Elk Run Vineyards Review
Address: 15113 Liberty Rd. Mt. Airy,Maryland 21771.
Phone Number: 410-775-2513
Tasting Hours: Nov-Apr: Thurs-Sat 10:00-5:00, Sun 12:00-5:00; May-Oct: Wed-Thurs 10:00-6:00, Fri 10:00-9:00, Sat 10:00-6:00, Sun 12:00-6:00
Region: Linganore AVA, Maryland
Reviewer: Jim Finley
Review Date: 7/12/2014
Reviewer: Jim Finley
Elk Run Vineyards is located among a small cluster of Maryland wineries approximately 50 miles north of Washington, DC and 40 miles northwest of Baltimore, Maryland. The vineyard was established by Fred Wilson, Carol Wilson and Neill Bassford in 1979, and the winery was founded in 1983. Fred Wilson was a student of the Finger Lakes’ Dr. Konstantin Frank so it’s not particularly surprising that Mr. Wilson decided to plant Maryland’s first all-vinifera vineyard (Dr. Konstantin Frank planted the first successful Vinifera vines in New York’s Finger Lakes region in 1950s).
If I hadn’t heard that Elk Run was making some very good wines, I might have left immediately after arriving without even going in. The circular driveway provides very little room to park, and visitors’ first view of the winery is actually the side of the winery with a sign pointing in one direction for wine tasting and in the other for restrooms. Fearing that my car would likely have a few more dents when I left than when I arrived, I parked around back next to a tractor. Fortunately, the front of the winery, with picnic tables, and vineyard views, is much more appealing. The inside is bright and open with a long counter for tasting and a few high tables. With its suspended ceiling, it won’t win any architectural awards, but it has a fun, casual feel to it. Since I had the tasting room to myself, I was able to talk to both servers who, together, were very knowledgeable about the wines and the vineyards.
Visitors can choose a pre-selected group of wines or six of their choosing for $5. I skipped Elk Run’s sweet wines and chose two Chardonnays, a red blend, a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Elk Run produces two Chardonnays, one, unoaked, from its Cold Friday Vineyard (planted in 1995), and one, from its Liberty Tavern Vineyard (planted in 1980), aged in new French Oak. The Elk Run team determined that the Cold Friday Vineyard Chardonnay was frequently overpowered by oak and decided to make a non-oaked Chardonnay.
Unfortunately, I found both wines, although very different in style, to be bit tart. The high acidity wasn’t limited to the whites. The 2013 “Red Door” red blend, the 2011 Merlot, and the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon were all a bit thin and acidic. One notable exception was the 2012 Cabernet Franc from Cold Friday Vineyard. More full bodied and complex than Elk Run’s other reds, it has a core of bright cherry and pepper complemented by earthy, leathery flavors. Hints of chocolate highlight the velvety smooth, medium-length finish.
As I was preparing to leave, the gentleman behind the bar offered me a taste of Elk Run’s Gewurztraminer. He indicated that Elk Run is the only Maryland winery that makes a Gewurztraminer and does so because the owner’s wife is a big fan of the variety. With just a touch of residual sugar, the 2013 Gewurztraminer is fragrant and full-bodied with lychee fruit and fresh peach flavors. A perfect wine for summer sipping or pairing with spicy dishes.
The 2012 Cabernet Franc and the 2013 Gewurztraminer, as well as Elk Run’s role in the development of the Maryland wine industry, make it worth a visit. A standard tasting provides a good introduction to Elk Run’s wines, but to really gain a good understanding of the winery and its wines, I recommend making a reservation for the tasting and tour.