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 sprouts 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 Cabernet Franc. The family even bottles a honey wine 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.
The paranormal investigators and tour guides of After Dark Investigations specialize in small-group tours that provide customers with hands-on experience and equipment. Ghost tourists utilize EMF detectors, dowsing rods, and infrared-video cameras to capture any potential appearance of apparitions. The tours stretch to locations such as cemeteries or abandoned amusement parks near the location of the Battle of Gettysburg.
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.