This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Maryland Wine Festival.
What started as a one-day festival that featured eight wineries at Union Mills Homestead has grown to a two-day event, this year on Sept. 21 and 22 featuring 40 Maryland wineries on the 140+-acre complex at the Carroll County Farm Museum.
Always held the third full weekend of September, the Maryland Wine Festival attracts visitors from all over the state, the country and even the world to sample Maryland wine.
"We happened to take zip codes in 2006 or 2007 before people could get their glass," said Dottie Freeman, superintendent of the Farm Museum. "We had all 50 states and 24 foreign countries. We were totally amazed."
Attendance has soared to 25,000 people, Freeman said.
Close to 17,500 people attended last year. Weather and sports have a hand in the counts, however.
"We've had hurricanes. We've had beautiful weather and we've had one day nice, one day rain," said Ray Brasfield, a winemaker and owner of Cygnus Wine Cellars in Manchester, who has attended the festival for 15 years. "Everything but snow has happened."
Last year, the Ravens were playing, Freeman said. The team will be playing again, this year, and the festival is ready.
"In honor of the Ravens playing Texas, we will have a "Free State throw down," said Kevin Atticks, executive director of Maryland Wineries Association. "We will have a blind tasting of Maryland versus Texas wines. We hope it to be a tradition going forward."
Local bands will provide live music and a second stage is being added to the festivities, Freeman said.
"It adds a little variety. It gives a different genre of music," Freeman said of the additional stage that will help keep crowds moving.
"It gets crowded with that many people," she said. "And [it] provides a better path for walking and listening to music."
While Maryland wineries are the main attraction, the festival will offer 100 food and craft vendors.
There will be wine educational seminars every hour on the hour, and a silent auction with sports memorabilia.
The premier tent – which offers elite wine tasting – has also been revamped, according to Atticks.
"We've upgraded the experience," Atticks said. "It is for customers interested more in the inclusive or hard-to-find wines."
To keep lines moving, new ticket kiosks will be open.
"Any way we can alleviate the stress of standing in long lines," Freeman said. "We never stop trying to improve."
Most states have some type of wine festival, according to Atticks, but Maryland's stands out.
Maryland wines are slowly making a name for themselves, too, Atticks said.
"Maryland is proving to be quite a good wine growing state," Atticks said. "Part of that is the climate and the many different geographic and topography elements across the state. We have a wide variety of grapes."
There are 62 wineries in the state and each winery adds its own touch, according to Brasfield.
"You'll find some similarities as grapes grow in the same regions and ripen more or less the same," Brasfield said. "We all have our styles and our goals. Each winery has its own character reflected in its wine."
The Farm Museum will also offer all its normal activities, Freeman said. The Museum and the gift shop will be open and there will also be artisans demonstrating their skills.
"It is a very good event for the county, very good exposure," said Bonnie Staub, manager of Carroll County's Office of Tourism.
"People are coming to taste wine, enjoy themselves and listen to music," Freeman said. "I'm hoping the weather cooperates."
The Maryland Wine Festival is Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sept. 22, from noon to 6 p.m., at the Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster.
Admission is $30/$27 in advance. Premier pass is $65/$62 in advance. Designated drivers: $20. Children ages 13 to 20 are $20. Children 12 and under are free if accompanied by a paying adult.
For information, call 410-386-3880.