Wine in the Woods has been running as a spring time event in Symphony Woods, Columbia, since 1991 and is considered to be one of the premier events in the region and a source of pride for Howard County. It’s run by the Department of Howard County Recreation and Parks and the festival has been voted Best Outdoor event by Columbia Magazine in 1997 and 1998 and awarded Best Annual Festival in Howard County by Howard Magazine for the past five years.
While Wine in the Woods has become a tradition and a mainstay for the local community and beyond, becoming a sparkling tourist attraction that brings visitors from far and wide, it’s not just about drinking wine in the woods (OK, admittedly, for some it is!).
The event welcomes more than 25,000 during the Saturday and Sunday and is THE place to experience Maryland’s finest wineries, who offer out samples to the attendees. The idea is to test as many as you can and then make your choice, settle down with a purchased bottle and enjoy music, entertainment and people watching. Now, that’s my kind of event and it certainly does make it the quintessential Howard County outing for many.
Participation from Maryland Wineries has grown from 10 wineries in 1992 to 35 wineries currently and the choice this year was excellent. The winning wine for me this year was a red – a 2010 Maryland Merlot from Fiore Winery.
Many Maryland wines are very sweet and it feels like one is drinking a dessert wine, but this was rich and flavorsome, and wonderfully dry. It was described to me as having ‘… a soft structure and is beautifully ripe, just popping of ripe plum and raspberry flavors yet mellow, easy to appreciate the fruitiness. A rich velvety texture of chocolate and oak on a smooth silky finish’. I’ll concur with that!
Attendees were able to sample sangria, apple wine, sweet grapefruit wine and many others, along with the obligatory picnic or purchase of funnel cake and turkey leg.
The event attracts all kinds of people, including a very excitable Bachelorette party. Kim’s chief bridesmaid had organised her ticket and arranged her friends along to the event. I asked her why this location and festival for her Bachelorette party. ‘Because I like wine and I like the woods,’ she replied. Fair enough! She’s getting married in Bel Air soon, so at least she was going to be able to get over her hangover before the wedding.
Michelle and Greg went on their first date to Wine in the Woods about eight years ago, and have been coming back ever since. ‘It’s just all about having a good time, and as long as you’re not driving you can relax and enjoy the woods, the wine and the people watching.’
Dale and Jeff return to Wine in the Woods because ‘it’s a great time.’ Lovers of wine, they spend the first hour queuing to taste samples and then pick their bottles and their spot, and enjoy all the the festival has to offer.
‘Wine is a medium by which you can appreciate the finer things in life, and we are also great supporters of all that Howard County has to offer, so this event a combination of the two that we really don’t want to miss. We meet new people, chat to folks about all sorts of things, and have a fine time. It’s sociable, enjoyable and is the essence of all that is fun and wonderful about Howard County.”
Some have stayed away from Wine in the Woods in recent years, I’m told, having observed overly-drunken behavior, and of course there are those who have one sample too many, but this past weekend’s event was fun-filled, full of spirit and a credit to Howard County.
Claire Bolden McGill is a British expat who lived in Maryland for three years and moved back to the UK in August 2015. Claire wrote about her life as a British expat on the East Coast and now works in travel and hospitality PR in the UK. She still finds time to blog about her repatriation and the reverse culture shock that ensued – and she still hasn’t finished that novel, but she’s working on it. You can contact Claire via twitter on @clairebmcgill or via her blog From America to England.