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Drinkmuse: Knob Hall Winery – The start of the Maryland quest

November 6, 2011

It has finally started: The great Maryland wine quest. This summer I got it in my head that it would be a great idea to go to all of the Maryland wineries (at least the ones that are open to the public), visit, take notes and pictures, and write them up. Throughout it, I hope to discover new wine, show that there are, contrary to popular opinion, good Maryland wineries, and maybe even that Maryland doesn’t just have sweet wine.

The first stop for the quest wound up being Knob Hall Winery. We had a Livingsocial coupon for it which was expiring soon, so on a whim during a day when we weren’t really busy, we decided to drive up there. Let me tell you, it was a drive. Basically straight NW from DC for a while, up 70 till just past Hagerstown, and then off of 70 quite close to the PA border. The winery itself is in farmland (we saw lots of horses and cattle), and is situated on what was an old farm, I believe.

As I understand it, the winery is pretty new – the last 3-4 years I believe (although that may not be completely accurate). If you check the website you will see that one of the managing partners is part of a family which has owned that land for over 200 years. Impressive story. The barn which is the tasting room was erected in 1860. It’s a great setting to taste some wine. I get the feeling they are still building – they talk about building a state of the art building for producing the wine on their site, and they have recently planted 30 acres of grapevines.

Onto the tasting: As you walk into the barn, you can tell it’s age – the floorboards are a bit uneven, they are large old style planks. The barn itself has pretty minimal additions to make it into a tasting room – tables, the tasting bar and some stools, plus some fridges and a port-a-potty. The tasting area is actually quite small – 6 stools I believe, which feels a bit odd with how giant the barn is. Lots of what feels like unused space (but which must be great for events). We got there are there were only two other people tasting – a pair of friends from Silver Spring.

We tasted 3 whites, 2 roses, and 4 reds. I thin we actually missed one red, which is sad, but we did taste their reserve bottling, so that was nice. I will note that my nose is oddly stuffed (and has been for weeks), so my notes are a bit weaker than I hope.

1. Vidal Blanc – First impression was dry and tart. I have to say I couldn’t get a lot other than some stone and minerality here. It was interesting, not overwhelming, but I’d like to taste again when I have my full palate.

2. Vidal Blank Sweet – Felt very much like the classic “Maryland Sweet Wine” (from now on MSW). Overwhelming notes of melon. Not for me, but I know people who will love this.

3. Tryst – Described as a spicy food wine, I think the hostess said this was made from Traminette (I can’t confirm that with the website). Didn’t taste like previous Traminettes I’ve had – got a bit of lemon, and was too sweet for me for what they were describing.

4. Dry Rose – Got lots of tart cherry. The suggested pairing was with Manchego cheese – I do love me some Manchego, and I can see this working decently. Not something I would be searching for ( I think you can get equally priced dry roses from France that perform better).

5. Sweet Rose – We literally got the same exact flavor profile for this – our hostess described this as being made because they saw the market/desire in Md for a sweet Rose. That made me laugh – just so stereotypical of the state, or wine geeks impression of the state, at least. This was perhaps a little bit sweeter, but really not that much.

6. Le Reve Rouge – Great purple color on this. Not a particularly full-bodied red, but lots of red fruit, and pretty tasty. Only bottle we bought – great easy table wine that should go over well with a wide group of folks.

7. Jealous Mistress – This is their most popular wine, as I understand. Merlot and Chambourcin. Dry, I didn’t write much down for this (I’ve had it before). Similar idea to the Le Reve in terms of where I would serve it. Good wine for the price (med-high 10’s).

8. Merlot – All I got from this was black currant. It was entirely drinkable, I just wouldn’t seek it out if I had a choice.

9. Prestige – Their Bourdeaux style wine, a reserve. We were told they normally don’t taste but they had a bottle open from an event. At 32, I thought the price was a bit much, but it was a nice wine, well-balanced with enough tannic structure that it could stand to be open but not be overwhelming.

Overall impression: This was a good winery to start with. Very nice setting, very nice to see one of the newer ones. We didn’t really like the whites or roses, but the reds were all solid, and for the price both the Le Reve and the Jealous Mistress are well worth it. I’d like to visit in a couple of years to see what they’ve done with the location and with their wine program.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Regina permalink
    November 9, 2011 9:16 am

    Since you are visiting all the state wineries, you should pick up a passport along the way –– collect codes and get rewards. It’s a fun program, check out the details here: http://marylandwine.com/md-passport

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