Perhaps the most alluring charm of European travel, at least from a wine perspective, is getting the chance to sample regional wines with regional fare. To wash down a hunk of Crottin de Chavignol with a delightfully crisp Sancerre, or a grilled steak dressed in lemon juice and olive oil with a fine Chianti, is to dip oneself in the sensual reflecting pool of a given region. Not that Europe has a monopoly on local foodstuffs: In a consumer age populated with fruit from Chile, beef from Japan, cheese from England, and shrimp from China, many food-conscious Americans are turning to locally produced ingredients to re-connect to a regional sense of place at the dinner table. Never before have we, as Marylanders, had such tremendous access to local fare via farmers' markets, community-sustained agriculture co-ops, and even local grocery stores. Everything from tomatoes, corn, crabs, beef, chicken, and eggs to mushrooms, cheese, greens, and ice cream can be found in deliciously credible local or regional examples.
But what about the wine?
Maryland wines have never enjoyed a fantastic reputation among consumers, and at times there's a good reason for that. After all, our state's wine industry is still an infant compared to places like Europe and even California. Furthermore, our climate doesn't always provide the most comfy digs for famous varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon; newcomers like Seyval and Chambourcin like it here, but are unfamiliar to most buyers. Even so, this state produces interesting wines in every category, from off-dry rosé to quirky oddball fruit wines, as well as reds, whites, dessert wines, and festive sparklers. I decided to check out three top finishers from the 2007 Maryland Governor's Cup wine competition to see where things stood; I am delighted to report that things stand very well indeed.
Rob Deford of Boordy Vineyards took home the top honors this year with his Boordy Vineyards Vidal Blanc 2006 ($11). This off-dry offering charms with floral peachy notes and springtime aromas. It wowed me by balancing its sweetness with good acidity, without tasting as though it had been manipulated by the addition of acid. Reminiscent of Alsatian Gentil, it would certainly pair well with Firefly Farms'
Allegheny Chevre or the ubiquitous crab cake. I am impressed that a white wine took top honors, and the wine certainly would make a delicious introduction to newcomers.
Linganore Cellars may be best known for their dizzying (in more ways than one) array of fruit-based wines, but I was shocked at how much I enjoyed their grape wine offerings. A serious contender for my autumn house wine is Linganore Wine Cellars Chambourcin 2006 ($27). An estate-bottled wine, this stuff is really, really good. Structured like a ripe-vintage Chinon or even Dolcetto, it boasts plenty of red berry flavors with lush, rich texture, as well as a little spiciness and rustic, moderate tannins. Consider picking up some lamb sausage from Springfield Farms to go with it. Or just sip it solo; it matters not. It won't matter much when you sample the Linganore Wine Cellars Traminette ($19), either. Traminette is the somewhat spicy offspring of Gewürztraminer and Seyval, and this dessert wine offering certainly reminds me of the former. Asian spice notes, ginger, bergamot, and pear abound in this unctuous, viscous sweetie. It's going to pair perfectly with fat, stinky cheeses—or, come next month, with pumpkin pie.