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Although most wine lovers head to the West for American vino, the top vineyards in Maryland also offer delicious options for tasting. The state boasts more than 200 locally made wines that range in flavor from light to full-bodied. If you're a wino, you know that terroir is the single most important factor in grapes' flavors, so be prepared from some wines that are very different from those you'll find in Northern California, Oregon and Washington. Keep an open mind, though, and you'll realize that the locally crafted beverages of the Old Line State are right up there with your favorite cabs and chards. While you're vacationing in Maryland, stop by one (or all!) of our favorite wineries:
Knob Hall, Clear Spring
Located in the gorgeous Antietam Highlands, Knob Hall earns an easy spot on this list of the top vineyards in Maryland. The vineyard boasts 30 acres of pristine vines, including those of the cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, chardonnay, malbec, merlot and viognier grapes. During your visit, you can enjoy a picnic, live music and tastings. You can also get in on the action by trying your hand at grape stomping, pruning and picking. The winery offers massage services on site, as well as various festivals throughout the year - an annual favorite is Winestock, at which participants can help raise money for breast cancer research. Other past events have included Parrothead Festival, Women Who Wine and Reggae Festival.
Bordeleau Vineyards & Winery, Salisbury
Bordeleau Winery is situated directly south of Salisbury (north of Deal Island), and sits on the edge of Wicomico Creek - hence the winery's name, which translates to "the water's edge". Bordeleau is a gorgeous, sprawling estate in the center of some seriously thrilling wildlife: You shouldn't be surprised to see herons, egrets and eagles circling the skies while you're here. Cabernet franc, meritage (a blend of varietals commonly found in the Bordeaux region of France), chambourcin, merlot and cabernet sauvignon comprise the red section of this winery's repertoire, while chardonnay, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc are available for white wine fans.
Port of Leonardtown Winery, Leonardtown
Port of Leonardtown, near Solomons Island, is unique winery. In 2008, the Southern Maryland Wine Growers Cooperative partnered with the local and county governments to conduct a feasibility study for winemaking in the region. When the test results proved promising, the cooperative signed on with the town and agreed to begin producing fabulous Maryland wine. Tours and tastings are available throughout the year, and wine varietals include chardonnay, chambourcin, merlot and cabernet franc. The winery also produces a McIntosh blend and a lovely rosé.
Cassinelli Winery & Vineyards, Church Hill
Cassinelli boasts 110 sprawling acres of gorgeous rolling hills dotted with vines and trees. The winery and vineyard is conveniently located off Route 231 and is popular with wine lovers traveling through nearby Chestertown. Wine varietals cultivated here include viognier, merlot and chardonnay, but apples, pears, plums and peaches also add to the delicious tastes of Cassinelli. Even better, this multi-functional vineyard is also home to livestock like cows and buffalo - we bet the kids will find these creatures the most fascinating species at Cassinelli! Tastings and tours are always available, and numerous events mark the progression of the year at this delightful destination.
Black Ankle Vineyards, Mt. Airy
It's impossible to leave Black Ankle off a list of top Maryland vineyards - beacause it has it all. From live music (Fireside Fridays is hosted every Friday from 6-9 p.m.) to numerous accolades (Black Ankle was recently named one of America's Hottest Small Brands by Wine Business Monthly), this vineyard (just outside Baltimore) has been on everyone's lips as of late. Tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m., and you're welcome to bring some snacks with you (no worries if you forget - you can purchase artisan cheeses and other finger foods on site). The owners of Black Ankle support the production and consumption of local wines for environmental reasons, too, which offers a unique perspective on Maryland wine tasting. Wines cultivated here include syrah, numerous unique blends, chardonnay, viognier and rosé.
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, Dickerson
Nestled between Montgomery and Frederick counties, Sugarloaf prides itself on producing Bordeaux-style wines in the heart of the Old Line State. The vineyard hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from bluegrass festivals to holiday celebrations and wine competitions. Sugarloaf's wines have won numerous awards including the Maryland Winemasters' Choice Awards' Best in Show (for the 2011 Comus and Comus Reserve). The vineyard produces viognier, pinot grigio, merlot, chardonnay, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and rosé along with various blends and house wines - all of the vino is aged in oak barrels, with the exception of the pinot grigio (aged in stainless steel tanks to avoid the added heaviness that oak can bring to light white wines).