If the “Wine Wanderings” title feels like a de ja vu, it is—and it isn’t. I’ve been coast-to-coast in the past 4 weeks visiting family and enjoying (A LOT) of wine. A month ago, I was in Woodinville, Washington. Last week, I was on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for a few days. The weather was absolutely beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending three different afternoons out visiting wineries.
The state of Maryland has over 80 wineries in four growing regions. The Eastern Shore is part of the Chesapeake AVA that extends into Virginia and it is home to 12 great wineries. The Eastern Shore is known for its warm days and cool nights. The soil is sandy and well-drained, and the climate is moderated by the Chesapeake Bay. A wide variety of grapes are grown throughout the region but almost any kind of grape can do well there.
Given the fact that the highest point on the shore is only 100 feet above sea level and Albuquerque is over 5,000 feet above sea level—not to mention the vast differences in moisture and water availability—I was surprised to find many of the popular wines vinted in Maryland are the same popular wines vinted in New Mexico. I’m a huge fan of terroir so when I can take a Chambourcin wine from Sheehan’s Winery in Albuquerque and taste it alongside a Chambourcin from WindMill Creek Winery in Berlin, Maryland I get to really “taste” the terroir. Both are excellent wines that highlight not only the grape, but the place where it’s grown. I just love that!
I know people like to look for interesting places to visit, and the Eastern Shore is definitely worth a trip across the Bay Bridge. I visited three wineries on this trip: Layton’s Chance, Windmill Creek, and Bordeleau.
Layton’s Chance Vineyard & Winery
The motto at Layton’s Chance is “We work like crazy so our guests can be lazy.” You can tell that’s true just in the drive up to the Layton farm. The drive reminds me of the twists and turns through New Mexico farmland on Highway 28 heading out past the Rio Grande Winery toward Sombra Antigua, Mesa Vista, and La Viña. As you leave Rte 50 in Dorchester County, Maryland toward Layton’s Chance, you start to feel the stress of life melt away as you wind through the farmland of Vienna, Maryland. And as beautiful as the drive is, nothing can compare to what you feel when you get to the destination. I can feel my “laziness” coming on from the second I park my car and stake out my rocking chair on their huge front porch.
Layton’s Chance is not just a place for wine tasting. There are walking trails around the farm, picnic areas, a small playground, and the whole place is surrounded by peace and calm. The property is huge and can accommodate many, many guests without feeling like your peace is being disturbed—though when other people arrive, you kinda want to get to know them! And that is high praise coming from this introvert whose favorite t-shirt says, “I like wine, and maybe 3 people.”
Speaking of wine….I really like their wine! Layton’s Chance produces varietals and blends—both are equally fantastic! There is something for every palate from dry to sweet, red to white, and everything in between. I always say that every bottle tells a story and that is so true of Layton’s Chance wines. When the LC family is ready to name a new wine, they really think about the story that inspires the wine, and vice-versa. For the most part, the varietals are named by the grape inside, but the blends all have names that represent the history, philosophy, and family behind the wines.
I did a 5-wine tasting of 2-oz pours and followed that up with a glass of wine. There is an option for having 1-oz. pours, and you select the wines you want to try. Below are my recommendations, but I really hope you check out their website if only to see their unique wines. Layton’s Chance has collaborations with other businesses and also has a couple of charity wines. They are extremely active and supportive of their community.
Norton 2015: There are not enough words for me to describe this incredible wine. Layton’s Chance turned me on to Norton during my first visit back in April of this year. It instantly became my favorite wine grape—and even more so because it is an American grape. If you live in New Mexico and you’ve never tried a Norton you can get a great Norton wine from Jaramillo Vineyards in Belen, New Mexico. It’s fantastic! Both are a smooth-as-velvet dry red wine that you will return to time and again.
Farm Red: A smooth blend of Chambourcin and Norton with a nice long finish. It’s a porch-sipper in the summer and a fire-pit sipper in the winter.
Vidal Blanc: This 2018 white varietal has just been released. It’s a nice oaky wine with buttery notes and vanilla. The Vidal Blanc grape is a hybrid and the aroma and flavors from the wine fluctuate greatly depending on climate and location. It’s a hardy, cold-weather grape but I didn’t find the LC Vidal Blanc to be as acidic as I would have expected.
Farm White: The LC Farm White is a blend of Traminette and Vidal Blanc grapes. It’s herbal notes with hints of grapefruit were reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc, but without the acidity. Farm White has a medium acidity. I really enjoy the flavor of this wine and I purchased a bottle to bring home. I, personally, prefer my white wines to be higher in acid, but I found most of the Maryland wines to be lower in acid overall.
Lazy Day Rosé: I’ve mentioned, more often than you probably want to hear, that I’ve been on a rosé kick ever since I drank a glass of Sheehan Winery’s Cinsault Rosé. Layton Chance has several great rosé wines. The Lazy Day Rosé is a blend of Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc grapes. It has notes of both green fruits and stone fruits. I thought it was really delicious and refreshing. The label, alone, makes me want to open a glass and find a place to put my feet up an relax.
Harvest Blush: I always have to try a sweet wine for all of my sweet-wine readers, but tasting the Harvest Blush was not in any way a hardship. Harvest Blush is a sweet version of Chambourcin with powerful notes of roses and raspberry. If you are a lover of white zinfandel, this is the wine for you!
I could say so much more about Layton’s Chance, but I want to acknowledge the other two wineries who had equally good wine.
Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery
Bordeleau means “the water’s edge” and the winery is on the edge of a lake in a beautiful setting. The winery is known for its Bordeaux-style wines because the climate in Eden, Maryland is very similar to that in parts of Bordeaux in France.
The Bordeleau Tasting Room is equally as beautiful as Layton’s Chance, but with an entirely different vibe. For my New Mexico peeps, I would compare it to a small-scale version of Casa Rodeña. There are three curated flights from which to choose: Red, Red/White, and Sweet. Since my daughter and husband were along for the ride, we ordered one of each and shared. I had the Red Flight (of course!)
My flight included Merlot, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and an Old Vine Zinfandel. Except for the Old Vine Zin, Bordeleau grows and hand-harvests its own grapes. The Old Vine Zin grapes were imported from California. Of the wines in my flight, the Cabernet Franc was my favorite which was also a surprise. I’m not a fan of Cabernet Franc in general, but maybe the ones I’ve tried in the past were not quite up to par. I don’t know, but I really like it.
My daughter had the Red/White flight which included Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. I was not a big fan of any of the white wines and though I rarely knock any wines, the Sauvignon Blanc was a disappointment. The outstanding wine—so much so that we both purchased a bottle—was the Petit Verdot. Wow!
My husband took one for the team by taking the sweet flight. He had the Wicomico Red (a blend named after Wicomico County, Maryland), Vidal Blanc, Apple, Strawberry, and Peach. My daughter, who lives in the area, said that Wicomico Red is the most popular wine on the eastern shore. I don’t do sweet wines, but I did a teeny tiny taste of each and….well….
In the past I have had Bordeleau’s Meritage and Malbec. Neither were available for tasting because the inventory was low. I bought the last bottle of Meritage to bring home because I know it’s outstanding.
Windmill Creek Vineyard and Winery
The tasting room of Windmill Creek is on the historic register in Maryland. It’s a house with a lot of rooms that you can wander through, or sit and drink a glass of wine. The property it is on is quite large and there are several places to sit and sip. We sat in what I called “the firepit garden.” Every table was a gas firepit.
On this outing, two of my daughters and my husband were along. We had so much fun sitting around the firepit on a chilly afternoon reminiscing. The tasting room had a tiny bar that was just for placing orders and it was very busy. We decided that we’d just grab a bottle of wine, so we chose the Petit Petit. It was a delicious blend of Petit Verdot and Petit Syrah grapes. It wasn’t until I began nosing around that I discovered the wine was actually made from imported California grapes. Although that fact was a bit disappointing, the wine definitely was not. After the Petit Petit we forced ourselves to get a bottle of Chambourcin, made from Maryland grapes. It was so good, but knowing I could get an equally good Chambourcin at Sheehan’s Winery, I opted not to bring one home.
My two favorite activities in life are travel and wine-tasting/drinking. I’m sure you can tell from this post that Layton’s Chance is a must-visit winery if you’re ever in the D.C., Baltimore area. All you have to do is cross the bay bridge, an experience in itself, and you’ll easily be able to visit any of these wineries. I really didn’t do justice to Bordeleau or Windmill Creek in terms of describing the atmosphere and vinting philosophies, but all three wineries understand and embrace the #WineLife. They understand that wine is to be experienced. It doesn’t matter if you are doing a tasting, sipping a glass, or sharing a bottle—it should be a memorable experience every time. I really do hope some of you can make it to the eastern shore of Maryland one day. There is so much to see and do, but for me….wine!
Until next time…