The swans glided across the sparkling blue water. The long branches of the white birches reached upward, standing out against the deep blue sky and their neighboring bare trees. The day was cold but clear as my companion and I explored Patapsco Valley State Park. I had returned to Maryland the night before for a quick getaway.
We decided we deserved a double dinner and Ubered to Gnocco, a nearly two-year-old Mediterranean place recently listed as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in Baltimore. Seated at the tan granite bar, my friend loved the Grilled Spanish Octopus, beautifully presented atop garlic puree and aside small roasted potatoes. I chose the Chickpea and Carrot Fritters, warm and soft and homey, slightly tangy from the harissa aioli.
From there we headed a few blocks in the chilling air to Annabel Lee Tavern. Several East Coast cities claim connections to Edgar Allen Poe, including his home and mine, but none glories in the dark genius like Baltimore, where he died and lies buried. Sitting in a cozy corner at the worn wooden bar, we sipped Don Miguel Gascon Malbec as we looked over the menu. We decided on the generous and delicious tuna steak, and more than loved the accompanying creamy risotto. Quotes from Poe covered the walls in gothic cursive, and stuffed ravens hovered above Tiffany lamps.
By morning, we were clearly back in the modern age as we walked around Riverside Park.
Then we were off to explore a few wineries. We started at Harford Vineyard & Winery. The friendly owner served us samples of 12 of the 13 available wines in the large tasting room, set up with round tables for the venue’s frequent events. My favorite was the light white semi-dry Traminette.
From there, we headed to DeJon Vineyard. The knowledgeable server let us sample all nine available wines in the spacious tasting room. One thing I appreciated was that the tasting notes included pairing suggestions, a seemingly obvious but surprisingly rare feature at most of the wineries we visit. We saw that the Malbec paired well with tuna steak, smiling that we’d backed into a good match the night before. The server wrapped up our glasses, and we bought a bottle of our favorite, the Chambourcin-based Festivus, a sweet dessert wine with a dry finish, which the tasting notes say is good for mulling in winter.
Our last stop was Boordy Vineyards, the oldest winery in Maryland. Several of their wines have won competitions, from Maryland to San Francisco, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Standing at the modern rectangular bar, we sampled 19 wines, and didn’t taste a subpar sip. Mature and nuanced, they’re wines that give hope, hope that in a culture that so often seems to prize crassness and vulgarity, elegance and depth can still shine. As the polished young server wrapped our glasses, we bought a bottle of red and a bottle of white.
Hours later, we savored the last hours of our brief break, sitting on the couch and sipping our soft and supple Boordy Petit Cabernet while listening to Mozart.