by Kevin M. Smith
In my search to find regional offerings to recommend, I ventured into Maryland wine territory. Maryland wine is a strange place for me. Honestly, small wineries are a strange place for me – I feel they can be much more hit or miss than craft breweries for several reasons. If I stop by a brewery, or even my local liquor store and drop $12.00 to $17.00 on a four or six pack of something I find I don’t like, I don’t feel as bad as if I spent $28.00. And that price point can be problematic as well – while I’m a big proponent of buying and supporting local, the product also has to be worth my money. If I can get comparable quality at a significantly lower price point, I generally will. I think that’s true of most people.
And that’s the problem for a small winery – if they’re producing a bottle for which they need to charge $30.00 in order to turn a profit, and a larger winery can do the same, or similar wine for $15.00, it becomes hard to justify paying out that $30.00. As such, it almost demands that the small wineries produce better product, and I don’t feel they always do.
Knob Hall is an interesting case. I wrote a piece on them years ago for a magazine covering Washington County when they first opened their doors. I talked to Dr. Joe Fiola, the viticulture specialist at the University of Maryland extension school in Western Maryland, and he was excited for Knob Hall, explaining that he believed the winery to be situated on the best terroir of any in the state (which he did qualify by specifying areas that had wineries and pointing out that he would like to see one go into Smithsburg, which he felt had the best terroir for grape growing and wine making, but had no vineyards at the time – Red Heifer Winery has since opened in Smithsburg).
Fast-forward to last night as I cracked a bottle of Knob Hall’s Le Reve Rouge, a lovely red blend that leans to the dry side. Dark fruit notes, with hints of oak and black currant make for a reasonably complex wine that retails in the $25.00 – $35.00 range. For me, it was somewhat reminiscent of Chianti, but I would not put it quite as dry as a Chianti – maybe that impression was in part due to the hint of oak. I paired it with a gnocchi Parmesan, and then dark chocolate.
If you enjoy a nice glass of red, I definitely recommend this wine, and I will be seeking it out again.
Correction: This review as originally written did not note that Red Heifer Winery has since opened in Smithsburg. It has been updated to reflect that.