Wine in the Poplars
Since I opened Drovers Grill and Wine, Co. a little more than a year ago, every night is a “Wine-in-the-Woods” experience. Every night we have Maryland wines open for complimentary tastings and offer at least six Maryland wines by the glass. Once we had nearly every Maryland winery on our menu. My vision for Maryland wineries has changed as I’ve become more of an expert with the varietals and listened to my patrons.
My little restaurant is located in an historic area on an historic road. We are located exactly half way between Baltimore and Frederick on the Historic National Pike—the road that built a nation. George Washington himself expanded this road, once an Indian pathway. Later the Ellicott brothers improved the road as it connected to the busy Elkridge landing port. I live in Catonsville where we have a “Rolling Road,” which was used to roll those Hogs Heads of tobacco coming from the National Pike that were exported for good money to Europe. My restaurant is sited in Poplar Springs and in its hey day of the 1800’s, this little town with taverns and a refreshing spring was a natural stopping point for travelers east and west.
So, although my wife squashed the idea of servers in Colonial garb and me as the merry balladeer and host, I still wanted to root myself in the area. We’re surrounded by rich farmlands and seven Maryland wineries, so farm-to-table and Maryland wines are at the heart of what I do. Every month we sponsor a different Maryland winery and do a special wine dinner that I design to be both instructive and delightful to the pallet. There may be no ruffled shirts (yet), but I aim to take the mystery out of wines for our events.
I have worked with so many wine lists and fine dining operations and despite years of wine knowledge, I find that for most people, the world of wine is a mysterious and dizzying place of descriptions and prices. So at our events I like to allow a winery to feature their vintages, explain the grapes and techniques, and then offer flavors and smells that stimulate your senses the way the packaging claims. You know, the “essence of cherry blossom, honeysuckle, etc,” type of stuff. Also, we’ll compare a Maryland grape to one of another region to expand the pallet’s experience. So does that Maryland Merlot stand up to the California one? My goal is that at the end of the event, our guests leave with more knowledge, a happy tummy, and are better able to order wine they’ll prefer at prices they’re happy paying. We are a wine store, also, so once found, our guests can always get that special bottle from us for their event.
The Colonial style shirt and balladeer idea is not altogether dead, however. Just as my guests have requested wines from other regions, they have also been requesting some music from the singing chef, so we are going to plan monthly events where we can have both wine and song! And Spring is finally here, so when this article is printed, we should be starting to see wonderful local asparagus, garlic scapes, and baby veggies and we’ll be moving to a Spring Menu. Gone are those hearty root vegetables that sustained our winter menu and heavy sauces. In comes the fresh and piquant with spring colors and blossoms. So while Wine in the Woods happens once a year, Maryland wines are featured every night in the Poplar Springs!
Additional posts by Kevan Vanek
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