Get ready people, one of my favorite events takes place every year on the last Saturday and Sunday in April, meaning it’s happening soon and you still have time to attend. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
St. Michaels is Awesome
St. Michaels, Maryland, is one of those little hidden gem Eastern Shore towns you probably only hear about if you have family or friends from the Washington D.C./Maryland area. It’s still off-the-radar enough to be quaint, but on-the-radar enough to be filled with fun shops and delicious restaurants, making a lovely weekend destination. Oh, and did I mention it’s located right on the Chesapeake Bay, so add stunning water views and you’ve pretty much got a perfect place to visit even without a Spring wine festival.
The WineFest at St. Michaels
Sure there are wine festivals throughout Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, but I love the WineFest in St. Michaels in particular because the tasting venues are woven throughout the town and there are 14 of them!
So instead of cramming into one crowded tent, you can wander through the town, stop into shops, grab a bite to eat (check out my dining recs), then hit a tasting tent, and move onward. Tents are open both days from 12 to 5 p.m. and there are more than 300 wines to sample. With so much happening throughout the town, you can usually find a spot that isn’t super crowded, even with so much going on. There are also shuttle buses that take tasters from tent to tent if you don’t want to walk or are bringing guests who have limited walking abilities. Various ticket options are available for one or two days and start at $85 for Saturday and $55 for Sunday.
Friday Night at the WineFest at St. Michaels
Each year, the festival starts with a rare and reserve wine tasting on Friday night. This year the event features Marchesi Antinori wines. The Antinori family has been producing wine for over six centuries and is largely crediting with starting the Super Tuscan wine trend with their famous Tignanello wine. That and five other rarely available Antinori wines will be available for tasting and purchase at the event. They will not be available any other time during the WineFest. Tickets to the Friday Night Rare and Reserve Tasting cost $65.
VIP at the St. Michaels Wine Festival
Both Friday and Saturday at the WineFest at St. Michaels have a VIP option available. These tickets include exclusive wine tastings poured by the winemakers, a VIP wine tasting cruise, entry to all the regular tasting venues, and some other perks. The Sunday option—which I’m particularly interested in—includes a vertical tasting of Faustino Gran Reserva Rioja with vintages dating back to the 1980s. VIP tickets cost $150 for Saturday and $110 for Sunday.
Make Sure You Visit Italy
My favorite and one of the more slightly off the beaten path tasting venues is hosted by Simpatico, a gift shop dedicated to items imported from Italy.
As you might guess, the wine tasting features exclusively Italian wines and is my favorite because you can actually learn a lot about what you do and don’t like with many variations on classic varieties under one tent. In fact, if I happen to stop by here and it’s not too busy, sometimes I try to taste by varietal instead of by table as most tables offer a Sangiovese or Primitivo—why not take advantage of the opportunity if you have the chance?
Don’t miss the Zonin table where you can taste a few of my all-time favorites, including Zonin prosecco, Nero D’Avola and Valpolicella Ripasso. As the largest wine producer in Italy, Zonin owns vineyards throughout the country, and offers wines with a wide a range of styles and flavor profiles. Tom from Zonin is also great at demystifying Italian wines if you are actually interested in learning something while you kick back all that nectar of the gods. Fans of sweet drinks should also make a point to sample the Moscato as well as the classic bellinis that are served at the Zonin table. The fresh, fruity peach mix is sold as a gift set with the Zonin prosecco—the set is perfect at home for any brunch party.
Where to Stay for the WineFest at St. Michaels
Unless you are super coordinated and plan your stay way in advance, you probably aren’t staying in St. Michaels. Stay nearby in Easton, Maryland, which features both chain hotels and bed and breakfasts. It is about a 20-minute drive from St. Michaels, though, so plan a designated driver, or book a dinner reservation in St. Michaels and plan to hang around the town for a while after the festival before driving out of town.