by Beth Hauptle
A DAY ON THE GUNPOWDER WINE TRAIL WON’T MISS THE MARK
Yearning for a little pastoral serenity coupled with a visit to several distinguished Maryland wineries? Take a day and tour the Gunpowder Wine Trail starting in north Baltimore County, winding southeast through the farmland of Harford County and landing ultimately in Havre de Grace at the head of the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll enjoy four unique wineries—Royal Rabbit, Fiore, Harford and Mount Felix—as well as parks, waterways, shops, museums and craft breweries.
The Gunpowder Wine Trail is located on the Piedmont Plateau, the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Rolling hills and loamy, mineral rich soil, along with good aeration and sunshine, create a vibrant growing region, which, according to Rick Fiore, vice president of Fiore Winery, “when properly exploited, is capable of growing grapes of exceptional quality with unique characteristics.”
Start your day at Royal Rabbit Vineyards in Parkton. Prepare for a historic twist as owners Roy and Linda Albin have a penchant for all things medieval, with a Medieval Festival as their signature summer event. At Royal Rabbit, the Albins grow albarino, gruner veltliner, viognier and chardonnay grapes for white wine. The red wine grapes include petit verdot, barbera, cabernet franc and its descendants—cabernet sauvignon, merlot and carménère. Summon Where’s Waldo, see if you can spot Roy’s parents on site, affectionately known as Mom and Pop to regular visitors.
If you’d like to add a hike to your trip, visit Gunpowder Falls State Park, 3,620 acres of scenic wilderness. For a little off-beat shopping, Wild Women in the Country in Parkton is recommended for garden art, jewelry, sculpture and even furniture by artists and mother/daughter team Elyssa Baxter and Jennifer Asbury. And of course, a trip to the country would not be complete without field-fresh produce. Stop at the Hereford Farmers Market, Saturdays, May through October.
Next stop: Pylesville’s Fiore Winery and Distillery, located in a beautiful country setting with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the vineyards. Fiore offers more than 25 different wines in three distinctive lines from sweet to semidry to dry. Fiore Distillery is located at the winery and spirits tastings are also available.
The winery started out growing sturdier French hybrids such as vidal blanc and chambourcin, followed by “more temperamental Old World vinifera varietals” like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, according to Rick Fiore. He adds that recent ventures have included Italian varietals such as sangiovese and pinot grigio. “All of the varietals I mentioned have grown well in our vineyard,” he said.
While you’re in Pylesville, drop in at Eats and Sweets for a simple but delicious home-style lunch or dinner. (Don’t forget to ask for the homemade potato chips.) Nearby you’ll find a couple of craft breweries. Hop into Falling Branch and Slate Farm breweries and take home a six pack or two.
At Harford Vineyard and Winery in Forest Hill, you’ll find weekend music offerings May through September with a popular 2nd Fridays event, where hundreds of picnickers bring dinner, blankets or chairs, and an appetite for good wine and live music. The winery makes chardonnay, vidal blanc and traminette in the dry and off-dry whites, and cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and merlot for dry reds. They also offer some sweet and dessert wines.
Finally, head east to Havre de Grace where you’ll find Mount Felix Vineyard and Winery, known for its beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay. The 1830s Mount Felix Manor has a rooftop terrace where guests can relax and enjoy a picnic and some sips. The family owned vineyard boasts well-balanced, fertile soils, along with a consistent breeze from the bay and prides itself on having one of the largest plantings of chambourcin grapes in Maryland.
While in Havre de Grace, a designated Main Street Maryland site, you’ll want to stroll down the town’s newly refurbished Promenade with the Concord Point Lighthouse on one end and Tydings Park and Promenade Grill on the other. No fewer than four museums are also here: Steppingstone, Maritime, Susquehanna Lock House and the Decoy Museum. Antique lovers may also want to drop by Bahoukas Antique Mall and Seneca Cannery Antiques.
From Maryland’s prized farmland to the majestic Chesapeake Bay, a trip along the Gunpowder Wine Trail provides a sublime, relaxing day away. (In case you were wondering about the area’s explosive moniker, it’s a bit of a mystery; but historians suspect it comes from saltpeter- – an ingredient in gunpowder—found on the banks of the so-named river.)
Royal Rabbit Vineyards
royalrabbitvineyards.com, Parkton l The tasting room of this family-operated winery is open to the public. Try the award-winning viognier.
Fiore Winery and Distillery
fiorewiner.com, Pylesville l Owned by the Fiore family, this winery calls its products “American wine with an Italian accent.”
Slate Farm ▼
slatefarmbrewery.com, Whiteford l A kid-friendly atmosphere and hearty food, plus music on Fridays throughout the summer.
Falling Branch Brewery
fallingbranchbeer.com, Street l “Maryland’s first farm brewery” has been operated by the same family since 1924.
Harford Vineyard and Winery
harfordvineyard.com, Forest Hill l Limited production fine wines, plus lots of events like barre classes and open mic nights.
Mt. Felix Vineyard and Winery
mountfelix.com, Havre de Grace l The informed staff and friendly dogs ensure a pleasurable tasting experience. Plus stunning views.
Tidewater Grille tidewatergrille.com, Havre de Grace l Enjoy signature cocktails and weekend musical entertainment on the waterfront–with a pet-friendly outdoor deck.
Lagom lagomhdg.com, Havre de Grace l A homey family-owned restaurant featuring creative farm-to-table comfort food.
Gunpowder Falls State Park
dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/gunpowder.aspx, Kingsville / Hike or bike on the park’s 100-plus miles of trail, cool off in the stream or just admire the natural scenery.
Concord Point Lighthouse ▲
confordpointlighthouse.org, Havre de Grace l A Colonial landmark where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay.
decoymuseum.com, Havre de Grace l Established in 1986, the museum has a noteworthy collection of working and decorative Chesapeake Bay decoys.