Blair Garrett

Wines come in all flavors and varieties.

The care and attention to detail that goes into producing award-winning wines is fine and intricate, and the wineries of Northern Frederick County are no stranger to that.

There are five vineyards and wineries on the Maryland side of the Mason Dixon, just a short drive away. Each offers a very distinct style and service, but all five have unique differences worth experiencing for yourself.

Catoctin Breeze Vineyard, 15010 Roddy Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Detour Vineyard & Winery, 7933 Forest and Stream Club Road, Keymar, MD 21757

Red Heifer Winery, 12840 Red Heifer Winery Lane, Smithsburg, MD 21783 (Nearby in Washington County.)

Springfield Manor Winery/Distillery/Brewery, 11836 Auburn Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Links Bridge Vineyards, 8830 Old Links Bridge Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Each winery gives both the wine novice and connoisseur an opportunity to explore the depths of Frederick county’s best red and white wines, and tours are often the best way to dig into how each place makes its best wines.

Most wine drinkers know that wine is made from the fermentation of grapes, but the process is often finicky and difficult to perfect, which is why batches made using very similar methods can often taste quite different.

During the fermentation process, there is no need for sugar, water, or other acids to be added for grapes to turn into wine. The natural chemical balance of the grapes allows the process to produce wine, independent of any other additives. Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.

Fermentation and stable temperature is just one step to the process, but it is the key ingredient to making high-quality wines, consistently.

White wines and reds, while possessing overwhelming chemical similarities, are made very differently. Red wines come from red grapes, while white wines come from white grapes. But the key difference between the two is that red grapes derive their flavor from the skins and seeds of the grapes, while whites are created through the juice of pressed grapes, where the skins are discarded from the process. This “juicing” of white grapes creates a much different color and flavor compared to its red counterpart, offering wine fans a greater variety of types to try and enjoy.

Wineries have become so efficient at producing quality products, that they’ve even expanded the fruit necessary to create wines outside of just grapes. Vineyards across the country are now planting blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and many others, to make a unique spin on traditional wine.

It is important to consider the sugar content when making non-grape-based wines. The higher the sugar content in the fruit, the higher the alcohol percentage in the finished product. So, fruits like pineapple, a common fruit found in wines in Thailand and Southeast Asia, would be monitored closely to ensure the sugars and acids in the fruit are creating a balance during the fermentation process. 

While wines offer a means to gather with our family or a reason to go out with close friends, there are more benefits with wine than meets the eye. Grapes and similar berry fruits are jam-packed with antioxidants, which is an important compound in fighting numerous medical issues. Red wine is known to have more antioxidants than white, but there is a balance in not over-doing it. Most scientists agree that the “glass a day” rule is likely the way to go.

Scientists also believe that young red wines may be better for you than older ones, even though the common conception is that the older the wine, the better it tastes. The tannin levels on young wines are higher, which is a compound shown to be healthy for the maintenance and longevity of the heart.

Wines develop very complex flavors over long periods of time due to a natural chemical reaction between sugars, acids and other compounds inside the bottles. So, the aging of a bottle can dramatically change the flavor and color over time, but not all wines need 60 years to taste great. Most wines produced today are ready to drink, and give off the intended flavor by the brewers, so it may not be necessary at all to put it away in a dark cellar until you have a special occasion.

The history of wine is nearly as old as civilization, with the practice of wine production showing evidence around the world as early as 4100 B.C. in ancient Armenia, and possibly even thousands of years earlier. People have been enjoying all that wine has to offer for thousands of years, and while the process has certainly become more refined, the social nature of a bottle of wine between friends remains the same.  

Whether it’s a white wine with a sweet kick or a dark dry cabernet sauvignon, the wineries scattered around Northern Maryland have created a warm and inviting atmosphere for customers to sample in order to find the wines that suit their taste. Some people have a balance between the reds and whites, and some specialize in one or the other; however, no matter where you go on the wine tour, you are sure to find a wine that satisfies your interests.

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