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Tag Archives: MD Wine

In Vino Veritas

Spring came to our area last weekend. It doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. It was a perfect weekend for a winery trip, and we didn’t even have to leave the state.

Maryland has over 60 wineries now. When we first got married and interested in local wine, there wasn’t much out there. Byrd, Boordy, Basignani, Fiore, Elk Run, Linganore, and Montbray are the ones I remember. Back then, we were looking to buy a few Maryland wines to have with our wedding anniversary dinners. Knowing that most of the wines weren’t made to age for decades, we focused on whites for the first few years. We also looked for those specially made reds, or dessert wines, to get us through our second decade of marriage. Byrd made decent reds in 1980. So did Elk Run. Not much else. Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t widely planted in the state. Now, it’s different.

On the Maryland Wine website, I see that we’ve visited 14 of the 68 active wineries. Quite a list to ponder future destinations.

For this “trip”, we went to two of the closest wineries to our home in Central Maryland. Black Ankle and Old Westminster. We have been to these wineries before. I have written about their wines in my local dining challenges, and just in my locavore posts.

Why were we visiting wineries this weekend? Black Ankle, because it was wine club pick up weekend. Old Westminster, because the weather was gorgeous and we hadn’t seen the new tasting room, which opened last year.

If you have good local wineries where you live, you might want to consider their wine clubs. There are many different models. Look into them, you may find one that fits your budget, and your desired types of wine. Also, compare, some clubs are extremely flexible about exchanges and substitutions.

The clubs are very popular. They also give you special events, and small lot wines not available for general purchase. We belong to three in Maryland. Big Cork, Black Ankle, and as of yesterday, Old Westminster.

Why these three? Convenience of pick up, flexibility, and quality/consistency of product. There are quite a few excellent wineries in the state these days. For us, it came down to location coupled with selection. We enjoy the events at the local wineries. We tend to take picnic lunches or dinners with us when we go to get our quarterly allocation.

All three of these wineries allow you to bring in food, and have ample space for you to picnic on their grounds. I finally figured out what drew us to this model. It was simple. Feeling as if we had returned to the days where you could pack a picnic, spread out a blanket, listen to good music, eat good food and drink good wine. We lost that model in our communities and our parks. Restrictions on alcohol, due to liability issues, mostly.

But I digress. We had a lovely weekend around here. It warmed up enough on Friday afternoon for us to take a small cooler with some salads, fruit and yogurt and head out to Mt. Airy. Black Ankle is open from noon until 8:30 PM on Fridays.

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Every Friday night they have live music, year round. Winters, they are indoors. In good weather, they set up out front and tables, chairs and picnic blankets cover the lawn.

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Second Saturday nights, every month, are member only music events. After the winery is closed to the general public. Black Ankle has over 2300 wine club members, so there is always a crowd. A much younger crowd than what we used to see at wineries. Which I think is a great thing. A few decades back, we would only encounter people older than us at winery events. Nice to see the resurgence in interest in good wines. Black Ankle’s wines are pricey. But worth it. Consider a Friday night there as a better choice for dinner and music. Yes, the wines begin at $28 a bottle. They are a bargain compared to spending that much in a chain restaurant for a bottle that retails for $6-10. They are also very well made. All of them.

Yesterday, we headed up to Old Westminster to visit that new tasting room.

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So did many others as seen in the picture taken as we were leaving, just before closing time at 5pm. The building is sleek, clean lined and there is adequate space to host events for the over 1000 club members here. A relative newcomer to the Maryland wine scene, Old Westminster began selling wine less than 5 years ago. They make very, very good sparkling wines. One of only a handful of wineries in our state that make sparklers. It’s the reason we joined their club. Limited numbers of their premium wines.

We will be getting our first trio of wine in March. Looking forward to it. Also interested in food truck Fridays at the winery. They should be fun. Coal fired pizza with wine, anyone?

Stay tuned this spring and summer when we wander the state to see what else is out there.

Good Grits!

Have you ever cooked with grits? Local grits, from up the road in Bucks County PA.

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Tonight I ended up with a mostly local, and certainly small business provided dinner. Because we got grits in our CSA share. And I really need to expand my basic dinner rotation to include more grains. My flour and grain share provided grits. Alton Brown provided the basic recipe.

I cut it in half and tweaked it.

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Milk, water, salt, boiled. Grits added. Then, I added the juice from my shrimp mix. As for the shrimp. Bought at Boarman’s in a 5 pound bag, Gulf shrimp. Divided into one pound portions and frozen. This one pound portion was steamed, then added to a can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies. A handful of scallions. It simmered away waiting for the grits.

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I kept spooning tomato liquid into the grits to spice them up a bit. Then, when finished, I added some butter and Parmesan.

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Plated with a garnish of CSA cauliflower. Served with a Black Ankle Rosé.

A mix of local and small business foods. You gotta try grits. They are amazingly good.

Low Hanging Fruit

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The Maryland Buy Local Challenge began yesterday. An annual event that encourages people to buy from our local farms and small businesses that support farmers in the state.

With all this heat around here, who is in the mood to cook? Still, you can participate in the challenge in cooler, creative ways. Like visiting local wineries.

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We visited a new one for us, last weekend. Up in Thurmont. With weekend music. Catoctin Breeze.

A bonus up there is the relatively close location to a covered bridge over a babbling brook. A perfect place to get you toes wet, and cool down.

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On your way to or from the winery, you could stop in at Catoctin Mountain Orchards for some fresh fruit and other homemade goodies. Made with mostly local fruit, they have all sorts of desserts you could bring home.

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Or, you could head out on the Maryland Ice Cream Trail.

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Other options. Visit a brewery.

Or, pick berries at Larriland, or another pick your own place.

Hmmm, berries, ice cream, wine, beer, desserts, do you need anything else?

Going for the Green

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In wineries. Black Ankle Vineyards is an amazing place to visit if you want to see a “green” winery.

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Sitting there on the patio, looking up at the living roof.

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Noting the solar panel, on your way down to the building. Once inside you can see the straw construction, and the reclaimed material in their counter tops, along with many other examples of how they continue to reflect their love of the land, and their dedication to sustainability.

We hadn’t been there in a while. It is one of the closest wineries to our home. One of the priciest in Maryland as well. They tend not to participate in festivals. They do a very good business with sales on site. In the past, we found very few wines available year round. They often sold out of the most popular varietals.

Friday night music, with hundreds picnicking on the patio and the lawn.

This visit, we went on a Sunday. Still, one very busy place.

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They are adding a new outdoor tasting area, to handle the crowds on popular days.

We did a tasting, and rejoined their wine club.

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Sat outside and enjoyed a glass of rose and of the Reserve Chardonnay. With a local cheese, from Cherry Glen. One of the two great goat cheese producers in Maryland.

Glad we took a day trip out there and reconnected. They are still making outstanding red and white wines from estate grown grapes.

ISO @mdsbest Wineries

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What makes an exceptional winery? Do we have any here in Maryland? I hear people say there aren’t any good wines from Maryland. Obviously, they aren’t looking in the right places.

These days we have many very good options to find viniferous grapes being grown, blended and bottled, to make very, very good wines. I just spent some time looking at this year’s Comptroller’s Cup wines, from the latest competition (not sure what the difference is between Comptroller’s Cup, Winemaker’s Choice, and Governor’s Cup, but we seem to have many different competitions).

It prompted my husband wanting to take a trip to Boordy. Maryland’s oldest winery.

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I actually wanted to go to Old Westminster, but they weren’t open during the day. They won the latest competition. For their Malbec.

We will get there sometime soon, as we haven’t been visiting for the past year or so.

As for Boordy, it was OK. Not great. They used to have a very good Chardonnay, but the latest vintage didn’t impress. We drove there to try the Albarino and the Viognier. Personally, Black Ankle makes a better Albarino and Big Cork, a much better Viognier.

It’s summer. White and pink wine season for us. Since I am a “locapour”, championing local wines, I try to stock my beverage refrigerator with light wines that do well in the heat of the summer.

In our experience so far, Black Ankle, Big Cork and Old Westminster are our closest wineries producing outstanding wine. And, right up there. Elk Run.

If you are into local foods, expand a bit and try local wines. You may be pleasantly surprised these days.

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Shopping at Friends and Farms

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Somewhere along the line, we reduced our reliance on grocery stores and increased what we bought from our CSA and our regional food bag.

Like our combinations at Friends and Farms.

The Protein and Dairy bag.

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Today we got monkfish, ground chuck, eggs, cheese and turkey filets. Instead of milk, I pick extra produce. Today it was arugula.

Arugula was also in my sample produce bag, which I went on line to choose. My CSA doesn’t start until next week so I went on line to order a produce bag.

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One with a protein option. Shrimp.

You can customize all kinds of combinations with this company. And buy extras at the warehouse.

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Like yogurt and ice cream and apples and rice. Meat options too, which I saw on the blackboard. Whole chickens. Beef brisket. Specials every week as they try to keep the inventory in the freezer at a minimum.

Most of our food comes from here, and our CSA. No recalled foods from small local suppliers. No vegetables with possible listeria contamination. No meat products with wood, metal, plastic or whatever in them. I am a true believer in buying from small local companies, and knowing who processes your food.

Just to show how easy it is to come home and make an awesome dinner.

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I sautéed that monkfish. Added it to a skillet of rice and vegetables.

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Made a fish stew that will go into my regular rotation. It was that good.

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This was simple. Yesterday I made a couple of cups of rice in my rice cooker. The leftovers from dinner become an addition to tonight’s dinner. I sautéed onions, garlic, and asparagus in olive oil. Added a container of crushed tomatoes. A container or spicy kale and bean soup. A teaspoon of sugar. A half teaspoon of salt. A splash of wine. After sautéing the monkfish I finished it in this mix.

Served with this.

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A locally produced merlot.

Between the local markets, farms, CSAs and Friends and Farms, I don’t need to go to grocery stores. Unless I need toilet paper.

Yeah I forgot to photograph the final dish. It was served over arugula. Which was in my produce bag and my sample bag.

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A double dose of arugula.

Date Nights

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With a local and small business influence. Do you do date nights? You know. Dinner and a movie. Or binge watching your favorite TV series. For us, we go out infrequently in the winter. Don’t want to deal with slick roads and deer.

We also find it interesting to put together a special meal. Maybe tapas. Maybe home cooked, but always using some of our favorite local foods.

Besides, we can put together one awesome meal at a fraction of the cost of eating out.

Take this week. Snowed in, for the most part. Many things to do around here. Not particularly the best time to head off across town.

We like to pick a special local wine. Like this one.

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You can build a meal around a very nice local white or red. Your preference. For us, we have four “go-to” wineries. Linden. Big Cork. Black Ankle. Old Westminster. We’ve always found their wines to be excellent. Yes, they are a bit pricey. All of them, but putting it in context, a bargain compared to buying wine in restaurants.

Consider this. A glass of house white may cost $7-$9 for a five ounce pour. Two glasses each over the course of dinner. $30-$40 before tax and tip. I can buy lovely wines like that Linden Hardscrabble for less than $30 after discount. At $30, a restaurant bottle of wine may be in the $10-12 retail range.

I start with a chosen wine. Build a meal around it. Our latest date night used 100% purchased foods. No cooking. No fussing. Just a couple of quick preparations. And I used small local sources for most of the food. I felt like I had created one of those small plate dinners like we enjoy at Pure Wine.

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This was it. Mushroom pate and spring rolls from Roots. I have tried to make my own pate and it’s OK, but not as good as Roots makes. The salmon. From Friends and Farms. Offered on a fresh catch special recently. That lovely watermelon radish. From our Lancaster Farm Fresh winter CSA. The bread, from Harris Teeter (only because we were told our CSA bread shares were victims of the blizzard). The bread was a Limited Edition Russian Black bread, made by their bakery.

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Sipping that big buttery Chardonnay while enjoying small tastes of fresh foods. Not a bad start to date night.

Total cost. Less than $60. Much less than going out.

Challenge yourself some Friday night. Pick a favorite local wine. Head over to Roots or Davids and see what looks good. Or, just pick up a rotisserie chicken. A few local cheeses. Maybe some chocolate for dessert. We love to have a red wine with dinner and finish off with a locally made chocolate like the ones from Salazon, made just north of us in Carroll County.

And rent a really good movie.