine Trail, which connects more than 20 small, family-owned wineries in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
In keeping with the Royal Rabbit Vineyards motto—"Treat yourself royally"—many of the wines have royal titles, including a cabernet franc blend dubbed “the duke.” Wine labels display a kingly rabbit holding a golden chalice.
The roots of Hunt Valley Motor Coach's family tree spring from two buses. In 1985, Edward Royston only had a pair of vehicles to his name, and a mission to make the traveling process a highlight of his clients' vacations. His fleet soon grew to 11 buses, and more still when the company joined with Gunther Charters, a business known for its memorable package tours. Today, Edward's emphasis on personality prevails at every step of the booking process, from online or phone conversations with the small sales team—where Gunther Charters founders Marty and Laurie Gunther still field calls—to greetings from each jovial driver.
From its Baltimore base, the company plans convenient round trips and tours to a variety of locales. Its daylong jaunts to Atlantic City deposit riders at the casinos and boardwalk, and excursions to New York launch days full of seasonal shopping and sightseeing. Thanks to locked and guarded storage, passengers are even encouraged to leave their laptops and other bulky possessions on the bus during their daylong excursions.
Themed tours ferry passengers to states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Tennessee for overnight stays and guided explorations of local sites. The New Orleans tour, for example, leads groups through historic cemeteries and the botanical garden, and a holiday tour of Newport mansions showcases the intricate decorations and reindeer butlers of three resplendent homes.