Wine and Big Cheese offer perfect pairing at this year’s fair -- Gazette.Net


After a long day at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, adults can unwind and relax with a glass of wine at a wine garden, hosted by the Winery at Olney.

While not the first winery ever to be featured at the fair, the Winery at Olney is the exclusive wine pourer at this year’s event, which runs through Saturday.

The winery’s tent, near the Big Cheese and the Heritage Building, is open from noon to 8 p.m. each day.

Joe McCall, the winery’s president and owner, said it is offering three free samples of its popular Oasis line of fruit wines, including Peach Chardonnay, Cranberry Shiraz, Blackberry Merlot, Black Cherry Pinot Noir, Green Apple Riesling and Watermelon White Merlot.

All six are available for purchase, by the glass or by the bottle.

The Big Cheese, a popular fair attraction, is offering a special cheese plate to accompany the wines.

McCall said that when he was approached by fair officials about having a presence there, he thought it would be a great relationship.

“We are Montgomery County winemakers, and each year over 250,000 people attend the fair,” he said. “This is a great opportunity to get our name out and for people to learn about Montgomery County wine.”

The over-50 crowd shouldn’t feel too flattered at the winery’s tent: Martin Svrcek, executive director of the fair, said everyone would be carded there.

“Regardless if they are a senior citizen or someone who just turned 21,” he said. “That is our protocol.”

Wine served by the glass is intended for consumption under the winery’s tent, and purchased bottles are to be taken off the grounds.

Two of the wines, the chardonnay and the shiraz, feature a special commemorative fair label. A portion of the $20 purchase price will benefit the fair.

“That is a great way to support Maryland agriculture and Maryland businesses,” Svrcek said.

No other alcohol is available at the fair.

“We stuck with wine because it is agriculturally based,” Svrcek said. “The Olney winery has won many awards. It’s growing and doing exceptionally well.”

Unlike most wineries, the Winery at Olney has an urban setting. It opened in Olney’s Fair Hill shopping center in 2012.

Although the winery makes all of its own wine, it does not grow its own grapes.

“This allows us to make more than 30 varieties, obtaining the grapes from the finest growing areas in the world,” McCall said.

All the wine used to be made in Olney, but growing demand forced the winery to open a production facility in Beltsville.

McCall said the winery recently began wholesaling to retailers around the state, and its wines are now available in more than 100 stores in Montgomery County.

The Olney location remains a working winery, where customers can come in and make their own batch and design their own label.

Svrcek said he expects the concept of a wine garden to provide a new opportunity for fairgoers.

“People can sit down and relax with a glass of wine,” he said. “We are very excited to offer this at the fair this year.”