It may come as a surprise to some, but great wine is increasingly becoming easier to find in Northeastern States such as Pennsylvania and Maryland. There is one particular event and route that aims to not only expose the wines of the region, but to also bring locals, tourists, winemakers, restaurant owners, accommodation and more together as one memorable experience.
Wine Just Off The Vine
That event is dubbed Wine Just Off The Vine. An event that celebrates the annual Fall harvest, which takes place along the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail and features 17 different wineries. See a complete list of participating wineries here.
Wine Just Off The Vine will run for two weekends — November 12-13 and November 19-20.
Travelers will have the opportunity to traverse the trail and taste wines and light fare for as little as $20. At that price point, we really don’t see any reason not to explore a unique and up-and-coming AVA and meet some great people along the way. This includes exclusive tastings from participating wineries featuring a number of youthful “nouveau” wines only a couple weeks old fresh from the recent harvest.
If you’re not familiar with The Mason Dixon Wine Trail, it spans from South-central Pennsylvania all the way through Northern Maryland. I’m originally from the North East myself, and I can say without a doubt that the Fall season in this region is something in and of itself worth experiencing. From the rolling hills, vibrant autumn colors and falling leaves, travelers have an opportunity to experience quite a spectacle. A vibe that is truly unique to the location. Add a little wine to the equation and you’ve got the perfect Fall getaway.
“Wine Just Off The Vine is a delight for wine enthusiasts and novices alike. It’s a relaxing escape and a chance to learn about the intricacies of taking a grape from vine to glass directly from the creative winemakers along the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail,” notes Louise Heine, Destination Marketing Director for the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the organization which manages the event.
A Background on The Mason-Dixon Wine Trail & Wine Just Off the Vine
Winederlusting.com had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Staub about the event — a Spokesman for the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau — in an effort to provide our readers with some special details about Wine Just Off The Vine.
WL: What are the common grape varieties grown and wine styles produced across the Mason Dixon Trail?
AS: Pennsylvania wineries are often known for the sweet wines and fruit wines, but visitors might be surprised to know that wineries along the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail have put out some phenomenal dry and semi-sweet wines.
The conditions here support many different grapes, from native grapes such as Concord, Niagara and Catawba to vinifera grapes such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and more. Wineries are also using hybrids such as Traminette and Chambourcin to make some outstanding wines.
Several wineries along the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail have found great success with Chambourcin, too. Some of our winemakers have even described the growing conditions here as similar to the Bordeaux region of France.
The bottom line is that no matter a traveler’s taste, there is likely a wine suitable for any palate on the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail.
WL: What sort of cuisine can be expected?
AS: Participating wineries will serve light food during the Wine Just Off The Vine signature event. The fare will vary from winery to winery, ranging from homemade soups to spice wine cake or samples of pumpkin gnocchi.
The five participating Maryland wineries – Boordy Vineyards, DeJon Vineyard, Fiore Winery, Galloping Goose Vineyards and Harford Vineyard & Winery – will feature special themed food tastings. Local delights such as Maryland crab soup, flatbread Maryland seafood pizza and an Old Bay almond rocher, are among tasty dishes on the menu.
Because the wineries will offer only light food pairings, guests will probably want to plan to stop for lunch or dinner afterward.
More details on the food options can be found here.
WL: What other activities can travelers partake in should they get tired of drinking wine?
AS: There is much more to do in York County, PA, than just drink wine (although that’s not a bad way to spend a weekend). Here are a few of our suggestions to make York County the perfect getaway:
Take a factory tour
York County is The Factory Tour Capital of the World, and visitors can see everything from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to some of the country’s most popular snack foods made here. In recent years, smaller artisan shops have joined our factory tour lineup. Many of these tours are available only during the week, so they’re best for travelers who get into town early or stay a few days later.
Explore Downtown York
The City of York is in the middle of the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail and is full of artisan shops, great dining, public art and historical spots to explore.
Sunrise Soap Company is a popular stop, and one of the smaller shops that are part of our Factory Tour lineup. Patrons can even make their own soap in the visitor-friendly kitchen, and the shop takes reservations for girls’ night out, bachelorette and children’s parties.
Visitors might not know it, but York also played a key role in the founding of the country, with the Continental Congress famously adopting the Articles of Confederation in York on November 15, 1777. That’s led some to refer to York as the first capital of the United States. The York County History Center will actually host its Articles of Confederation Day on November 12, the first day of Wine Just Off The Vine. It will take place at the Colonial Courthouse and would be a fun event for anyone looking to learn more about York’s revolutionary roots.
The Strand Capitol Performing Arts Center is also in Downtown York, and offers up a full slate of Broadway shows, movies and comedy events. The Shanghai Acrobats will perform on November 13, while ukulele artist Jake Shimabukuro will perform on November 19. The full schedule can be found here.
Visit an authentic Farmers Market
The Mason-Dixon Wine Trail’s footprint is home to several authentic farmers markets, including the historical Central Market House in York. It’s open on Saturday mornings and is an excellent place to grab a hearty breakfast before setting out on the wine trail. Also, Brown’s Orchards and Farm Markets in Loganville provides fruit for Logan’s View Winery and makes some of the freshest apple cider you’ll taste.
Visit Steam Into History
One of York County’s newest attractions, Steam Into History takes visitors back in time to the days of the Civil War. Guests can ride a replica Civil War-era steam engine along the same rails that President Lincoln rode on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Rides are available during both weekends of Wine Just Off The Vine. Railroad buffs might also be interested to visit the Ma & Pa Railroad Preservation Society and the Stewartstown Railroad, which is offering free rides to service members on November 13.
WL: Does the $20 ticket cover unlimited tastings along the trail, what else does it include besides wine tastings?
AS: The $20 ticket covers three to five tastings at each winery. Some wineries may decide to offer additional tastings at their discretion. Standard admission also includes light food, a souvenir wine glass and a 10 percent discount on all wine purchases during the event (It’s a great time to stock up for the holidays).
Designated drivers receive free admission, and we encouraged everyone traveling the trail to do so responsibly.
WL: All told, what AVA’s are traversed while traveling the trail from start to finish?
AS: Those traveling the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail would traverse a portion of the Lancaster Valley AVA in Lancaster County, PA, and would get close to the Linganore AVA in Maryland.
WL: Any specific wineries, restaurants and or accommodation we should recommend to our readers as they journey?
AS: The Mason-Dixon Wine Trail includes 17 wineries, all with their own unique personalities, stories and charm. It’s hard to recommend any particular winery.
As for restaurants, York County has dozens of options fitting of any budget or taste. You can find a list of restaurants here. Wyndridge Farm, Tutoni’s, John Wright Restaurant, The Accomac, Blue Heron, York Blue Moon and The Left Bank, all offer superb dishes, from rustic farm-to-table fare to exquisite French cuisine. All are within easy driving distances of several of the wineries.
For accommodations, we also have many helpful lodging packages designed to make planning a Wine Just Off The Vine getaway easy.
WL: Can you tell us more about Wine Just Off The Vine and The Mason-Dixon Wine Trail?
AS: Wine Just Off The Vine is unique in that the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau manages and runs the event, as well as the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail. In many cases, wineries will band together to run their own trails, but this is a venture that the York County CVB saw as a worthwhile endeavor to attract visitors as more wineries began opening in York County and the surrounding region.
Wine Just Off The Vine is also only one of two signature events on the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail. Additionally, Tour de Tanks is held across three to four weekends every March. During that event, guests also receive tastings at all 17 wineries, but also have the chance to enjoy exclusive samples straight from the barrel or tank. Wineries also provide tours or other educational experiences that further open the world of wine to visitors.
The next Tour de Tanks takes places Saturday sand Sundays March 4-26, 2017.
WL: What sort of weather can travelers expect so they know how to pack?
AS: Travelers should probably plan to dress in layers seeing as the weather here can be a bit unpredictable at times. Right now, temperatures are forecast to be in the high 40s to low 50s during both weekends of Wine Just Off The Vine, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see more chilly days. We’re looking at mostly favorable forecasts at the moment, but we could see some rain on November 12, the first day of the event. Packing an umbrella would be a safe bet.
WL: Can you offer any special advice for visitors looking to hit the trail?
AS: With so many wineries to see, we encourage visitors to make it a getaway and plan an overnight stay.
We also want to again make sure everyone has a safe time and urge Wine Just Off The Vine guests to drink responsibly and make plans for a designated driver or transportation.
Some wineries may also have specific policies on groups, so it’s best to call ahead if you’re planning to travel in a large party.
Tickets are available online through November 8, but can be purchased at participating wineries before or throughout the event.
Thanks for such detailed insight, Andrew! If any of our readers have further questions surrounding the event or trail, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.
If unspecified, images courtesy York County Convention & Visitors Bureau.