A vast lawn blends in with a vintage barn surrounded by slopes of grapevines. Solar panels and an earthen-sod roof sit atop the tasting room. This eco-friendly vineyard would easily be mistaken for an upscale Oregon wine country vineyard, but surprise, it’s in Maryland.
Few realize how good Maryland wines are and how fun it is to visit many of the state’s best wineries. When going to restaurants for indoor dining was banned during the pandemic, it was still possible to visit a winery in April. After weeks of being in lockdown due to the virus, it was a lifesaver to breathe in the fresh spring air and enjoy a safe wine-themed picnic at several Maryland wineries.
Visitors to these wineries can choose to bring a picnic lunch or dinner and hang out drinking excellent wine. Some of the wineries feature live music, food trucks, and other social-distancing activities. All of the Maryland wineries listed here offer surprisingly good wines and are dog friendly. So hang on to your wine glass as we visit these grape escapes.
Big Cork Vineyards, Rohrersville
Winemaker Dave Collins brought his 25 years of experience to this tiny town in 2010. Dave saw soil and minerals that would grow excellent grapes for several types of wines. The views are expansive from the tasting room, encompassing the Blue Ridge Mountains bedecked with thick Eastern forests.
What makes Big Cork a special stop for wine enthusiasts is the lineup of over 20 top-quality Maryland wines. The seating options are, bring your chairs, blankets, or tents and set up on the lawn, grab a table for 2-6 under the porch roof, or sit by the south-facing wall with benches and small tables perfect for two. You’ll find lots of space between other wine enthusiasts to stay safe during the pandemic.
Recommended wines: Chardonnay or Cab Franc
Black Ankle Vineyards, Mt Airy
Some consider Black Ankle Maryland’s best winery. Owners, Ed and Sarah, have come a long way after planting their first 22 acres (8.9 hectares) of grapevines in 2003/2004. Since then, they have purchased two new farms to expand production. Black Ankle’s wines are from estate-grown grapes and tend to be dry, which suits their clientele perfectly.
With a wine club membership of over 3,000, Black Ankle has a strong following. Members and guests alike love the feel of this eco-friendly winery with its solar panels and straw bale construction.
Since the pandemic hit in March, Black Ankle has evolved to serve their fans with lots of outdoor space, both covered or open to the elements. Note that you must reserve your 2.5-hour time slot, whether you want to sit on the lawn or under the patio cover.
Bring your own food or order snacks, cheese, and more from their kitchen. Customers can order from their table by texting a number provided on the wine list of the day. If you set up a profile on the Black Ankle website and include your credit card number, you can partake in safe contactless transactions while at the winery.
Recommended wines: Grüner Veltliner, Bedlam, or Slate 5
Chateau Bu-De Winery and Vineyard, near Chesapeake City
Overlooking the Bohemia River is one of Maryland’s most impressive wineries. With the completion of a new tasting room(2017) and winery production (2015) building, Chateau Bu-De not only looks great, but they make excellent wines too. Find spacious seating undercover or on the lawn with river views to enjoy your wine. Unlike the other wineries listed here, Chateau Bu-De doesn’t allow outside food on-site due to its food menu prepared to order.
At this point, due to the pandemic, only wines by the bottle are offered for sale. When the virus is no longer a factor, be sure and visit their tasting room to try the full lineup of excellent wines. Look for fun summer events like fireworks, wine dinners, and even a car show.
Recommended wines: Cab Franc or Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine
Crow Vineyard and Winery, Kennedyville
You don’t often find a working cattle farm, fields of corn, soybeans, and grapevines all in the same place. Crow Vineyard manages to make all of these ventures work well near the tiny town of Kennedyville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Crow Vineyard keeps customers safely distanced for relaxed wine tasting with an outdoor tasting patio near the vines and a picnic area under the trees.
At the time of publication, Crow was offering wines-by-the-glass, tastings, and by the bottle. They also provide light meals and snacks from their kitchen to pair with your wine. Consider taking home farm fresh eggs or beef from their farm. If you want to stay the night, book their cozy cottage.
Recommended wines: Barbera reserve and the Sparkling Vidal, Vidal, or dessert Vidal
Knob Hall Winery, Clear Springs
Knob Hall Winery is on one of the oldest farms on this list. Jacob Seibert acquired the farm over 200 years ago, and his massive barn still stands. A visit to Knob Hall is more country-like than some of the other wineries on this list. Pull up a chair under the sprawling 300 year old oak tree and enjoy a bottle of wine while listening to live music. If you’re a purist, consider bringing your own wine glasses, or you’ll be drinking out of plastic cups.
Like most of the wineries on our list, Knob Hall is dog friendly, but Fido might get distracted by chickens, cats, and other farm animals. All those farm animals make this a good place to bring children and get a taste of farm life. In bad weather, Knob Hall can safely hold up to 60 guests in the barn, or more when the pandemic passes. They also have five rooms for an overnight stay in a 200 year old renovated farmhouse.
Recommended wines: Rosé or Chambourcin
Linganore Wine Cellars, Mt Airy
Linganore is old by Maryland standards. Established in 1972, they have a full lineup of dry or delicious fruit wines. With acres of picnic tables spread far apart, customers feel safe, making a day of wine tasting and picnicking on this large farm. Wine tasting is available by reservation, but walk-ins are welcome for bottle sales and grabbing a picnic table.
Linganore, like many Maryland wineries, is dog friendly and even has a dog park for Fido. Weekends often sell out when food trucks and live entertainment are offered. Bring your blankets, chairs, food, and tents if you like, then grab a spot on the lawn. With over 20 acres (8 hectares) there’s plenty of room. There is also a brewery (Red Shedman) onsite for the beer lovers.
Recommended wines: Retriever Red and raspberry wine
Links Bridge Vineyards, Thurmont
If you love an intimate wine experience in the country, it would be hard to find a better place than Links Bridge Vineyards. Sipping wine on their patio is like a visit to a relative’s fine country estate surrounded by flowers and sounds of nature. Be sure and drive by one or more of the three covered bridges in the area making this a fun road trip on rural roads.
They offer wines by-the-bottle, glass, and wine flights, a rarity during the pandemic.
Links Bridge wines have won significant awards and wines are mostly from estate-grown grapes. Even during the pandemic, they are offering wine tasting. Open Saturday, Sunday, Fridays during the summer, or by reservation on weekdays. Come for excellent wines, goat yoga, riverside patio, or the patio next to the tasting room.
Recommended wines: Albariño, or Cab Franc
Enjoy the ride
As you hit the road to a new wine adventure be sure and have a designated driver or spend the night at the winery. You’re sure to enjoy discovering Maryland’s surprisingly good wines.
FYI: Maryland requires that visitors to wineries wear a mask to and from your table to keep everyone safe. While seated, you can remove your mask and enjoy the experience.
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