Mid-Shore Wine: Crow Farm is Building Memories and Serving Wine

There is something special about spending time on a farm, particularly for someone raised in a busy metropolitan city. My childhood memories include how quiet and dark it was, away from all the traffic, noises and lights that were part of my everyday life. There were animals who typically didn’t make appearances on urban sidewalks–cows, pigs, horses, and chickens; and even those that did, such as dogs and cats, roamed unleashed and unrestricted. There was a sense of leisure yet busyness, calm yet purposefulness.

Harvest time (photo credit Lotte Bowie Loblolly Productions)

I no longer live in a city, recently moving to a small town, and when given the opportunity to visit and write about Crow Winery, a vineyard and 365-acre working farm in Kennedyville, MD, I jumped at the chance.

Seeing the silos as we drove down the long road leading to the farm brought back all the beautiful memories. But there was also much more that this grown-up could appreciate as I stepped out of the car– the sweet smell of ripening grapes on the vines that reminded me of Autumn, harvests and well, yes, a fine crisp wine.

Owner Judy Crow, fresh from attending the birth of a calf, met us. After introductions to a new addition to the 100+ herd of Angus cattle, she took us to her home, an 1847 farmhouse which also accommodates a 3-bedroom B&B that they call a ‘farmstay’ experience. “We opened up the B&B,” she said, “so people could come and spend the night with us, learn about farming sustainability, have a farm fresh breakfast served family style, and if they want to be a part of delivering calves or going out to move cattle on the pastures, they can do that. The farm is an opportunity for the public to integrate themselves into the farm business.”

But Crow is so much more than a farm; it’s also an award-winning winery. And for a good reason. Take the 12 and a half acres of beautiful vines, imported years ago from the New York Finger Lakes region, now pregnant with grapes and ready for picking and managed by Judy’s son, Brandon Hoy, along with Vineyard and Winery assistant C.T. Wright. Or the state-of-the-art 5,000-case production winery where a bottling and labeling machine stood idle, but ready for the 200 cases a day it produces, where polished and gleaming fermentation tanks, sorting tables and wine-stained oak barrels are carefully monitored by winemaker Michael Zollo and consultant John Levenberg. Or the Tasting Room, formerly a milking barn, where you’ll probably run into Joe Rieley, the sales manager who will expertly guide your selection and your palate to sample a flight of wines, maybe even accompanied by the local cheeses.

The story of how it started goes back years ago when it wasn’t always about vines, wines, or tasting rooms. Then it was about Roy Crow who had a three-generation family dairy farm which grew wheat, corn, and soybeans and had 10 Angus cattle. Ten years ago, after meeting and marrying Judy, they began to consider other options. Why not wine, they asked? They knew that Maryland’s climate did not produce the types of wines that customers were used to (such as the sweeter Cabs and Merlots), so why not create something new and local for these consumers to enjoy using only grapes they would grow or those grown within a 50-mile radius of the farm?

“Early on we decided to stick with dry premium style wines,” Judy explains. “The B&B was driving business to the farm, and our first customers were from metropolitan areas, such as New York, Philly, and New Jersey–wine savvy people, who wanted nice quality local wines. So, we stayed with that model, even though it’s harder in Maryland, as Maryland wines tend to be sweeter and our wines are drier, our price points are higher, and we either grow our grapes or have local growing partners. It’s a different style of wine that means that people have to come here and experience them or go to finer establishments that stock our wines.”

She was right. Soon, reviewers began to talk about their wines and Crow began to win awards Two years after building their winery, the Crow Vidal Blanc received a gold medal at the International Wine Competition. That same year, Crow took the Best in Class and Double Gold for their Barbera Rosé in both the Maryland Comptroller’s Cup and Governor’s Cup. The accolades have never stopped. A corner of the Tasting Room is dedicated to showing off just some of the medals Crow wines have won. This past summer, Crow was voted this year’s “Best of the Bay 2018 for Maryland Wineries,” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine readers.

Even with all of this notoriety, Judy worked on a new business model. Crow Wineries was in a great location–an hour from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and minutes from historic Chestertown and Rock Hall on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The problem was they were near other wineries, in other counties, and each was competing for the visitors, tourists, and residents. There had to be something they could do, which with Judy’s encouragement, they did. Crow, Broken Spoke, and Chateau Bu-De Vineyard and Winery decided to form a collaborating relationship.

“Our idea was to bring people to the area and for our businesses to integrate and work together. So, we created a marketing strategy that encompassed our various counties. This made it good for all of us,” Judy said. “One winery may not bring people out; with two you have a better chance. When you add other wineries and interesting places for people to visit, it becomes a destination for people to come and experience these small waterfront towns.” Chesapeake Inn in Chesapeake City saw the value in the concept and bought a 15-passenger limo that would take their guest to the various wineries.

This past year, the Rivers to Canal Wine Trail, as they are now known, added centralized events that would benefit all. Crow Fest 2018, in early September, brought hundreds of visitors and featured live music, vendors, food, tours, grape stomping, games, and hayrides. The Rivers to Canal winemakers led tastings and discussions. It was a win-win for all. Events, such as this, and others planned throughout the remainder of the year, guarantee that there is something happening weekends that would interest everyone. The group is growing even larger with Casa Carmen Wines, Bad Alfred’s Distillery and Bayhead’s Brewing Company joining them.

This joint effort appears to have paid off. At a recent Wineries Association meeting, where other wineries were discussing disappointing profits, Crow’s sale numbers were up. Crow Wine Cellars recently opened at Queenstown Outlets selling wines, beef, and local products, all with the ultimate goal of luring people to come to the area. Their wine club has grown to over 250 couples–only 15% of which are local Kent county residence. This means that the area’s tourism industry is growing as well. 

To Judy, it all comes down to involving the community, whether that community is other wineries or people who want to experience and create memories about being on a farm. She remembers years ago when they first started and about 12 people expressed interest in learning about harvesting wines and working on a farm. This year that number is around 40-50 people. “It’s important to us that the public comes out and harvests grapes and works in the winery or at the farm so they can see first-hand what it means to have a vineyard and winery in their community. These are all things that people value. This is why we are here.”

For more information about Crow Winery, go to http://crowvineyardandwinery.com/.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

 

Alfredo Ferretti’s Real Deal Osteria

Perhaps one of the most indelible characters in that very specialized genre of food films must be Primo, played so brilliantly by actor Tony Shalhoub in Big Night a few years ago. Primo, the older of two brothers who start an Italian restaurant in New York City in the 1950s, is the film’s hero, dedicated with heart and soul to l’autentica cucina Italiana in a world then of canned spaghetti and meatballs. It is a profile of passion and a love of food that reaches an almost spiritual level as it is combined with feeding a family and a community.

It is essential to bring that reference up since it was almost instantaneous that Primo came to mind when this author met Alfredo Ferretti, owner and chef of Osteria Alfredo for the first time. Without a word, he rushed me into his kitchen to demonstrate how a simple pasta dish could be transformed into a nurturing, soul-delivering summer meal from the gods.

From the kitchen, we moved to the dinner table to talk about food, wine, and the essential ingredient, the right amount of time needed to really and truly enjoy Alfredo’s version of l’autentica cucina in Easton.

Alfredo’s Favorite Summer Pasta

The first video of our interview is approximately four minutes in length and Alfredo’s easy pasta dish takes about three minutes. For more information about Osteria Alfredo please go here

Mid-Shore Food: Hair of the Dog is Starting to Sniff

The Spy was on reconnaissance the other evening as we were checking out rumors of a new Vietnamese restaurant near Lowe’s. The good news is that our report can confirm that a Pho-themed venue is indeed happening. The bad news for the Spy that particular evening was that it wasn’t open yet.

But as we were swinging out of the shopping center, a quick look informed us that Hair of the Dog had made good of their promise to bust through a wall and open up the next door retail space to create a tasting room with an appropriate bar menu.

The Dog did well. It’s a remarkably open, pleasant space with very little doubt about its purpose. The tasting menu for both wine and craft beer seems endless, but just in case there is a credit card-run wine station where eight wines can be pumped out from a high tech encasement at various prices and sizes.

The food was good enough, which is a good thing. While the menu is creative to a point, none of the food offerings are designed to take center stage. It’s all about what one drinks.

 

 

Quick Takes: Yes, Virginia, there is a Indian Restaurant on the Mid-Shore

The Spy has investigated many restaurant rumors that float through the Mid-Shore throughout the year, but when we received news that there was a possibility of an Indian restaurant in Cambridge, there was an instinctive reaction to label it “fake news.” Nonetheless, duty called, and we took a field trip last weekend to confirm or deny this existence of a venue for curry and are pleased to report that those reports have turned out to be entirely accurate.

Here are some of our findings:

1). The Indian restaurant goes by the name of Bombay Tadka and is located at 1721 Race Street in Cambridge.

2). The food is excellent and remarkably fresh.

3) Some staples of Indian cuisine are missing from the menu. Regrettably, Naan bread is not to be found along the favorite Tandoori chicken. It was also a disappointment that Tadka has yet to get their wine and beer license, which we hope will be resolved soon.

4) The service was attentive even during a busy night.

5). Like any new restaurant, there were a few hiccups and odd twists to our meal.  It is also safe to say that while the curry dishes were outstanding, they seemed remarkably different in taste and with presentation from your traditional curry house.

6) We conclude that Bombay Tadka is the “real deal” and a welcome addition to the Mid-Shore.

For more information about Bombay Tadka please go here

 

Spy Wine: High and Dry at Piazza

On the south coast of Sicily in Italy sits Mount Etna and that was exactly the place “to be” when heavy rains hit Talbot County this past weekend. Thanks to a well-timed wine tasting event at Easton’s Piazza Italian Market, a full house of wine tasters put their cares for the weather aside and enjoyed four different wines from Tenuta DelleTerre Nere, where grapes are grown and wine is made on the slopes of Etna.

The remarkable wine is made from grapes grown on vines that are forty to one hundred years old in very rocky soil and volcanic material. As, Piazza’s Emily Chandler shared with the group that gathered, these difficult soils drive the roots of the vines deeper and make for a unique taste.

Emily had visited the winery in 2015 and stayed in touch with the winemaker ever since. This yielded a very special allocation for Piazza, much of which was enjoyed during the wine tasting.

Our tasting included….

Etna Rosso

Premier Cru Santo Spirito

Premier Cru Guardiola

Grand Cru Calderara Solttano

(click on the names above to learn more from Terre Nere)

The evening provided all who attended a chance to enjoy fine wines along with veal meatballs, bread with olive oil, porcini cheese and salami.

It was the perfect way to stay dry during a very rainy afternoon.

 

The Spy’s Monthly Sprout: Talli Oxnam

Over the last several months, the Spy has been doing short interviews with residents that have been using the Trappe-based Eat Sprout prepared meal company. In a joint effort with Eat Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll, we wanted to hear first hand why both individuals and families decided to order using this new food option.

We continue this month with Talli Oxnam who is a Vice President with Wye Financial & Trust, a division of United Shore Bank.

Being a working mom, Talli faced a familiar challenge for many professional women who have to provide a healthy meal for families after a long day at the office. So when Ryan gave an overview of his business plan with her at Rise Up about almost two years ago, she signed up on the spot.

The Spy spoke to Talli, and Rich last month to talk about Sprout and the impact it has had on their physical fitness and general quality of life.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Full disclosure, Sprout donates food to the Spy from time to time. For more information about Sprout please go here

Spy Report: June’s Tantalizing Talbot Wine Tastings

Seems recently, wine tasting around Easton has reached a new level of activity. The final week of June delivered no less than four extraordinary wine and food experiences offered by local establishments.

The week lead off with a unique wine tasting at Osteria Alfredo. Chef Alfredo, known to do things his way, offered a full house on Sunday evening a white wine only tasting with superb seafood pairings accompanying each course. The wines:

Vermentino Tenuta Guado al Tasso by Antinori

Soave / cav Giov Batt / Bertani

Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2016

Castelmonte – Ipsus Passito di Pantelleria

About mid-week, the Talbot Country Club provided an outstanding Italian wine tasting along with skillfully paired food courses by Chef David. Club members left looking forward to the next opportunity to enjoy the fine food and wine. The wines:

Soligo Prosecco Brut NV, Treviso, Vento

Icardi. Cortese L’Aurora, 2015 Piemonte

Contesa Pecorino Abruzzo. DOC 2016

Icardi Surisjvan Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2013, Castiglione Tinella, Piedmont

Cantine del Notaio L’Atto, Basilicata IGT 2014. Rionero in Vulture, Basilicata

Conte VIstarino Costiolo Sangue di Guida Dolce DOC 2015. Oltrepo Pavese, Lombardy

Bas Rouge in Easton describes itself as “a contemporary European restaurant offering an impeccable integration of fine dining, a world-class wine list, and elegant service.” All of this was certainly in evidence when they hosted California winemaker Helen Keplinger and her fine wine. The renowned Keplinger wines from California were paired with four courses by Chef Harley Peet. The wines:

Keplinger – Eldorado 2016

Keplinger – Basilisk 2015

Keplinger — Hangman’s 2016

Keplinger – Holdout 2009

Piazza with Dievole

Piazza Italian Market, which has been holding a series of unique and enjoyable wine tasting events in recent months, brought representatives from Italy’s Dievole winery to the market at the end of the week. Not only were Dievole’s wines sampled with enthusiasm, guests also were able to enjoy some of the extra virgin olive oil from Dievole. All of this with outstanding meats and cheeses from Piazza.

Dievole – Due Arbie Bianco IGT Toscana

Dievole – Due Arbie Chianti Superiore DOCG

Dievole – Chianti Classico DOCG

Podere Brizio – Rosso di Montalcino DOC

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

The Olive Oil:

Chianti Classico E.V. Olive Oil DOP

100% Italiano E.V. Olive Oil

We should count ourselves fortunate to have caught the attention of some outstanding winemakers who recognize we in Talbot County have a taste for fine wine and thank those establishments bringing these wines to us along with wonderful and creative food pairings.

Spy Food: Brightwell’s Brendan Keegan Moves to Mason’s

The changes at Mason’s will get even better now Brendan Keegan has recently joined as Executive Chef. Keegan was most recently Co-Owner and Executive Chef at Brasserie Brightwell in Easton and was also Co-Owner and Executive Chef at 208 Talbot. Prior to coming to the Eastern Shore, he worked in some of the best restaurants on the East Coast, including Prune Restaurant in New York, NY and Kinkead’s American Brasserie in Washington, DC. He was trained at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD.

Brendan Keegan

Owner Chance Negri comments, “Brendan’s innovative and progressive cooking style coupled with honoring Eastern Shore food traditions will align with the vision for Mason’s of serving Modern American Cuisine.”

Mason’s Redux is so expanding its food offerings this summer with foods you know and love, reimagined with bold and distinctive flavors.

Chance comments, “People made suggestions and we listened. The response has been overwhelmingly positive to the changes we have made.”

Its expanded lunch menu now includes favorites like the Rachel Sandwich made with all-natural roasted turkey, Boursin cheese and homemade collard slaw, which rounds out its zesty flavor. Crab bisque with a pinch of old bay and touch of sherry, a salmon burger, braised roast beef cheese melt, Niçoise and Chef Salads are just a few of the other highly popular new offerings on Mason’s lunch menu. Mason’s Lamb Burger with homemade Tzatziki Sauce remains one of the restaurants best sellers. Sandwiches are now served with the popular Terra Chips and the dessert menu has added homemade ice cream from Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg for the summer season. Bob Miller and his family say, “We make ice cream the old-fashioned way, on their farm, ‘from cow to cup’ – rich and creamy, no preservatives, just pure delicious flavor.”

For dinner, Mason’s is offering a steak feature with different cuts of beef changing weekly, such as hangar steak, rib eye, tenderloin, and New York strip. Look for savory sauces such as watercress mayonnaise, horseradish, port and mushroom, roasted red pepper, or salsa verde to accompany the steak.

Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and includes omelets/eggs served with sautéed fingerling potatoes, Strata, Mason’s legendary Cinnamon French Toast and Buttermilk Silver Dollar Pancakes with Grade A cardamom maple syrup. Savory additions to the brunch menu include Shaved Country Ham, salads and sandwiches, as well as the Lamb Burger. Libations include house made Blood Mary’s, White Peach Bellini’s, and Mimosas.

The bar menu has also been expanded to include mezze platters and small plates made for sharing, including lamb meatballs w/eggplant sauce, grilled shrimp w/chermoula sauce and a cheese course, as well as larger fare if patrons want a late lunch or light dinner. The wine list is diverse, and the bar is now offering Lyons Distillery Rum, a local favorite.

Pictured left to right are Chance Negri, Owner of Mason’s Redux 2017, with Zach Ray, Mason’s Manager, in front of the restaurant’s new signage.

Seasonal offerings, sourcing foods from local farmers and purveyors when possible, makes Mason’s dining experience even more memorable. Local tomatoes, corn, and berries will highlight the summer offerings.

Mason’s hosts private and corporate events and rehearsal dinners in its private rooms upstairs or in the garden.

Chance adds, “The old Mason’s was well-respected and well-known in the community with a loyal following. We have brought our own creative culinary twist to Mason’s and the response has been very positive.”

He adds, “I want to surprise people in a culinary way and provide a memorable dining experience, not just have the same old thing. I like to say, come to expect the unexpected and it’s good . . . very good!”

 

Mason’s is open for lunch from 11:30 to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The bar menu is offered between 3 and 6:30 p.m. daily. Dinner is offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

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Spy Food: St. Michaels Farmers Market Turns 20 Years Old

On Saturday, June 30th from 8:30 to 11:30am, the St. Michaels Farmers Market invites everyone to come on over to 204 S. Talbot St. in St. Michaels to join them in celebrating their 20th year of offering fresh, healthy, delicious items from regional farms and local producers to the Bay Hundred community.

The Market will be a busier-than-usual beehive of activity for its 20th birthday with free tastings from guest chefs, including longtime Talbot County resident, Michael Rork; “birthday cake” from Arlene’s Creations; ice cream donated by Justine’s; and a raffle of market baskets full of tasty items donated by vendors.

As always, customers, families and friends are invited to come together to not only shop but also celebrate summer and yummy foods. On the special Market birthday, customers will be treated to music by Cambridge-based band, Blackwater, who will offer their unique repertoire of rock, blues, reggae and bluegrass. With an ever expanding array of original songs, and their own versions of not-so-familiar covers, something new is always on the playlist!

The new leadership for the Market has grown it in several new directions this year. It’s ‘producer-only’ focus—meaning everything sold at the market is grown or produced by the person selling it—makes the St. Michaels Farmers Market a unique asset for the mid-Shore community. This year, they have expanded to include an adjacent lot, allowing for several new vendors, and have made the Market SNAP-friendly so that more people and community can purchase the fresh healthy meats, vegetables and other goods available.

To keep up with the St. Michaels Farmers Market and the celebration, check them out at www.facebook.com/loveyourfarmer.

Spy Report: Sipping Vermouth at Piazza

Easton’s Piazza Italian Market offered a wine tasting with a new twist, literally!

Emily Chandler, Piazza’s founder, teamed up with Washington, D.C. friend Kat Hamidi, Capitoline Vermouth co-creator, to produce a unique tasting experience. Four different offerings were poured and the participants were, as always, treated to a plate of wonderful pairings from Piazza.

Special agent 7 (00 Section) was there to file in a report.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about Piazza please go here.