It took only a year for the team behind The Vineyard at Hershey to go from hatching their idea at a piano bar to purchasing 40 acres of farmland in 2009. Handcrafted by resident winemaker L. Paul Vezzetti II, the winery’s selection ranges from a subtle hint of strawberry in the Twisted Kiss red-and-white blend to darker notes of plum and spice in the Firefly, a stalwart red. Bartenders pour samples for visitors to savor inside the vineyard’s farmhouse tasting room, beside its 2-acre spring pond, or on a deck overlooking the hills of Dauphin County. Said deck is home to the winery’s summertime concert series, one of numerous events it hosts alongside year-round tastings and vineyard tours.
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.
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.
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.
Gather your coven around the cauldron with today's side deal to romantic fondue feasting at Boordy Vineyards. For $9, you'll get an adult ticket to Fond of Your Fondue and a wine glass for tasting, an $18 value. Relax among the 19th century farm buildings on the Boordy estate, nestled in the hills of the Long Green Valley, just a short drive north of the beltway. This event runs from 1–5 p.m. on February 7, making this a game-changing way to mentally prepare for the Super Bowl.