Maryland is an east-coast state of the US, located between Virginia to the south and Pennsylvania to the north. It covers 12,400 square miles (32,000 sq km) of land ranging from the foothills of the Appalachians to the coastal plains in the east of the state. Chesapeake Bay, a large Atlantic inlet, dominates the coastline in Maryland, splitting the state almost in two and moderating temperatures in the viticultural areas. Delaware and Virginia also feel influences from this bay, and the peninsula that creates the bay has been dubbed 'Delmarva' – a synthesis of the names Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean give Maryland a distinct maritime influence. Where the more continental climate of the state's western neighbors (such as West Virginia) brings hotter summers and cooler winters, Maryland's viticultural potential is dramatically improved by the tempered climate, with warmer winters and an extended growing season in the fall.
The western edge of the state stretches out disproportionately to the west for 70 miles (113km), creating the Maryland pan-handle. Here, the climate is classified as 'subtropical highland' on the Koppen scale, signifying cold, snow-laden winters and hot, humid summers – conditions which few vine varieties could endure.
The first attempts at viticulture in Maryland date back to the mid-17th Century, when European immigrants began the search for suitable wine-bearing vines. Although not entirely fruitless, the quest delivered wines with unfamiliar flavors – unappealing to those with European tastes. In 1662, the colony's governor planted 200 acres (81ha) of European vines, some of which became the earliest vinifera victims of phylloxera.
Maryland's wine production now averages 550,000 bottles a vintage, derived from more than 300 acres (121ha) of vines and a handful of small-scale wineries. Quality wine production here is centered on two key areas. The more prolific region is in the central-west of the state, on the Piedmont Plateau north and west of Baltimore. The second area is in eastern Maryland, in the cool, hillside climes around Chesapeake Bay and on the Delmarva peninsula.
Maryland is the tenth smallest state in America but despite this, it has three AVAs to its name. Of these, only Linganore is cited with any frequency, as most wineries within the other two AVAs – Catoctin and Cumberland Valley – use the state-level Maryland appellation. (© Proprietary Content, Wine-Searcher.)
The range of grapes grown in Maryland is remarkably varied – the result not only of the diverse climate, but also of 350 years of experimentation by the state's winemakers. The well-known vinifera varieties do well here, with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc being the prime examples. Barbera has also made a comfortable transition from Piedmont in north-western Italy to the Piedmont of Maryland; it thrives in the hotter areas here alongside its warm-climate partners Sangiovese and Viognier. The hybrids Seyval Blanc and Chambourcin are also grown.