Perhaps the poet E.E. Cummings put it best when he wrote, “His lips drink water but his heart drinks wine.” There were certainly plenty of happy hearts at the Maryland Wine Festival in Westminster on Saturday, and not just among men.
“People are having such a good time and enjoying themselves,” said Bonnie Staub, manager of the Carroll County Office of Tourism.
And for many the festival, now in its 36th year and presented in partnership with the Carroll County Farm Museum and the Maryland Wine Association, has become a much-loved tradition.
"People keep coming back year after year,” Staub said. “They like the atmosphere. They like coming to Carroll County.”
According to Staub, festival visitors have included class reunions and even a young woman this year who is bringing her wedding party to Sunday’s festival after her wedding on Saturday.
The Richardson family — mother Anna and grown children Denise and Maury — have been coming together to the festival for the past decade. And Anna, who lives in Columbia, never tires of the day’s activities. “Eat, drink wine and people watch,” she said.
And don’t forget to get your favorite bottle of wine early. “Elk Run is always my first stop,” said Denise, of Elkridge, nodding to the bottle on the table. “They always sell out.”
“It’s the best sangria I have ever had,” Anna said.
The festival offers over 200 wine choices from wineries all over the state, including the 150-plus choices that come with general admission tickets and the 40-plus additional wine choices for those purchasing the explorer pass. The explorer pass also provides shaded seating and upgraded port-a-potties, a personal favorite for many participants. Besides the more than 20 wineries participating, the festival also offers a cheese pavilion, food trucks and crafts.
Like the Richardsons, Glen and Jeanette Hetrick of Hanover, Pennsylvania, have made the festival a tradition, coming to it for the past 15 years. On Saturday they were sitting among a group of 15, sipping wine, munching on snacks and listening to the live music.
“It’s about wine and friends,” Glen said. ‘It’s just a way to relax and have a good time.”
But it’s also become something a bit more. The Hetricks have become wine enthusiasts and even belong to a wine cub. And they say it all began with their coming to the Maryland Wine Festival all those years ago. Since then their taste in wine has undergone an “evolution,’’ Jeanette said. “In the early days it was sweet, now we prefer dry and semi-dry,” she said.
The Hetricks attend other wine festivals, but “nothing compares to this one,” said Jeanette, who added that Linganore Winecellars is her favorite festival participant.
And through the years the couple have remained loyal to their first wine festival. “Even when it’s raining,” Glen said. “You just throw on a raincoat and go out and enjoy the day."
Rain or shine, the couple have attended, with just the two of them going as well as part of a group as large as 20 people. Those larger groups have at times included their own children and grandchildren.
“For us, it has become a multigenerational event,” Glen said. “This festival is very family-oriented.”
The Hetricks said they have no plans to stop coming to the Maryland Wine Festival anytime soon. “They have the system down,” Glen said of the festival organizers. “They know how to do it right.”
And although the Richardsons and Hetricks have been attending the festival for years, there were others who were newcomers. Karin Spencer came to the festival by way of Germany, Italy and Williamsburg, Virginia, her current home.
“Of course, my country is known for beer,” she said of her native Germany. But she admitted to being impressed with the wine in Italy while living there.
So, how does the wine in Maryland compare?
“I like a good dry red wine,” she said. “I’ve tried three so far. I like it.”
She added that Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard was one of her favorites of the day.
“I like Sugarloaf too,” agreed Carol Stefanski, also of West Virginia, who has attended the festival for the past five years.
However, the third member of the group had a different agenda in mind. Laurie Galen, Stefanski’s daughter and another West Virginia native, confessed that she hadn’t come for the wine, per se.
“I came here to shop,” Galen said. “I’m not a big wine drinker, but I love visiting all the vendors here.”
Something for everyone. “It’s a good day,” Stefasnkis said contentedly.
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Anna Richardson would certainly agree. “I could be at home today working in the yard or cleaning out the basement, but I’m not,” said Richardson, smiling. “I’m just relaxing and having a good time. The other can wait.”