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.
You want to drive to all those wineries—but you want to taste all the wines there, too. Vino 301 Wine Concierge removes the potentially hazardous but necessary element of driving from the equation: their tour ambassadors whisk tasters from one winery to the next, providing helpful information along the way. Several different tours offer prospective clients the chance to explore the area's different wine regions, and each lasts up to five and a half hours. There are also specially-orchestrated tours for events such as bachelorette parties, birthdays, and celebrating your friend Dionysus' birthday.
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.
All crafted from local ingredients sourced from a handful of nearby farms, the ciders and wines at Great Shoals Winery are firmly rooted in the region. And folks have taken notice. Their collection has earned a number of ribbons, which have accumulated since the very first year the hard cider went into production. The more than 20 wines made there appear in a range of styles, including dry and sweet sippers made from apples, pears, and cherries. At the tasting room, visitors can sip samples of many of these, as well as purchase bottles and gifts, or enjoy the frequent events that are hosted on-site.
You might recognize the merlot and the cabernet, but the rest of the residents at Romano Vineyard & Winery may need some introduction. There's the Traminette, for example, a floral and spicy white wine made from a new breed of grape, and the French-American hybrid Chambourcin, which pairs nicely with barbecue and grilled dishes. If you have time to do more than pick up a bottle or two, tastings are scheduled every Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.