The Black Ankle Tasting room.
Black Ankle is relatively new to the Maryland wine scene, but if someone knows only one winery, it is typically this one. Like most of the other wineries on this list, the wines are uniformly excellent. The tasting room is always bustling and it is a venue that will inspire you to spend the afternoon.
Philip Wagner was arguably one of the most important figures in American wine. He believed that wine should be a part of American culture in much the same way it is in Europe. In an effort to bring that dream to like, in the mid 1960s Wagner started planting grapes in what today is known as Boordy Vineyard north of Baltimore.
The Deford family now owns the vineyards and winery. Bottling about 26,000 cases of wine annually, Boordy is the largest commercial operation in the state. Their recently launched Landmark Project has introduced a line of premium wines that will compete with the best wines on the east coast. It is a must-visit winery for anyone serious about exploring Maryland wine.
The Eastern Shore is a lovely region filled with colonial history and picturesque seaside towns. It is not region that is dense with wineries, but there are a few of particular note and Crow Vineyard and Winery is one of them. I do not consider it top-tier only within the region. It is a winery of note relative to the entire Mid Atlantic.
The Boordy Tasting room.
Unless they have changed the format, a formal tasting is conducted following a tour that includes an orientation to the winery and vineyards. The program can be an excellent introduction to Maryland wine or simply an opportunity to experience one of the best wineries in the state and, for that matter, the Mid Atlantic.
Advocating for under-appreciated wine regions in the Eastern United States
Crow Farm was originally devoted to dairy. Today they are raising grass-fed beef and operating a high-end bed and breakfast in addition to the winery. So in addition to producing world-class wine, there are many other things to see and do at this winery. It can be one stop on a longer tour or a base from which to visit other points of interest. In any case, this winery should be high on your list.
The Vineyards at Dodon was the first Maryland winery I visited. It was not on my radar, but Dodon came very highly recommended. Tastings are by appointment and this is not a winery at which you will encounter tour buses filled with weekend revelers. It is a venue for the serious oenophile. Great attention is paid to the quality of the Dodon fruit and subsequently to the wine.
I first discovered Maryland wine when I attended the 2015 Winter Wine Showcase in Baltimore. Since that time, I have become slightly obsessed with the state. My exploration is not complete, but I have visited wineries in each of Maryland’s four wine regions.
The tasting room is dwarfed by the Crow Farm out buildings.
I frequently find that people are surprised by the revelation of Maryland as a producer of fine wine. In my efforts to educate wine drinkers about the state, I am frequently recommending wineries. There are certainly other producers of note, but this represents my first list of must-visit Maryland wineries. I am already giving thought to the list I will publish next year.
In the meantime, here are five wineries that are spread across the state. All are producing exceptional wine. If you can visit one or more of these venues, I suspect you will become as excited as I am about the trajectory of Maryland wine.
Winemaker Dave Collins has something like 30 years of winemaking experience in the Mid Atlantic. His recent move across the Potomac from Virginia all but guaranteed the success of Big Cork Vineyards. In addition, the Catoctin Mountains present ideal conditions for viticulture and the Big Cork is taking advantage of that terroir.
Signage at the entrance to Dodon.
The Big Cork wines are fully integrated into the tasting room experience. Visitors are greeted at the door and paired with a wine steward, who steps them through the lineup. Of course there is plenty of space in the barrel room, on the patio or on the lawn to relax after the tasting and the view is breathtaking.
I visited Black Ankle Vineyards early in my exploration of Maryland. After that trip, when telling people about Maryland wine, I would frequently say, “I have two words that sum up the quality of Maryland wine… “Black Ankle.” And it is true. This winery raised the bar and forced other producers to follow suit.
The Big Cork tasting room.