Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday loop through Maryland hits Mount Felix and Woodhall wineries

From Mount Felix: What's left of the delicious plate of figs and cheese and a shot of the tasting room.

Spent part of Sunday afternoon visiting Mary and Peter Ianniello at their new Mount Felix Winery in Havre de Grace. Haze cheated us out of the sharp view of the distant Chesapeake Bay, which sits beyond the property, including the vineyard, and makes for a scenic backdrop off the large patio that sits off the house and a stroll from the tasting room.
Originally from northern New York, the couple and their three children have called the 9,000-square-foot Mount Felix Manor -- which dates back to the 1830s -- home since the early part of this decade. They have Chambourcin and Foch vines in the ground; they hope to plant more over the next couple of years, including Traminette. Getting signs out on I-95 at their exit (89, Md. Route 155) has to help their exposure; so will getting a sign put along Rt. 155 at the end of their driveway. It's an easy one to miss the first time through, as we found out yesterday. The winery is less than a mile from the exit, located on the right side of the road.

It's probably one of the smaller operations you'll come across in terms of parking and the size of the tasting room, which you can see in the picture above. But it's cozy inside, with plenty of small personal touches on the wall and counters. Mount Felix is producing a line of nine wines, from dry white (Matilda's Devotion) to dry red (Adlum's First) to semi-sweet and sweet red and white. Our hosts went the extra mile, taking figs off a tree they planted when they moved in and cutting those up on a plate with some chunks of sharp cheese. Loved it. That fig tree is so big it looks like it's been there for 20 years, and the fruit is fantastic. We stayed until a wave of visitors arrived, packing the tasting room. All of the wine's names, by the way, relate to the historical significance of the area where the winery sits.

So we took the couple of bottles we purchased and headed north and west back to York Road, where Woodhall Wine Cellars sits. That's the winery that has helped cultivate our passion for regional wines; there are no friendlier folks in the business than the gang at Woodhall, where they have been turning out bottles of wine since the mid-1980s. That would make it one of the oldest wineries in the state. A five-minute drive off I-83, it's in a far more rustic setting than what you'll find at today's newer wineries. But there's room to stretch out and taste wines in the main tasting room and out on a covered back porch, where we got comfy yesterday. You should have no trouble finiding something you like there; I didn't specifically count the wines available for tasting that were listed on their chalkboard, but it's gotta be at least 25, including some delicious reserve wines.

This is a winery that until recently had a vineyard on the hill next store; safe to say at this point it's dormant. Winemaker Chris Kent said Sunday they'll likely replant at some point in 2010 or 2011. But they've done fine sourcing in the grapes and producing the extensive line of wines; we walked away with a couple cases that we ordered back in the winter during barrel tasting. Well, that's not the only thing we stopped for. A glass of wine out on the back porch hit the spot. Others were streaming in and out to pick up wine they had ordered; in the middle of it all was a party of about a dozen working through some Woodhall wines with a few plates of appetizers. Unfortunately, we couldn't manage an invitation.