Why should Virginia have all the fun? Business may be booming for the commonwealth’s 285 wineries, but that doesn’t mean they deserve your undivided attention. It’s true that Maryland has fewer options — the Maryland Wineries Association estimates that the state houses about 70 wineries — and lacks the storied reputation of bearing the Norton grape. But, it has plenty of worthy destinations, which are too often neglected in favor of Virginia’s buzzier offerings.
Here are six Maryland wineries to help convince you of that, with a few nearby stops that can fill your day with dining and sightseeing. Take a tour, enjoy a glass or tasting, and the Free State’s wineries may pleasantly surprise you.
Big Cork Vineyards
Under former Breaux Vineyards winemaker Dave Collins, Big Cork has established itself as one of the most ambitious wineries in Maryland, winning a slew of awards — including best in show at the 2015 Maryland Governor’s Cup competition — since planting its first grapes just five years ago. Learn a little of its Muscat magic from a noon or 1 p.m. tour ($10), and for $10 more, sample a rotating list of six wines in a sleek, modern tasting room with low-slung lights and concrete floors. (Look out for the Nebbiolo, a red made from Italian grapes, and the not-too-sweet Vidal ice dessert wine.) The winery’s full-service restaurant closed earlier this year, but you can bring your own food or stop at the grab-and-go market, where staff will help pair your wine with artisanal meats, cheeses and olives. Whatever you decide on, bring it outside to grab seats on the porch, take in live bluegrass or jazz, and enjoy a stunning view of nearby South Mountain. -- Harrison Smith
4236 Main St., Rohrersville. 301-302-8032. bigcorkvineyards.com. Open Thursday-Monday.
Nearby: Consider starting your day at Antietam National Battlefield (5831 Dunker Church Rd., Sharpsburg). And walk off your wine in Harpers Ferry, W. Va., either with a scenic stroll along the Appalachian Trail to Jefferson Rock (access the trail from High St., by John Brown’s fort) or — in the opposite direction from downtown — a walk along the C&O Canal towpath and Potomac River in Maryland.
Black Ankle Vineyards
When Ed Boyce and Sarah O’Herron set out to open a winery, they had an unusual goal: They wanted to build with materials already on the farmland they’d purchased in Mount Airy. Hence, the walls of Black Ankle’s sunny tasting space are covered in a thin layer of dry mud. Sit at a bar top made of crushed grape vines, or drink at tables or couches outside, underneath an airy tent top. On chilly days, you can sip around a fire pit just feet from the grapevines. Black Ankle specializes in drier wines. (Look for the deliciously tart rosé.) For $12, a host will walk you through a tasting of six wines, and bottles run about $30. Black Ankle also sells locally produced cheese, bread and olive oil, or bring your own food. On the drive to the vineyard you may pass a horse farm, pumpkin patches and a building with a llama grazing in the front yard. “When you come here, we want it to feel like a country visit,” manager Melissa Schulte says. -- Amanda Erickson
14463 Black Ankle Rd., Mount Airy. 301-829-3338. blackankle.com. Open Friday-Sunday.
Nearby: Make a boozy day of it by stopping at Milkhouse Brewery (8253 Dollyhyde Rd., Mount Airy), where you can sample beer made from hops and fruit grown on site, along with locally sourced craft salamis.
The state’s oldest winery, which gets its name from the original owners’ daughter’s inability to pronounce Bordeaux at a young age, is located on a rolling hill in Baltimore County. Its quaint grounds are dotted with historic stone houses and barns, and it hosts events year-round, such as the upcoming Trucks ‘N’ Tunes series of live music on weekends in November. If the weather is nice, head to one of the outdoor tasting areas next to the tree-shaded picnic tables and try the traditional tasting ($5), comprised of six samples from Boordy’s three labels: Landmark Series, Chesapeake Icons and Sweetland Cellars. Or go inside the main store, inside a beautifully refurbished stone barn, for the $15 Landmark tasting, which has eight samples of Boordy’s Landmark wines, all sourced from 100 percent Maryland-grown grapes; the Albarino was named best in show at the 2016 Maryland Governor’s Cup. -- Savannah Stephens
12820 Long Green Pike, Hydes. 410-592-5015. boordy.com. Open daily.
Nearby: For another kind of tasting, head to Millstone Cellars (2029 Monkton Rd., Monkton). The farmhouse cidery uses local ingredients — it sources all of its fruit from within a 150-mile radius — to create distinct flavors, such as the Basque-style Sidra Americana, which is made by fermenting fresh juice with apple skins.
The Vineyards at Dodon
If you’re lucky, Oliver will greet you when you arrive at Dodon. Extend your hand, and he’ll lick it. The black-and-white border collie is just one of the things that makes this Anne Arundel winery stand out, and there are plenty more that give guests a more personal, luxurious experience. Visits are by appointment only. (Reservations, $25, can be made via phone or the website.) After a glass of rosé, a nearly 90-minute tour will take you around the vineyard. Should your tour guide be owner and winemaker Tom Croghan, a physician by training, be prepared for not only a discussion of the land — it’s been in his wife’s family since 1725 — but also one about the science behind the vines. After a final stop in the cellars and a climb up a tight spiral staircase, you’ll return to the airy tasting room to sample three wines. The 2014 chardonnay avoids the overt sweetness too often associated with that grape, and the 2014 South Slope red is a nuanced, sippable blend. The final glass, though, is the standout: The complex 2015 Sauvignon Blanc elevates itself far above its “mom’s book club” reputation. -- Kristen Page-Kirby
391 Dodon Rd., Davidsonville. 410-798-1126. dodonvineyards.com. Tours by appointment only at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Nearby: After your tasting, you could head into Annapolis and continue drinking. Red Red Wine Bar (189B Main St.) is the place should you choose to stick with wine. You also could head to Dry 85 (193B Main St), its sister restaurant, for an extensive selection of bourbon and beer. Or head south to Skipper’s Pier in Deale (6158 Drum Point Rd.), a rare example of the rural crab house where the regular dishes are just as good as the crabs.
Old Westminster Winery
When Drew Baker pulls out the Grüner Veltliner at Old Westminster, he gets excited. “This has a great story,” he says. Before the French invented Champagne, monks made “sparkling” wine by sealing the liquid in bottles before it had finished fermenting. Today, Old Westminster does things the same way. “We’re nerdy about wine,” says Baker, who, along with his two sisters, runs the vineyard on the Carroll County farm where they grew up. Tasting flights cost $10 and feature five wines, including some of Old Westminster’s pétillant naturels. That refreshingly bubbly treat was praised recently by wine critic Jon Bonné in Punch magazine. Buy a bottle and relax outside at one of the picnic tables separated by rose bushes, or stay inside at the bar or one of the simple wooden tables. Flowers in Mason jars complete the country-chic vibe. There’s live music on some Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. -- Amanda Erickson
1550 Old Westminster Rd., Westminster. 410-881-4656. oldwestminster.com. Open Friday-Sunday.
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard
The drive down Comus Road, with its charming houses and open fields, hints at what’s to come. Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard has all the trappings of a quaint and rustic winery, with a windmill, silo and red barn signaling you’ve arrived at the farm’s 92-acre plot, its outdoor area scattered with tables and wine lovers hanging out on the grass. The winery specializes in Bordeaux-style, the best of which is the 2013 Evoe! — a ruby-colored wine with black currant aromas that, naturally, is also the most expensive of the bunch. On a recent visit, the $10 tasting included nine wines, such as a peppy pinot gris and a strawberry-forward rosé. After the tasting, splurge on a bottle of the Evoe! ($38.95) or grab a Cabernet Franc Reserve ($29.95) and head outside, where packed picnics are welcome, as are the customary winery offerings of olives, cheeses, salami and crackers. -- Emily Codik
18125 Comus Rd., Dickerson. 301-605-0130. smvwinery.com. Open daily.
Nearby: Whether you stop at Black Hog BBQ (3323 Worthington Blvd., Ijamsville) before or after Sugarloaf depends on how comfortable you are smelling like smoke. Try the pulled pork sandwich or grilled bone-in chicken with sweet potato fries or mac and cheese. The quaint Comus Market (23830 Old Hundred Rd., Dickerson) offers maple syrup and apple cider, plus interesting varieties of squash (sweet dumpling, delicata, ambercup) and multicolored pumpkins.