Why Baltimore is a Top Wine Destination

While oft overlooked in comparison to New York and Virginia's wine scenes, Maryland's "Charm City" and its nearby wineries are making big waves. Here's how.
Pours at Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard / Photo by Karlie Pickett

Wedding Crashers told the world “crab cakes and football—that’s what Maryland does!,” but it’s not everything for which the state should be known. Previously overshadowed by New York’s Finger Lakes to the north and Virginia wine country to the south, Maryland is quietly making a name for itself, with the hub of all-vino activity centered squarely in Baltimore.

Remington Wine Company storefront
Remington Wine Company

Wine Shops

Remington Wine Company

Run by a husband-and-wife team, Mitchell and Debbie Pressman, Remington Wine Company is a cozy neighborhood shop stocked with an impressive collection of natural wines from around the world. Maryland-based Old Westminster Winery and Charm City Meadworks are represented, as well as other local goodies like fresh baguettes that are delivered daily and flowers delivered weekly. There are also pastas, olives, cookies, cheese and condiments. Stop in each Thursday for the wine of the week tasting, or Saturdays from 2–4 pm for tastings.

The Wine Source / Photo by Erik Hoffman
The Wine Source / Photo by Erik Hoffman

The Wine Source

Located in the trendy Hampden neighborhood just off The Avenue (36th street), The Wine Source is bigger than most local wine shops, offering hundreds of wines categorized by geography. There’s a section dedicated to organic wines, another for Maryland-made wines and helpful shelf talkers that list tasting notes and food pairing suggestions. A bulletin board educates customers with the latest news from the wine industry and flow charts that describe how certain wines are made. There’s also a corner wine bar with glasses of red, white and rosé for $4.

Chesapeake Wine Company

Canton’s Chesapeake Wine Company is one of Baltimore’s longest-running wine shops. Taking ownership three years ago, Phyllis Wert and Kimberly Bangs (along with their shop puppy, Bay) have breathed new life into the space. In addition to wines and spirits from around the world, there’s an in-store wine bar with a full menu that includes antipasto and pizzas. There’s also a performance space for live music during the fall and winter (the front wall opens during warmer months). Complimentary tastings take place each Saturday from 3–6 pm.

At 13.5%, you’ll find musically inspired wine flights a la “Guns & Rosés,” wine cocktails and vino representing regions that range from Oregon to New Zealand, as well as lesser-recognized wine-producing countries like Lebanon and Bulgaria.

Wine Bars

13.5% Wine + Food

Stacks of wine bottles act as décor along the main wall at 13.5% Wine + Food in Hampden. It opened as a traditional wine bar in 2009, but has expanded to offer heartier small plates alongside cheese and charcuterie boards. Wine is still the star of the show, though. Here, you’ll find musically inspired wine flights a la “Guns & Rosés,” wine cocktails and vino representing regions that range from Oregon to New Zealand, as well as lesser-recognized wine-producing countries like Lebanon and Bulgaria. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, take advantage of no corkage fees, plus $13 off any bottle from the wine wall.

V-No Wine Bar and Shop

Part wine shop and part wine bar, V-No has a prime location in Fells Point, a neighborhood older than Baltimore itself, situated right along the Inner Harbor. Tables outside that overlook the water are a hot commodity, while inside, a full bar and rows of bottles for purchase line each wall. Guests are welcome to select a wine off the shelves, or there’s a by-the-glass and bottle menu along with bar bites and specialty summertime frosé.

Private dining in Magdalena at The Ivy Hotel
Private dining in Magdalena at The Ivy Hotel

Wine-Centric Restaurants

Magdalena at The Ivy Hotel

True wine lovers will want to dine in the vaulted Robert M. Parker Wine Cellar at Magdalena restaurant within The Ivy Hotel, Maryland’s only Relais & Châteaux property. A born-and-bred Baltimorean, Parker’s namesake cellar primarily focuses on small-production American wines, complemented by a selection of rare vintages from around the world. Pair your wine with fresh, regional seafood and seasonal entrées.

La Cuchara’s wine list changes every other week during the fall and winter, and offers whimsical, helpful descriptions like “Beaujolais: If Pinot Noir is Washington D.C., Gamay is Baltimore.”

La Cuchara at happy hour
La Cuchara at happy hour

La Cuchara

You won’t find any California wines at La Cuchara, and the eatery is proud of it. The Spanish restaurant sticks primarily to the Old World, and it offers a list stocked with French and Spanish wines, with the exception of one Maryland pét-nat from Old Westminster. The wine list changes every other week during the fall and winter, and offers whimsical, helpful descriptions like “Beaujolais: If Pinot Noir is Washington D.C., Gamay is Baltimore.” On Sundays, bottles that usually go for $100 or more are 50% off. The dinner menu centers on dishes from Spain’s Basque region like bacalao croquettes and lamb shoulder a la parrilla (grilled lamb), made with Mid-Atlantic sourced ingredients.

Woodberry Kitchen

Woodberry Kitchen takes “locally sourced” to another level. If the food or spice can’t be found from a local farmer or purveyor, it won’t be on the menu. That philosophy extends to the wine menu as well, where diners will find one of the most East Coast-heavy wine lists in Baltimore.

View of the living wall in the main dining room of Gunther & Co. / Photo by Justin Tsucalas, Plaid Photo
View of the living wall in the main dining room of Gunther & Co. / Photo by Justin Tsucalas, Plaid Photo

Gunther & Co.

At Gunther & Co. in the Canton neighborhood, try the Wine Spotlight program, where restaurant owners Nancy and Jerry Trice serve lesser-known, high-end varietals by the glass to introduce them to guests without the commitment of buying a bottle. Prices have ranged from $12–20 for 6-ounce pours.

Kansas City Needs to Be Your Next Wine Destination

Maryland Wineries to Visit

None of Maryland’s 80-plus wineries are located in Baltimore itself, but you can find some of the state’s most respected wineries less than an hour from the city.

Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard / Photo by Karlie Pickett
Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard / Photo by Karlie Pickett

Old Westminster Winery & Vineyard

In an effort to preserve their family farmland in 2009, three siblings who categorize themselves as a farmer (Drew Baker, 31), a winemaker (Lisa Hinton, 29) and a general manager (Ashli Johnson, 28) set out to start a winery. Two years of education and research followed before they planted the first 7,600 Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Albariño grapevines.

Today, Old Westminster Winery produces 60,000 bottles annually, made with grapes grown both on their property and from neighboring vineyards in Maryland. Recently, the lineup has expanded to include innovative offerings like canned natural wines and nitrogen-infused sparkling wines. On weekends, sample five seasonal wines for $10 at its onsite tasting room, located just 40 miles northwest of Baltimore. Visit on Fridays and Sundays for food trucks and live music.

Although we wish the name of this winery had something to do with grape stomping instead of a historically muddy road, Black Ankle Vineyards is still dedicated to the traditional methods of wine preparation.

Black Ankle Vineyards

Although we wish the name of this winery had something to do with grape stomping instead of a historically muddy road, Black Ankle Vineyards is still dedicated to the traditional methods of wine preparation, in addition to modern techniques. The team utilizes all the natural resources available to them, which includes local compost. Even its tasting room is crafted from straw, clay, stone and wood found on the farm.

Offerings range from Grüner Veltliner to Bordeaux-style red blends, and Thursday through Sunday, guests can enjoy a tasting with five wines for $16 at the onsite tasting room. Guided walking tours of the vineyards are also available weekends at 1 pm and 3 pm.

The historic barn at Boordy Vineyards
The historic barn at Boordy Vineyards

Boordy Vineyards

Opened in 1945 by Philip and Jocelyn Wagner as Maryland’s first winery, Boordy Vineyards gained new ownership in 1980 via the Dedford family. The winery spans two separate vineyards across two Maryland microclimates.

Long Green Vineyard is located on the home farm in the Piedmont Plateau, north of the Chesapeake Bay, produces Sauvignon Blanc, rosés and light reds. South Mountain Vineyard, along the southeast portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains, creates red varieties that include Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah, alongside Chardonnay, Albariño and Viognier. Take the half-hour drive for a tour of the vineyards and winery, followed by a tasting of seven wines from both its Chesapeake Icons and Landmark Wine Collection. Prices range from $10 to $15 per tasting.

Charm City Meadworks

Charm City Meadworks, while not a traditional winery, deserves a mention thanks to their delicious floral and fruity meads right in the heart of Baltimore. Stop by the taproom near the Mount Vernon neighborhood Thursday through Sunday for a tasting of its lineup of still and draft meads.

Wit on the Water, part of Wit & Wisdom at the Four Reasons Hotel Baltimore
Wit on the Water, part of Wit & Wisdom at the Four Reasons Hotel Baltimore

Out and About Drinking Destinations

Wit & Wisdom

In a port city, one of the best places to enjoy a glass of wine is near the water. Wit on the Water, the outdoor patio of Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, is the perfect place to people watch along the seven-mile Waterfront Promenade. The wine list features more than 400 bottles from around the world. During the summer months, Wit on the Water serves a truly Maryland-style “Crabs and Crushes” feast with Old Bay-steamed blue crabs, fried soft shell crabs and a jumbo lump crab cake with ice-cold beer or wines by the glass.

Sandlot

Nearby, Sandlot is Baltimore’s 30,000 square-foot manmade beach. Alas, patrons are not allowed to go into the water. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of sand to provide a tropical vibe, along with volleyball courts, live music, games of cornhole and places to lounge, drink in hand, while enjoying the views. Beverage options include bottled sangria, rosé slushies, wine on tap and cans of Charm City mead.

Crab cakes and white wine at Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen / Photo by Jim Burger
Crab cakes and white wine at Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen / Photo by Jim Burger

Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen

Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen, within the Baltimore Museum of Art, hosts a Patio Party happy hour each Wednesday from 5–9 pm during summer months. Visitors can sip canned wine from Old Westminster Winery while strolling through parts of the sculpture garden. Other patio events include Lobsterama, fall harvest dinners and the upcoming 20th anniversary party on October 1.

Maryland Wine Festival

Immerse yourself in local and regional wine culture at the Maryland Wine Festival, held October 13 this year, where more than 150 Maryland wines from 25 wineries will be showcased. You’ll also get a chance to sample Winecream, the signature creation from family-owned Crossroad Company LLC. Winecream is where gourmet ice cream and fruit wines converge, which results in a sweet treat with up to 10% alcohol by volume.

Published on October 2, 2018
Topics: Travel



SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories