by Kevin M. Smith

Last week I found myself up in the Waynesboro area, running an errand. As is my tradition, I stopped in to pick up some beer from a favorite small brewery – Rough Edges. The route home would bring me through Smithsburg, right past the Red Heifer Winery. Based on both a recommendation of an acquaintance, and the fact that Joe Fiola, the viticulture specialist at the University of Maryland Extension School once told me that the best terroir in the state was in Smithsburg, I made it a point to stop in on my way through the bucolic burg in Washington County.

I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.

My wife and I each got a flight of their wines (technically, it was a tasting – as we finished a sample, the next sample would be poured for us). While a little thin in body, the portfolio of wines that we worked our way through was quite good. Most of the wines we sampled were dry, but there were two sweet ones that were intriguing. The tasting notes:

Vidal Blanc – dry white, notes of tart green apple, and a little minerality in the finish. Pleasant, but not particularly complex.

Chardonel – hybrid grape, made in a Chablis style, no oak, no lactic fermentation (don’t expect the buttery note common to Chardonnay). Some amorphous citrus note (something between lemon and grapefruit). Pleasant drinking. Personally, I’m not big on either the oak or the big buttery note common to Chardonnays (I’m more of a Sauvignon Blanc/Pinot Grigio drinker when it comes to whites), so I enjoyed this one a lot.

Cab Franc ‘17 – oak and jam on the nose (almost Scotch-like aroma with an underlying hint of sweetness), the wine was dry – some nice tannins – and smooth, notes of leather, smoke, and tobacco. Would probably pair beautifully with a steak and a cigar. We split a bottle of this after sampling the wines.

Petite Verdot ‘17 – rife with dark fruit notes – plum, black cherries, and some black pepper in the finish. Like the Cab Franc, the wine has a tannic quality, and it dries up on the tongue.

Catawba – sweet rosé, local native grapes. Big Concorde grape note in the nose. Jammy and sweet dessert wine. Would pair well with fruit pie (dark cherry, black berry, plum?) or a smoked Gouda, sharp cheddar, or some bleu cheese variant. Not usually my thing, but this is quite drinkable. Would also make a good base for a sangria.

Niagara – more of a musty grape note in the nose than the Catawba. Drinks like Welch’s grape juice. While that sounds like a knock, it’s oddly pleasing. There’s definitely a niche for this one.

Until next time, be well, and drink craft beverages.