Warm weather brings ample opportunities for outdoor wine tasting across Maryland and Virginia, from enduring festivals that attract dozens of wine makers to themed single-vineyard events.
Wine in the Woods
Wine in the Woods celebrates two decades of showcasing Maryland wine in May by gathering more than 30 local vineyards on the grounds outside of Merriweather Post Pavilion. The two-day event features two stages of live entertainment from bands such as Crowded Streets and The Swinging Swamis, more than 70 craft and food vendors and education seminars focused on the state’s reds, whites and sweet wines.
“It’s a fun time and a good gathering place for groups and reunions,” said Marketing and Sponsorship Director, Phil Bryan. More than 33,000 people attended last year and the same number is expected May 19 and 20 – rain or shine.
Wine in the Woods: May 19 & 20. Saturday: $35 adv/$40 gate for taster, non-taster $25; Sunday: $30 adv/$35 gate for taster, $20 non-taster. www.wineinthewoods.com
Virginia Renaissance Faire
Also this month, The Virginia Renaissance Faire will mark its ninth year at Lake Anna Winery. The event will spotlight Queen Elizabeth I’s call for science and technological discoveries with an Elizabethan science fair.
“Wine was a drink of the upper classes and beer was consumed by the rest, so we serve both,” said Cornelia Miller Rutherford, president of Out of the Woodwork Productions which produces the five weekend-long event.
Guests will have a chance to learn how to weild a sword, sing peasant songs, shoot an arrow and bet on coursing hounds. Children will be treated to acrobats, magicians, arts and crafts, puppetry and interactive fairy tales.
Lake Anna Winery will hold tastings in the winery as well as on the grounds, and attendees will also be able to buy wine to drink on site.
Virginia Renaissance Faire: Weekends May 12 through June 10. Tickets: $9 for adults, children under 5 are free. Wine tastings separate. www.varf.org
Festival lovers will get another chance to taste Lake Anna’s collection at its Caribbean Beach Party in August. The winery will also host James River, Cooper and Grayhaven wineries for a night of tasting, food and dancing to music from the Shango Band.
Caribbean Beach Party: Aug. 4, Lake Anna Winery. $15. www.hovawinetrail.com
“It’s amazing where we have come with Maryland wines in ten years,” said Greg Nivens, President of the Trigger Agency, which produces the Great Grapes! festivals across the mid-Atlantic.
This year marks the tenth season of Great Grapes! in Baltimore County, featuring more than two dozen Maryland wineries — a quarter of which will be new to the 2012 event — and a new series of pavilions focused on sensory education and products such as cheese, oils and spices. The specialty areas include a wine aroma pavilion, the idea for which Nivens found in Burgundy. The smelling center will walk wine tasters through finding the flowers, chocolate and leather in their glasses.
Great Grapes! Hunt Valley: June 2 and 3. Tickets range from $25 to $75 two-day tickets. www.uncorkthefun.com/hunt-valley-maryland/site-info
Central Virginia Wine Festival
The organizers of the Central Virginia Wine Festival this year moved the event up to May in hopes of cooler weather and larger crowds. The annual fundraiser for Virginia Tech scholarships will feature bands, food vendors and a beer truck for attendees who don’t find a favorite bottle from among the 15 attending Virginia wineries.
Event founder & chairman Michael Eck says he expects the new May 12 date – as well as veteran wineries including Horton and Veritas and newcomers such as Lazy Days – to help draw up to 5,000 attendees to the seventh year of the festival in Glen Allen, VA.
Central Virginia Wine Festival: May 12. Tickets $20 in advance, $25 at the gate. www.cvwf.richmondhokies.org/tickets
Vintage Virginia is the region’s largest and longest-running outdoor summer wine event, drawing more than 50 wineries – small and large – from across the state.
Last year festival organizers experimented with a Top 5 tent, allowing visitors a chance to escape the sun and relax with a selection of higher end wines, many that were not served elsewhere. Neil Williamson, Tasting Panel Chair for Virginia’s Wine of the Month Club and executive editor of the Virginia Wine Journal, will lead these tastings on both days of the festival.
Vintage Virginia Wine Festival: June 2 and 3, Bull Run. Prices range from $18 for non-tasters to $135 for VIP. www.vintagevirginia.com
and Jazz Festival
Jazz lovers and families can pack their lawn chairs and head to Manassas on June 17 for the Manassas Wine and Jazz Festival. Event coordinator Sarah McHugh expects up to 20 wineries on Father’s Day, including Potomac Point Winery and Stone Mountain Vineyards. The trio of musical acts – headlined by celebrated DC jazz musician Marcus Johnson – are an annual draw.
Manassas Wine and Jazz Festival: Sunday, June 17. Tickets range from $10 for non-drinking attendees to $45 for private VIP tastings. www.historicmanassas.com
Wine Riot Returns to DAR
Wine Riot, the traveling wine tasting series, will return to DAR Constitution Hall this month after a successful inaugural stop last November.
“Basically everything that we wanted to happen, happened,” said founder Tyler Balliet. “People showed up ready to learn and have fun.”
Balliet noted the Wine Riot SmartPhone app had its best results in Washington – half of the attendees used the technology to mark their favorite wines from hundreds of selections.
Wine Riot puts special emphasis on education, but not all sessions are best suited for sit-down lectures. This year’s event will feature interactive booths. Three stops will take tasters on a trip across the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Austria by matching wines with the corresponding regions on a giant map, and a family-run California winery that specializes in making sweet wines and vermouth will host sessions making wine cocktails.
Wine Riot – DC is presented in two sessions on May 5 at Daughters of the Revolution Constitution Hall:
1776 D St. NW, DC. $50.