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Hiking for Wine in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains

By Winecompass

Hiking for Wine in Maryland's Catoctin MountainsCunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park are neighboring state and national parks located in the Catoctin Mountains in Thurmont, Maryland.  They are physically separated by Route 77 and offer trails ranging from easy to challenging with the moderate CMP Wolf Rock and Chimney Trail and the easy CFSP Cunningham Falls Lower Trail the most popular.  Last week we hiked the 3.4 mile Wolf Rock and Chimney Trail and added 1.4 miles by including the Thurmont Vista. Next time we will embark on the Catoctin Mountain Extended Loop Trail that includes all three of these overlooks plus the CFSP Cunningham Falls Lower Trail. And another beauty of these parks is that several wineries have sprung up near their borders. Travel northwest and you arrive at Red Heifer Winery. Head just north of Thurmont to Catoctin Breeze Vineyards. Or drive a little southeast to Links Bridge Vineyards. Hiking for Wine in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains

Red Heifer Winery is a 56-acre estate situated at 1,500 feet, an elevation where the grapes are allowed to cool after the hot summer day. The winery had previously been a peach and apple orchard farmed by the current owner's grandparents and the first vines were planted in 2010. These vines are a diverse set of vinifera, hybrids, and a couple native labrusca. Last year I had tasted several of their wines, remembering their 2017 Winemaker's Reserve Cabernet Franc and dry 2017 Vidal Blanc in particular. On this visit, I simply picked up a bottle of their estate-grown 2017 Blaufrankish ($28) -- because it's a Blaufrankish.  The winery has a nice winter covid set-up with bubbles and firepits. However, only 21 and up hikers permitted.

Hiking for Wine in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains
I had to stop by Catoctin Breeze Vineyards for a wine club pickup which featured, once again, a dry Vidal - this time the 2019 Intermezzo Vidal Blanc ($24).  The other wines were the 2018 Concerto Bordeaux Blend ($45) and the 2018 Opera Merlot ($36).  These last two reds wines salvaged from the horrible rainy 2018 growing season where the winery had to drop all of their Syrah and most of their Cabernet Franc.  Catoctin Breeze is a great spot to just hang out with weekend live music, food trucks, and usually an abundant portfolio of wine. 
Hiking for Wine in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains
Another spot to hangout, particularly on their patio on the Monocacy River is Links Bridge Vineyards. These long-time growers usually for Old Westminster Winery moved into the winemaking space a few years ago and are known for fantastic estate-grown Cabernet Franc. On this first time visit, we sat at a table next to a fire pit and enjoyed a fall tasting flight. The 2016 Cabernet Franc Bin 10 ($28) is made from grapes grown on their Riverside Vineyard where the oak doesn't overwhelm the fruit. Once again a dry Vidal was available - this time the 2016 Dry Vidal ($18) which is a good example of how Maryland winemakers are able to coax plenty of flavor and acidity from complete fermentation. The 2019 Chardonnay ($25) was also a solid wine, composed of grapes from both the Hillside and Riverside vineyards and with a fruit-forward and fresh profile.  Can't wait to return in the spring for some fishing and wine. 

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