The soil and climate of Maryland's Eastern Shore give the wine grapes a sunny intensity. The grapes from the state's western slopes have their own earthy poignancy.
"The grape tastes like the area," said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Association of Maryland Wineries. "The French call that terroir."
The tastes of Maryland will be uncorked, decanted and ready for savoring this weekend at the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks' 12th annual Wine in the Woods festival.
The spring celebration held every year at Symphony Woods is the first of several annual wine festivals now held throughout Maryland to showcase the state's growing wine industry.
Ten wineries will be participating this year in what has come to be a much-anticipated event, said vintner Rob Deford of Boordy Vineyards, north of Baltimore in Hydes.
"It's sort of a coming-out party for the new wines," Deford explained.
A ticket buys a commemorative wine glass and 10 wine samples. With crowds of tasters wandering from tent to tent with their glasses, "it's a wonderful chance to see if we are going in the right direction," Deford said. "People are usually very gracious, but they tell us what they think."
Deford will be seeking feedback on at least a dozen of the vineyard's wines this year, including Sparkling Cuvee, a chardonnay-pinot noir blend, and a new blend: Cabernet Franc.
Wines will be on sale by the glass, the bottle and the case. The festival also offers food for sale, and visitors are encouraged to spread out blankets and picnic on the grass. Bands play during the afternoon, and artisans sell their crafts.
At a special "Demo Tent," wine experts will offer lectures about dessert wines, red wines and white wines. The lectures, which are always popular, are open on a first-come, first-served basis, said festival organizer Barbara Lett, supervisor of special events for the recreation and parks department.
"Each session is always full," she said.
Atticks will be discussing red wines at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. He grew up in Maryland, and for him local wines have been a lifelong source of fascination and the subject of a master's thesis and now a book, by Resonant Publishing, "Discovering Maryland Wineries."
To know Maryland, he said, you need to know the wine. "You can read the book," he said, "but you really have to taste it."
Wine in the Woods will be held from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Symphony Woods, home of Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. Tickets cost $18 in advance and $20 at the gate. Advance tickets may be purchased from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and tomorrow at the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department, 7120 Oakland Mills Rd., Columbia, or by calling 410-313-7275. Participants must be 21 or older to consume wine. Admission costs $5 for those ages 4 through 20. Children 3 and younger are admitted free.