For over 12 years, Tours & Crawls has been has been helping to keep the peace in Maryland homes over the holidays, providing relatives a way to beat cabin fever and get out of the house for a few entertaining hours. Their thrill-seeking guides lead walking ghost tours and pub crawls around the city's historical district, examining and explaining the lives of its long-dead citizens while occasionally enjoying each pubs' choicest sips. Tours eventually wind their way to the graveyard, where a guide recounts spine-tingling tales of the buried dead and their favorite back scratchers. They also lead craft-brewed beer tours and twisted history tavern tours that fill tour goers' heads with titillating tales of the Founding Fathers and the drinking game that wrote the Constitution.
Underneath the same big, country sky that blankets Frederick County's dairy farms and horse ranches, the winery building at Elk Run Vineyards, built in 1756, overlooks rolling hills that were originally a land grant to Lord Baltimore from the King of England. Though this land has seen many uses, today Fred and Carol Wilson and Neill Bassford tend its soil to produce a range of Gold, Double Gold, and Best of Maryland award-winning wines such as cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and Cold Friday chardonnay. Winemakers craft these libations using a blend of contemporary equipment and Old-World winemaking techniques. They harvest grapes from plots planted in schist and shale soil designed to follow sustainable agricultural practices.
Though many vintners refer to their winemaking techniques as "old country," those of the Loews are older than most. The family's first forays into the drinkable craft began in the 19th century, in an area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire known as Galicia, now part of Ukraine. There, they brewed honey wines and distributed them throughout Europe. The Loews continued in the business well into the 20th century, but their enterprise was disrupted by the outbreak of World War II. The Loew name wouldn't appear on another bottle until nearly a half-century later, in a vineyard an ocean away.
The modern iteration of Loew Vineyards was established in 1982, and today stretches across 37 lush acres in Frederick County. Here, the gravelly soil nourishes flavorful grapes ideal for both red and white wines. The Loews tend to the vines throughout the year, harvesting the grapes in the fall and pruning them and fitting leaves with tiny mittens in the winter. Their crops are transformed into more than a dozen varieties of wine, ranging from the citrus-y, semi-sweet Serendipity to a balanced hearty red wine. The family even bottles honey wine (Mead) in a nod to their European past.
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Detour Winery is not a big-name brand, but this smallish quality is part of the estate's charm. The other part is its location in the shadow of Catoctin Mountain. Here, close enough to Mother Nature to steal her purse, travelers can stop and savor life in the presence of wildflowers, grapes, pavilions, and softball fields.
The proprietor, Daniel Tamminga, cultivate award-winning wines—their current offerings cover all the bases from fruit and dessert wines to reds, whites, and blushes. But they also cultivate a healthy community with wine festivals, youth athletic-program sponsorships, and a summer concert series. They welcome weddings and corporate events onto their property and routinely host winemaking classes to help out new brewers, much to the horror of unstomped grapes everywhere.
Down the gravel road, past the pine trees and hay fields, and above the lolling meadows lies Galloping Goose Vineyards. For the Hale family, it's a long-held dream come to fruition. Before Ed and Diane Hale planted their first grapes, these fields were devoted solely to farming. But through hard work and intense contract negotiations with the barnyard animals, they transformed the property into a hybrid farm, winery, and vineyard. Today, visitors sip Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon made on-site. And while the farmland provides an idyllic retreat from the hustle and bustle of regular life, an open pavilion with seating for up to 40 makes it suitable for spirited parties as well.
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.