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Maryland festival celebrates local wines

Last week, as the country commemorated American Craft Beer Week, Maryland celebrated its local wines at the annual Wine in the Woods festival.

Set on the grassy, shady area surrounding outdoor concert amphitheater Merriweather Post Pavilion, this weekend-long festival featured more than 30 wineries from around Maryland, artisans and live music. For me, Wine in the Woods is a tradition I have looked forward to each spring since I began attending in 2011.

Here are three ways you can enjoy the festival, too:

Learn about Maryland wines

On my inaugural visit, I was gearing up for a family vacation in Napa Valley, so I was interested in learning about legs, tannins, acidity — the ins and outs of wine tasting. The festival offers wine education seminars, which are great for first-time festival-goers or those who wish to delve further into Maryland wines. The first seminar of the day is usually Wine Tasting 101, which covers all of your wine tasting basics and includes some free sampling, too. During the session I attended, I learned the proper way to uncork a sparkling wine bottle and why you swirl red wines in the glass before sipping. The other seminars specifically cover Maryland white, red, and sweet and dessert wines.

In addition to learning about wine tasting, this festival serves as an introduction to vintners from across the Free State. Since discovering Maryland wines at this festival, I have visited three local wineries, two of which — Linganore and Running Hare Vineyard — are annual staples at the wine fest.

Picnic with your wine

Some festival attendees bring blankets or low-to-the-ground chairs, and they share a bottle of wine — served chilled and uncorked from any of the participating wineries’ booths — with a picnic as reggae beats, jazz chords or rockin’ 80s tunes stream from the festival’s two stages. Coolers and picnic baskets are allowed — encouraged even — so fill it up with grapes, cheese and crackers, and bottles of water to pair with your vino. You can also add to your picnic by visiting the specialty food vendors selling artisanal breads, olive oils, fudge and cheese.

Each time I’ve attended the festival, I’ve purchased lunch from one of the vendors on site. There are plenty of options — Greek, Middle Eastern, crab dip in a bread bowl, wrap sandwiches and traditional carnival fare, such as funnel cakes and butterfly fries. This year, my lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich from a gourmet grilled cheese booth. They even offered a crabby melt that combined two of the best things in life: crab and cheese! As part of my own tradition, I never leave the festival without eating a soft pretzel covered in crab dip and melted cheese.

Go on a tasting spree

You’ve already spent your money on your festival admission, so you might as well take advantage of the unlimited tastings. Try something new. Re-try the ones you like. Try different varietals — you’ll notice Chambourcin, a grape variety grown throughout the mid-Atlantic. Try fruit wines — Linganore has a wide selection, including a dandelion wine. My favorites are Solomons Island Winery’s Black Raspberry Merlot and Kiwi Pear Sauvignon Blanc. Try a dry red, a sweet white and a sangria, too!

Wish you were here,

Erin

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