As temperatures rise, there seem to be plenty of outdoor sipping celebrations planned across the region. But the annual Baltimore Wine Festival at Canton Waterfront Park, returning June 17, continues to stand out among the pack. “It’s such a picturesque venue,” says organizer Beth Laverick, who owns B. Scene Events and Promotions. “The waterfront is Baltimore’s trademark.”
Aside from the beautiful backdrop, Laverick mentions that the soiree’s family-friendly atmosphere, tiered ticket options, handmade goods for sale by area artisans, wine seminars, chef demonstrations, live music lineup, and array of local food vendors make it one of a kind. “I never want it to be focused solely on drinking wine,” she says. “There are a lot of other elements that make it really exceptional.”
The inaugural festival in 2015 drew a crowd of 4,000, and Laverick is expecting to accommodate more than 8,300 this year. She says that, as the festival evolves, she is most proud that it has become a summer tradition for locals and visitors alike. “It’s really a reflection of Baltimore’s local vibe and what we have access to,” says Laverick, who also organizes the annual end-of-summer Baltimore Seafood Festival, scheduled for September 16 this year. “You don’t find special events like this in every city.”
Here are a few new things to look for while strolling around this year’s wine wonderland:
A boost in featured wineries
Oenophiles will be happy to hear that the wine lineup has jumped from 140 to 160 this year, with samples ranging from worldly whites and reds to sangria and rosé. “The first year we didn’t order a lot of Moscato or sweeter whites because you don’t see them very often on menus around here,” Laverick says. “But we ran out immediately. So we’ve added a lot more of the refreshing, lighter, sweeter wines.” Meander around the grounds to mingle with local purveyors, as well as visiting vintners including California’s Delicato Family Vineyards.
An expanded music lineup
Nothing says summer like dancing in the grass with a glass of wine in hand, and this year the event has doubled the number of bands performing throughout the day. The diverse roster of local acts includes Americana and roots group The Crawdaddies, reggae rockers The Scotch Bonnets, and funk-fueled 8 Ohms Band. Laverick chose horn-heavy blues cover band Tumblehome to kick off the festival with the opening set: “They’re a bunch of local guys, who practice out of Living Classrooms and really love what they do. I love their local flavor.”
Additional eats from area restaurants
For Laverick, yet another way of stressing the local feel is through the festival’s food offerings. “I turn away the fried Oreo vendors because we’re not a fair,” she says. “We want to highlight the area’s best restaurants and food trucks.”
Vendors from the city and beyond will gather at the park to offer everything from steamed buns and barbecue to oysters and ice cream sandwiches. This time around, look out for new offerings including chicken salad sandwiches from Wicked Sisters, cheese plates and crab cakes from Firehouse Canton, colorful salads from Pasta La Vista, and shrimp salad sliders from The Local Oyster. Adds Laverick: “There are a lot of grab-and-go options for people who like to bring their blankets, find shade near the water, and camp out for the day.”
Early entry and mimosas for VIP ticketholders
Laverick says that the VIP ticket option—15 wine tastings and all-inclusive access to a private bar—has been a draw for many attendees since the inaugural festival. “The VIP is probably my favorite area of the event,” she adds. “You would think it would be so chaotic, but it’s actual really peaceful.” This year, VIP ticketholders will be admitted one hour early in order to avoid long lines at the entrance when the gates open at noon. Aside from early access to food vendors, top-tier ticketholders will also be able to enjoy complimentary mimosas, bagels, and pastries before the festival officially kicks off. Enter to win four VIP tickets to the festival here.
Three new local breweries
We know, we know. A wine festival is all about the grapes, but it wouldn’t be a summer blowout without a few local beer options. If you’re not vehement on vino, crack open cans from regional breweries including Heavy Seas, Calvert Brewing, and Honor Brewing—the Chantilly, Virginia-based company that has become known for its philosophy of dedicating tap handles to honor veterans and fallen soldiers.