We were on a roll, Sunday, September 3rd, visiting two wineries in one afternoon. It’s nice when we find wineries close together. We visited Thanksgiving Farm Vineyards & Winery (click here to see their complete listing in our Food & Drink Business Directory) in Harwood, MD, right after we had a tasting at The Vineyards at Dodon, in Davidsonville, MD. The two wineries are less than 2.5 miles apart in a straight line. But they’re 10 – 15 minutes apart by road.
The owners, Doug and Maureen Heimbuch, acquired the 57.68-acre property in 1996. The farmhouse on the property is called Richland (named after the original 332-acre plantation), and was built in 1892. The Heimbuch’s restored the house in 2004. The Virginia architectural firm of Noland and de Saussure designed the structure. The house’s style is a combination of Colonial Revival and Queen Anne architecture. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
When we arrived, the parking lot was pretty full. Customers were everywhere — sitting outside at tables under umbrellas, in the tasting room at the bar and a table, and at a long table in the fermentation room. The staff was scurrying to and fro, to help patrons in the various locations.
A couple of folks were leaving as we entered the tasting room, so we grabbed their stools at the bar. Co-owner Doug Heimbuch greeted us from behind the bar (his wife Maureen had the day off). He presented us with a couple of brochures:
- A tasting menu and price list. They were offering 5 pours of dry wines for $10, or $10 for a single glass of wine.
- The second brochure provided information about the farm, vineyards, house, and wines.
We ordered a single tasting to share. We’ve found that amount usually works well for us, as it’s typically enough to taste what’s going on in the glass.
Thanksgiving Farm Vineyards’ wines
The wines we tasted:
- Franc Blanc, made from 100% Cabernet Franc white juice
- 2012 Farmhouse Red, contains 77% Cabernet Franc and 23% Merlot
- 2011 Meritage, has 51% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petit Verdot, and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2010 Reserve Meritage, with 58% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Reserve 2012 Meritage, combines 66% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Petit Verdot
- Dessert wine, made of 100% Petit Verdot (19% alcohol, and 7% sugar) [a freebie they added to our five-wine flight]
The Reserve 2012 Meritage was not on the tasting menu. In its place was a Merlot Dry Rosé. Since the menu was labelled “Summer 2017,” I imagine it was printed a few months ago. As inventories change, then the wines available for tasting may change, too.
After the day we were there, my understanding was that they were pretty much out of the Franc Blanc. Looking at the list of available on wines on their website now a few weeks later, the Franc Blanc and the 2010 Reserve Meritage are gone, and the Rosé is there.
Interestingly, the Farmhouse Red and the Meritages all have a footnote in the tasting menu: “This wine may contain tartrate crystals formed from compounds naturally occurring in grapes.” When Heimbuch opened a 2011 Meritage for us to try, he showed us the tartrate crystals on the cork. They are potassium-bitartrate crystals (also known as “wine diamonds”), or simply “tartrates” — a natural precipitate that may occur during winemaking. They are harmless and flavorless.
You may find crystals on the bottom of the cork or in the bottle itself. Loose crystals in the bottle should fall to the bottom, where they may accumulate with other sediment. In addition to tartrates, sediment may include yeast cells, and bits of seeds, stems, and skins. If you don’t like the grit in your glass, you should carefully decant your wine, or filter it.
Cream of tartar, which you may have seen called for in baking and cooking, is the commercial version of potassium bitartrate. You’ll probably find it for sale in the spice section of your local grocery store. It helps make egg whites fluff-up when whipped, and cookies lighter.
For more information about these subjects, here are links to a couple of related articles:
- The Franc Blanc was a standout, with beautiful golden color from a black grape, with flavor to match.
- The 2010 Reserve Meritage was a winner too — a dry red with a complex and deep flavor, no doubt helped along by its year in oak barrels.
- The Farmhouse Red is a good table wine for everyday use. We had a bottle a couple of nights ago with New York strip steak, salad and potatoes. Running my thumb along the bottom of the cork, I notice there were small tartrate crystals there. It went quite well with our meal.
- The Dessert wine was a very pleasant surprise, with a deep ruby color and not cloyingly sweet.
We bought six bottles: a Franc Blanc (the next to last one available), two of the 2012 Farmhouse Red, two of the 2010 Meritage, and one of the 2012 Meritage. ♦