Our Maryland Wine Travel Guide shares a brief history of the state’s wine country, terroir, where to sip, where to stay and things to do beyond the vines.
Maryland, like many of its East Coast neighbors, has seen an increase in the number of wineries and an increase in the quality of wine over the past 10 to 15 years. This means there’s always something new and exciting happening with Maryland wine.
The state’s small size means that many of its wineries are clustered together, making it easy to visit several of Maryland’s 100+ wineries in a short period of time. Beverage tourism is booming in the state with breweries, distilleries, cideries and meaderies increasing in number and quality, too, meaning more to please the palates of everyone in a group.
WHERE IS MARYLAND WINE COUNTRY?
Central Maryland has the largest concentration of wineries. The state’s three official AVAs are within this region and it’s also home to the Frederick Wine Trail and the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail which spill over into Pennsylvania. If you’re flying, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) is the best way to begin your sip trip.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT
Each season has its reasons to visit the wineries of Maryland, but for those who want to avoid the crowds of summer and fall, March is the ideal time to visit. It’s Maryland Wine Month, and many wineries host special events including chances to meet and talk with winemakers, tastings, and wine releases.
Maryland is home to three recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and about 900 acres of vines planted throughout the state, with that acreage consistently increasing yearly as demand for local grapes and local wine grows.
For a small state, Maryland has considerable terroir diversity. In the 100 miles east to west from the Atlantic Coast to the border of West Virginia and the 250 miles that run north and south between Pennsylvania and Virginia, the variation in climate and soil differs greatly, although grapes grow well throughout the state.
The eastern side of the state has a maritime climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, and humidity is a factor in grape growing. The western side of the state has a continental climate, higher elevations, and cooler temperatures. In general, going east to west, the vineyards near Maryland’s coast have well-drained sandy soils, vineyards in the middle of the state, including the Piedmont Plateau, have rich, loamy soils, and vineyards in the western part of the state have sandstone and shale soils.
Maryland wine country is spread throughout the small state that has been divided into four regions and three recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs); official wine regions.
Piedmont Plateau: This region in Central Maryland has the largest concentration of wineries. The state’s three official AVAs are within this region: Catocin AVA, Cumberland Valley AVA, and Linganore AVA. The region also is home to the Frederick Wine Trail and the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail which spill over into Pennsylvania.
Eastern Shore: This region is located along the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and many of the wineries in this region are produced to go with the abundance of seafood that comes from the Chesapeake’s waters. The region is home to the Chesapeake Wine Trail.
Southern Plain: This is the southmost wine region in Maryland, and it’s the warmest region in the state. It’s home to the Patuxent Wine Trail.
Western Maryland: A colder region, the western part of Maryland shares a border with West Virginia. There are just two wineries in the region.
Maryland winemaking is as old as Maryland’s first settlers. America’s first book on viticulture and winemaking came from Maryland resident John Adlum of Havre de Grace in 1823.
Adlum wrote it about 150 years after native-grape winemaking began in the territory. In between the two, Governor Charles Calvert planted the Maryland’s first European grapes.
But it wasn’t until 1945—when Boordy Vineyards became Maryland’s first bonded winery—that the state’s modern wine movement began. Winemaking in Maryland slowly grew into the successful and important venture it is today.
Today, Maryland has over 100 wineries, about 900 acres of vines, three recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and four distinct wine regions, with the biggest concentration of wineries located in the Piedmont Plateau. Visitors to the region find everything from fine wine made from classic European grapes, to new-is-old again styles of wine like pét-nats and piquettes, and quality (and increasingly popular) wines made from native and hybrid grapes.
Major players in the state include the historical Boordy Vineyards with its Landmark series of fine, dry wines made from estate and local grapes, Port of Leonardtown, a cooperative of 12 vineyards producing award-winning wines, and Old Westminster Winery, a newer winery in the state crafting popular minimal intervention wines.
WHERE TO SIP
Not only will you find fine wine made from classic European grapes in Maryland wine country, but new-is-old again styles of wine like pét-nats and piquettes, and quality (and increasingly popular) wines made from native and hybrid grapes. But with 100+ wineries in Maryland, where should you start? Our top three include the following but make sure to see our Top 10 Maryland Wineries to Sip In.
Planning Your Maryland Wine Country Vacation
FUN FACT… In 2018, James Suckling’s “American Wine Revolution” scored 19 Maryland wines “outstanding,” giving them each 90 points or above.
CAN’T MISS MARYLAND WINE FESTIVALS
Old Westminster Winery hosts a Solstice Festival, a celebration of the longest day of the year, at their Burnt Hill vineyard. Low intervention winemakers from around the word attend, and farmers, artists, musicians, and purveyors round out the day.
Wine in the Woods is an annual spring wine festival at Symphony Woods in Columbia. It’s two days of live music on two separate stages, wine tastings, wine education seminars, food vendors, crafters, and fun.
Maryland Wine Festival is an annual fall festival held in September at the Carrol County Farm Museum. Festival goers explore Maryland wine while shopping and enjoy shopping from artisans, live music and dancing.
FUN FACT… Wine experimentation in Maryland goes beyond pét-nats and piquettes. Linganore Vineyards is the only winery in the state to have an experimental block of the red wine grape San Marco, originated in Italy. Big Cork Vineyards is the only winery in the states committed to making a wine from three hybrid grapes that came originally from the former Soviet Republics of Croatia and Serbia.
BEYOND THE VINES
When it’s time to take a break from wine tasting, Maryland has plenty to keep the fun going. It’s hard to narrow down all the things to do in Maryland into a top five list, after all the state is home to National Parks, hiking trails, beaches, museums and so much more. But, there are a few things you shouldn’t miss… More things to do in Maryland wine country.
Baltimore Inner Harbor is a family friendly, the inner harbor neighborhood at the mouth of the Patapsco River in Baltimore has the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum. Paddle boat in the harbor, see a concert at Power Point Live, and dine at the many restaurants in the neighborhood
Morgan Run Natural Environment is a great stop when visiting the wineries in the Piedmont Plateau region, take a nature break to picnic, fish or hike the 3.4-mile loop in Morgan Run.
Adventure Park USA is perfect when traveling with the family. The 17.5-acre Adventure Park in Monrovia is close to many of the wineries in the state. Outside there are roller coasters, mini golf, and go-karts. Inside there’s an arcade, mini bowling, laser tag and so much more.
- Where to Stay in Maryland Wine Country
- Beyond the Vines in Maryland Wine Country
- Top 10 Wineries in Maryland
Robin Shreeves is a drinks journalist and lifestyle features writer. Her wine writing has appeared in dozens of print and online publications including Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Courier Post, Spirited magazine, Edible Philly, Edible Jersey, USA Today, and Drink Philly. A champion of wines from the mid-Atlantic region, she co-hosts an East Coast Wine chat on the Clubhouse app Sunday nights at 7pm. Her writer’s website Wine & Wonder has a weekly roundup of East Coast Wine News posted each Monday.