At the beginning of 2020, I published my travel bucket list for the year. On that list, I stated that I wanted to visit at least one winery or vineyard per month. I was off to a great start, having spent the first week of the year visiting approximately 20 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms in Sonoma Valley, California. However, I faltered in February having spent most (or really all) of the month focusing on Trinidad, preparing for Trinidad during the first half and then having the time of my life during the second.
Well, it’s now mid-March and it’s time to get back to it. Just because I missed a month doesn’t mean I can’t still work on my goal. Besides, with the current pandemic, I felt it would be nice to have one last spontaneous hurrah before everything shuts down or as someone else put it “last drinks before the quarantine”.
So last Friday, I randomly felt the urge to go on Groupon and lookup wine tasting deals in Maryland. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were quite a few, some closer than others. At that moment, I started to get a better sense of how large Maryland is. I also discovered that there is a Maryland Wine Pass but I digress.
I’m in a few meetup groups on Facebook that I’ve been using to find people to hang out with seeing as I’m still new to the area. I decided to see if anyone would be interested in joining for a wine tasting. If not, I would just rent a car and go for a ride since another of my 2020 goals is not to wait around for others to do things. Fortunately, a few people were interested and I was able to settle on Saturday with one of the interested persons.
The next morning, Saturday morning, we hit the road. DeJon Vineyards is about a half-hour drive from Baltimore City. It is a beautiful drive and if you’re a nature person you will definitely enjoy the view of the trees and even some farms. Maryland is currently in that transition period from winter to spring so a lot of trees are still bare but you can see that some are starting to blossom again and there are also the evergreens.
About DeJon Vineyards
DeJon Vineyards is a family-owned and operated vineyard located in Hydes, Maryland, i.e., northern Baltimore County. It is named after the owners Denise and John Wilkerson. (By the way, I hope my future spouse knows that this will be us. Did someone say #couplegoals?)
Before being a vineyard, the property was used as a farm but after selling all the cattle the couple decided to keep the name and turn to winemaking. DeJon Vineyards was established in 2008 but they did not start selling their first wines until June 2010.
As the name suggests, it is a vineyard so they do grow some of their grapes on the property. However, only one type of grape is grown, Chambourcin, chosen because it can withstand the Maryland climate. Other grapes are sourced from other Maryland vineyards, New York, California and South America (mainly Chile). Their wine production includes white and red varietals as well as a rosé. At the time of my visit, they had five offerings of whites and reds each.
The vineyard is located on a 20-acre property. There were three visible buildings, one being the family house, another the barn in which they host events and the wine tasting and the third I believe to be the production facilities. As you can imagine I spent most of my time inside the barn. The barn is filled with a lot of wine-related decorations ranging from signs with cute and/or funny wine puns to creations made using items from wine bottles such as the corks. The barn was filled with a lot of seating including tables made from repurposed old barrels. Outside the barn, there are a number of picnic tables. It was a beautiful day so I hung out outside for a little, enjoying the sun and taking pictures. If you’re looking for a nice spot to hang out with friends or bae for a few hours while sipping on some wine and enjoying a picnic, DeJon Vineyards would be suitable.
Wine Tasting and Food Experience
We actually arrived a little early to the DeJon Vineyards and they technically weren’t open yet but they welcomed us in anyway. There was also a band setting up as they were having live entertainment by This Your Monkey? for a part of the day.
As I mentioned earlier, I found a Groupon deal for wine tastings for two and we had no problem using it. After redeeming our Groupon, we were both handed a paper with the wine offerings and given a quick overview of the wines. On one side they had the five whites and on the other side one rosé and the five reds. The whites and reds were both listed in order of sweetness with drier wines at the top and sweeter wines at the bottom. I like this because it helps you decide which types of wines you might like to try based on if you have a sweet tooth or not.
The tasting includes five wines so on the sheet we each checked off which wines we wanted to taste. For the longest while, I claimed I was definitely a whites over reds kinda gyal but at the end of last year, I decided I wanted to explore the world of red wines more. This was further solidified during my trip to Sonoma where I did A LOT of red wine tastings but also learned more about what I do and don’t like in reds. Therefore, for this tasting, I wanted to keep that momentum and do as many reds as whites or maybe more.
I opted to try the Sweet Denise, named after the owner, the Alexis Rosé named after the owner’s niece, the Malbec, Festivus and DJ Jamz. I ended up getting a bonus tasting of the Just Peachy. Here are my thoughts:
- Sweet Denise* lived up to its name by being sweet. If you’re not careful, you could easily finish a bottle of this wine before realising it because it’s so easy on the tastebuds. I bought a bottle and started drinking while we ate the cheese platter and listened to music and I made it at least halfway through the bottle by the time we were ready to head home.
- Just Peachy was very sweet, almost juice from concentrate sweet. If you are a big peach juice lover, this one’s for you.
- Alexis Rosé* was nice and refreshing. This was actually my favourite of the wines I tried. It was not too dry, not too sweet and served around the perfect temperature. Really just so refreshing.
- Malbec was at the top of the reds list so I knew the tables were stacked against it but it’s all about exploring. It was too dry for me but I liked that it wasn’t as tannic (that mouth-drying feeling you might get after drinking red wines) as most red wines I’ve tried. However, it was still not my cup of
- Festivus* is their most popular and I can see why. It’s easy on the tastebuds and works for someone like me who doesn’t like dry red wines. At the same time, it’s not too sweet so it doesn’t taste like juice.
- DJ Jamz smelled and tasted like Welch’s grape juice. We even joked that it was Welch’s for adults. I think it was too sweet for me but might be good if you really like the sweet stuff
*I bought a bottle of these wines.
Overall, it was a nice tasting experience. For each wine, we were given some details about the grapes used, including the types and their geographical source, the taste of the wine and even thoughts that previous customers have shared about the wine. I do wish I had opted to try the Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio instead of the DJ Jamz. I likely would have enjoyed either more. All in all, I think DeJon Vineyards has a pretty decent wine offering.
Although you can bring your own food, they do also have food available for sale on the property (in the barn). They offered a cheese and crackers plate which comes with your choice of one type of cheese, all from a local farm. In addition, they also offer two types of soups daily, a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option. I didn’t try the soups but the person I went with said it was good. Afterward, we shared a cheese plate, opting to get the smoked cheddar which was really yummy. I partly felt like I was eating ham. I was able to bring home some of the cheese so I am looking forward to enjoying the remainder.
DeJon Vineyards will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on June 6, 2020, so that is also a great opportunity to visit. I might even return for the festivities!
- Wine tasting? Yes
- Wine cave? No
- Wine club? Yes
- Family-owned? Yes
- Organic/Sustainable? No
- Food for sale? Yes
- Allowed to bring food? Yes
- Picnic allowed? Yes
- Pet-friendly? No
- Regular Events? Yes
- Wine trails? Piedmont, Mason-Dixon
During my visit, I also learned that March is Maryland Wine Month. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, you probably can’t do much with that piece of information but it’s good to know for next year. However, fingers crossed that things will get better and I will be able to visit a winery in April.
Stay safe and don’t forget to practise proper hygiene. Happy wine drinking!