Wine Festival offers vintage celebration; 10,000 people attend, some seeking respite from storm hardships


For patrons of the 16th Maryland Wine Festival at the Carroll County Farm Museum yesterday, "BYOB" could easily have meant "Bring Your Own Blanket."

That's what many of the estimated 10,000 festival-goers did, while others came early to stake out picnic tables near or far from the speakers that were blaring everything from country to swing jazz and Dixieland sounds all day.

Sponsored by the Association of Maryland Wineries, the Maryland Grape Growers Association, the American Wine Society, the county and the 140-acre Farm Museum in Westminster, the annual two-day celebration served a dual role this year.

It promoted the state and local wine and grape industries and afforded a day's fun in the sun for those still without power at home in the wake of Hurricane Floyd.

Kevin and Alexa Doxzen of Ellicott City were happy to escape their home for the day with their children, Erica, 15, David, 11, and Kevin Jr., 10.

They had been without electricity since 3 p.m. Thursday.

"We hadn't planned to attend, but we are glad we came," said Alexa Doxzen.

"It's more for adults, but the raspberry wine made the trip worth it," Kevin Doxzen said.

"I'd rather be at the movies," Erica said.

For Zachary Wraasey, 4, of New Windsor, fun was where he could find it, as in camping out in a pup tent Reid Wraasey, his father, had pitched in the grass next to the family's blanket. Zachary was contented with an assortment of comic books and toys his father placed in the tent.

"We've been coming to the wine festival for four or five years," Reid Wraasey said. "My wife, Carolyn, enjoys sampling the wine, and I like a day outdoors."

Nearby, under a large oak tree, a reunion of sorts was under way.

"This is the 'Callahan oak tree,' " proclaimed Jeff Callahan, of Westminster.

For four years, he and Andrea, his wife, have been joined by Jeff's brother, David, and sister-in-law Debbie, who drive from Reston, Va. to "visit, soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the surroundings and stock up on our favorite wines," David Callahan said.

"I'll vote not to move this festival," said Jeff Callahan, alluding to talk among county officials earlier this year of finding a new location. "I don't want them to change the ambience one little bit," he said.

The Callahan oak tree location is perfect, "out of the traffic, providing a little shade and a little sun," depending on the location of blanket or lawn chair, Jeff Callahan said.

"And the wine prices are reasonable to stock up," said David Callahan.

For vineyard owners, selling their product by the bottle or case helps with annual profits, but having their wine tasted and recognized by so many is equally important, said Bill Loew, owner of Loew Vineyards in Mount Airy.

Loew was one of 10 state vineyard owners showcasing their assortment of wines -- reds, whites and blushes.

Grape growers in Maryland produce about 800 tons annually with half being sold to commercial wineries and half to amateur wine makers, said Jim Russell of Kingshill Vineyards in Germantown. Russell, 79, was manning a promotional booth for the Maryland Grape Growers Association. He said he began growing grapes in California in 1944 before moving east in 1957.

Russell predicted this summer's drought will help the industry, because slightly smaller grapes have a more intense flavor.

Loew agreed, saying he expects the 1999 crop will be "pretty good," if the wrath of Floyd's torrents doesn't hurt harvesting, which typically ends the last week of October.

Loew grows about 45,000 pounds of grapes to produce 3,000 gallons of wine each year.

David and Anita Yingling of Sykesville can appreciate the effort wine makers put forth.

The Yinglings have harvested two vines which yielded 87 pounds of grapes and have produced 24 quarts of homemade wine.

"It's a lot of work, more than I expected," David Yingling said.

Anita Yingling said their wine-making venture so far has cost about $400, the cost of a wine press, bottles, and other less-expensive items.

"We've done some of our Christmas shopping here," said David Yingling, "but last year we just decided to give winemaking a try."

He hopes to invite some friends and neighbors over next year to taste the fruit of their labor.

"We'll have to taste it first to make certain it's fit to drink," he said with a chuckle.

The farm museum expects another 10,000 festival-goers today from noon to 6 p.m.

Pub Date: 9/19/99

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