Amid industry growth, Maryland Wine Festival belatedly celebrates 35 years with Saturday event in Westminster

Traditionally, 35 years is the coral anniversary, but organizers of the Maryland Wine Festival would likely rather mark the occasion with a variety of whites, reds and rosés.

Taking place Saturday, Oct. 13, the annual festival is a showcase for the Maryland wine industry.


“People are often surprised to learn about the age of the industry and the number of wineries open and operating in the state,” said Jim Bauckman, of Grow & Fortify which represents the Maryland Wineries Association.

It’s difficult to categorize Maryland-made wine across the board.


“Those unfamiliar with Maryland wine would be most impressed by the variety and heightened quality of the wines produced here," he said.

The date of the festival had to be pushed back after uncertainty about Hurricane Florence loomed over the original. Scheduling conflicts with other events at the Carroll County Farm Museum shortened the two-day festival down to one.

“We hated to need to reschedule the event, but with the governor’s state of emergency and Hurricane Florence, safety is always the first concern,” said Carroll County Farm Museum Manager Joanne Weant.

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Though the event is an “undertaking” for the staff, they are confident they can pull together for a great experience, she said. “We just want people to come out and enjoy themselves like they have in other years.”

At its start, the Maryland Wine Festival brought together a group of less than 10 wineries. The interest was so strong that within two years it had moved from the Union Mills Homestead to the Farm Museum, one of the county’s biggest outdoor venues, to accommodate the crowds.

Today guests can sample offerings from 26 wineries and a wine ice cream company, as well as local cheeses. Vendors and artisans will set up shop on the grounds and the 1880’s farmhouse will be open for touring.

Live music starts at 11 a.m. with Half Serious. And Foreplay performs from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Starting at 11:45 a.m, Secretary Kelly Schulz of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation will lead an anniversary toast. She will present a proclamation from the governor and the Board of Carroll County Commissioners will present a proclamation recognizing the partnership between the Farm Museum and the festival.

“It's a big point of pride for us— for the Farm Museum, for the Maryland wine industry, for Carroll County," Weant said of the anniversary.

The festival is one of the oldest and largest in the state.

“This festival blazed a trail for many of today's festivals and represents the heritage of Maryland wine events," Bauckman said.

The 35th annual Maryland Wine Festival has been pushed back nearly a month because of the rainy weather and a forecast for possible torrential rain from Hurricane Florence this weekend.

In addition to the usual posters and T-shirts, organizers will be selling a limited-edition 35th anniversary T-shirt only available this year with the brand-new wine festival logo and the logos of the participating wineries.


“The reason we wanted to do something like this was to honor all of these wineries that make this event happen,” Weant said.

The winner of the annual poster design contest was Westminster artist Vicki Anzmann, who won for the second year in a row despite the designs being judged blind.

Anzmann said she hoped to capture the "relaxed and kind of rural atmosphere," of the festival and represent the beautiful farmland to be found in Maryland.

"It's a wonderful experience, and great to have this event locally," she said.

Melissa Aellen, a winemaker at Linganore Winecellars said, “The best thing about wine festivals is for the customers. They get to … be introduced to so many different wines all at once.”

Linganore has been a participant since the first year of the festival.

Guests should look out for some rain and a fall snap over the weekend as they prepare.

“It’s supposed to be very true fall weather on Saturday, so people will want to dress for [that],” Weant said.

Guests should also prepare for safe travel after drinking, whether that comes in the form of a designated driver, a ride service or another form of transportation.

Special tickets are available for designated drivers.

Weant says there seems to be a greater awareness about safety and the dangers of drinking and driving in recent years.

"I think most of the people that come to the event really are about tasting wine … about the food about the fun, about being here with friends and family," she said.

Tickets purchased in advance for either Sept. 15 or Sept. 16 will be honored on Oct. 13.

General admission tickets are available alongside the “Explorer Pass,” which includes a commemorative 16-ounce tasting glass with sampling from all participating wineries; sampling of additional exclusive wines; access to Hilltop Hangout with shaded seating, bottled water and private restrooms; and participation in the seventh annual Maryland Throwdown — a blind tasting competition putting Maryland wines against other regions.

Ticket prices increase by $5 when purchased at the gate and Weant encouraged guests to purchase ahead of time.

Aellen sees a lot growing and changing in the Maryland wine industry in recent years.

“If you haven’t tried Maryland wine in years, you need to give it a revisit,” she said. “It’s about to blow up. It’s about to become a really big thing, and if you haven’t experienced it recently, it’s definitely worth coming out this weekend.”

More information and tickets can be found at www.marylandwine.org/mwf/.

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