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.
In 1983, "Beefalo" Bob DiMartino began a small-scale catering operation built around no-frills, classic recipes of pit-roasted barbecue, growing his business to include a carry-out joint, sports bar, and even an upscale banquet hall. Bob's process is simple: slow cooking beef, ham, turkey, slabs of ribs and morsels of pork and chicken over smoking hickory fires and not cutting corners with gas jets or heat vision. The sports bar garnishes these backyard-style feasts with plates of oysters, lump crab cakes, and strip steak, as well as sports games on 20 big-screen TVs and rivers of cold beer.
True to its roots as a catering outfit, Beefalo Bob's supplies parties of up to 10,000 with bull roasts, crab feasts, and roasted pigs, as well as rentals of tents, tables, and moon bounces. Fancy occasions find a home in the 250-person Reflections Hall, decked out with chandeliers, DJs, a fireplace, hints of sparkly gold, and a wide-open hardwood dance floor.
Blue Mountain Vineyards owners, Joe and Vickie, are pinot pioneers. Beginning with a 5-acre experiment in 1986, they discovered that the soil of the Lehigh Valley does a fine impression of French terrain, making it suitable for growing the grapes of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and other European varietals. Since then, they've expanded to a 50-acre plot, where they now produce wines that have won awards from the Fingerlake International Wine Competition and Appellation America.
Panoramic views of the Blue Mountains overlook scenic terraces at the vineyards, where grapes spring from soil that soldiers roamed during the Revolutionary War. Tastings, concerts, and other events fill the winery's glass-flanked deck, spilling onto an outdoor patio surrounded by ponds as tranquil as a silent lullaby. Visitors admire the vines during tours, and they can also adopt their favorites to preserve the vines' flavorful histories.
One glance at the exposed brick and stone that surrounds you at Gas Station Kitchen and Bar?itself a former gas station?and it's clear you're feasting inside a gastropub. But Chef Forest Dunlap's complex flavors don't make that deduction so easy. His Maryland crab-cake sliders and old-bay chips transport you to a classic New England seafood shack, and his wood-fired pizzas conjure up visions of Italy with toppings such as goat cheese and balsamic reduction. He also uses a house smoker to summon Southern comforts, creating dishes such as the pork platter?a medley of smoked pork shoulder, pork belly, and housemade sausage.
To complement the kitchen's eclectic servings, head bartender Gary Weisinger pours a variety of international and domestic brews, including several from Hershey's own Troegs Brewing Company. On the cocktail front, he sticks to the classics, such as daiquiris, singapore slings, and rum runners, which were once the official drink of America's least successful track team. Along with these meals, Gas Station hosts frequent events, such as live music, beer launches, and Irish dances, to entertain patrons until its 2 a.m. closing time.
Armed with 20 years of experience, the brewmasters at Mr. Steve's Homebrew and Wine Supplies help amateur boozesmiths notch the proper equipment and wisdom to craft homemade beer and wine. Bring beer dreams to foamy fruition with the Brewer Best kit (a $75 value), which includes the containers, tubes, and other necessary gewgaws, but excludes bottles and patience. A variety of ingredient kits (a $40 value) can facilitate the production of about 50 bottles of beer in a wide range of flavors and species, including standbys such as irish stout and brown ale or seasonals such as Summer Delight. Alternately, find a way to fill up empty water balloons with a winemaking equipment kit (a $115 value) and ingredient kit (a $100 value). The kit enables budding vintners to produce about 30 bottles of riesling, pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon, or myriad other varieties.
Even before Richard Naylor and his wife, Audrey, founded their winery in 1978, the Naylor family had been fascinated by the winemaking process. What began as a backyard vine-growing experiment first transitioned into an barrel-producing operation in a potato cellar. It then blossomed into today's idyllic Pennsylvania winery, full of vineyards, rows of wooden barrels, and a staff of friendly wine experts. Richard and his family lead groups through tours of the picturesque estate, imparting their wisdom about the fine varietals grown there, such as cabernet franc or chambourcin. Guests can sip fine vino during regular festivals and front-porch tastings, or they can experience live bands, competitive wine-tasting events, and even weddings in the welcoming, rustic setting of the Pavilion.