Wednesday, February 4, 2009

City winery warms to Frederick's Fire in Ice

This is the time of the year when many of the regional wineries jump headfirst into their calendar of events. That includes Frederick (Md.) Cellars, where the city will hold its annual Fire in Ice celebration this weekend as part of its First Saturday program. There will be ice sculptures located throughout downtown, an ice carving demonstration, an ice playground, marshmallow roasting stations, and free hot cocoa. The event itself will take place from 5 to 9 p.m., although the winery will open at noon that day. Bo Weevil will play in the Cellar from 6:30 to 9.

As part of President's Weekend, the winery will honor former prez Thomas Jefferson, an avid wine drinker. Flights and glasses of Frederick's vintage Cabernets and Merlot will be offered in the tasting room, and 25 percent discounts on several wines will be available in the wine shop. The event will give visitors a rare chance to taste the vintage wines; well, at least without having to buy a bottle or two.

What makes Frederick Cellars unique is its location; rather than out in the middle of nowhere, as is the case for so many wineries in this region, this one is located downtown among the shops and restaurants of Shab Row and Everedy Square. Perhaps this almost one-of-a-kind arrangement will change over time; certainly you can find cities with working breweries located along one of the main streets. The idea of converting grapes into wine amid other businesses on a main thoroughfare or side street remains fairly foreign in this country. Still, that's changing a bit, as New York Times writer Eric Asimov noted in a
Jan. 27 story and in this blog post a day later on the new City Winery in New York. It's a combo music venue and wine bar that also gives customers a chance to at least get their hands dirty in winemaking.

Asimov noted in his story that "City Winery is one of several custom winemaking facilities that have opened around the country in the last decade. Crushpad in San Francisco and Portland Wine Project in Portland, Ore., both offer similar hands-on participation, while, compared with those economy-class operations, Napa Valley Reserve in Saint Helena, Calif., offers a piece of a corporate jet, allowing members to help tend the vines and make the wines, for fees beginning around $150,000."

With cities seeking more urban commerce, and with new winemakers able to fill one of a growing number of open spaces or convertable buildings, it's not far-fetched to assume that others could follow.

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