When the first annual Corktoberfest was held in Gaithersburg, Maryland on October 24th and 25th, I took the opportunity to check it out with friends. Attending marked my first wine festival outing of the season, and as one might suspect, sipping my way through the fruits of a dozen-and-a-half Maryland and Virginia wineries wasn’t a bad way to spend a day.
Throw in nonstop live music, a round of tipsy portrait painting (that confirmed my lack of aptitude for that particular artistic medium), and more food trucks and craft vendors than one can shake a wine chilling rod at, and it’s easy to see why so many people turned out for this event. We braved the crowds to hit every single winery, and stayed until closing time, ’cause we aren’t quitters.
Stopped here first for a taste of award-winning wines by The Winery at Olney. They poured a Peach Chardonnay that while expressive as far as the peach element went, was a bit sweet for my taste. The, Green Apple Riesling was sweet, but supported by more tartness and acidity than the peach, making for a more pleasant tasting experience. I also sampled a nicely-balanced Blackberry Merlot, a Black Cherry Pinot Noir that was pleasant but unremarkable, and a Cranberry Shiraz that was a seasonal offering. Seemed like something that would pair well with dinner on Thanksgiving or Christmas, though I was hard-pressed to imagine drinking it in any other context.
Knob Hall Winery offered up some interesting red wines with intriguing names like Jealous Mistress (a 70/30 Chambourcin-Merlot blend that was my favorite) and Le Reve Rouge (my runner-up fave, an easy-drinking red Chambourcin/Vidal blend with moderate tannin and luscious red fruit) and Embrace (light enough in body to make it a good match for seafood).
I happened upon several Cabernet Franc-led wines out of Virginia that have sparked further curiosity about a variety I heretofore hadn’t devoted much energy to exploring. Among these were Gadino Cellars and Breaux Vineyards.
Breaux Vineyards’ 2013 Marquis de Lafayette and its Equation Red, along with Gadino Cellars’ 2012 Antiche Viti Reserva were the most memorable pours of this grouping. These dry, robust wines burst onto the palate with smoke, earth, faint black pepper, and pronounced tannins woven into dark berry and fruit notes like plum and fig in a way that I was unprepared for, but one that invites further investigation. Also notable was Breaux Vineyards’ Equation White, which carried strong citrus notes in both aroma and flavor, serving up hints of orange zest, lemon zest, and fresh lime.
Good things were pouring at St. Michael’s Winery, where I enjoyed a line of sweet wines called “Gollywobblers” that are produced in various styles including Red, Black, Pink, and Peach. Besides being an easy lock for most inventively-named sips of the day, these proved to be crisp and easy-to-drink, with explosive fruit on both aroma and palate. Gollywobbler White (blended from Concord and Niagara grapes) was pleasant enough, though a bit sweet for my taste. Gollywobbler Pink (a blend of Gollywoblers Red and White) surprised me with its lasting finish and helpful acidity to mitigate the sugar, however Gollywobbler Black’s soft tannins worked together with its dark fruit essences to make it my favorite of the group.
At Cove Point Winery, the most memorable wines were a dry Carignan that was sweet on the nose in a candied way that reminded me of bubblegum. It made quite the stark contrast to the darker, smokier Barbera that followed, smelling like leather.
Standouts at the Urban Winery exhibit included the White Cranberry Pinot Gris and Silver Spring White. The Green Apple Riesling sampled here was nice enough, but I found myself favoring the above-mentioned sample I’d tasted earlier in the day at The Winery at Olney.
I came home from the exhibit of fruit wine and hard cider producer Great Shoals Winery with two bottles of its Whiskey Barrel Fermented Hard Apple Draft Cider. One didn’t survive the following day (not that I’d ever suffered under any delusion that it would), making my purchase of a second bottle a wise choice. Enjoying it with dinner this Thanksgiving is a pleasure I’m looking forward to with relish.
The Basignani exhibit caused one friend of mine a good deal of consternation, though not in any negative way. After sampling our way through a flight that included its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling, she and I found ourselves unable to decide, between a sweet dessert wine called Vidal and a semi-sweet Chambourcin/Seyval blend called Monkton Moon Delight, which we preferred. In the end, she decided to purchase a bottle of the Monkton Moon, only to learn that it had sold out in the time it took her to decide. Is that a testament to the popularity of that particular wine? I’d say so.
All in all, Corktoberfest 2015 was a great time made better because it was spent with friends as well as with some quality (in most cases, award-winning) wines. Now that I can claim with honesty to have been with this event from Day One, I can’t wait to drink in more good times again next October. Below, I’ve shared a few more photos taken that day. Cheers!