Wine and Food with a View At Big Cork Vineyards
Situated just a short drive west of Frederick County, Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville is the perfect distance for a leisurely afternoon—even the drive itself on Md. 67 among South Mountain and rolling farmland is a beautiful way to spend the day.
Big Cork previously made wines in a production facility on East Street in Frederick, but didn’t have a tasting room or a storefront to sell wine. The new venue near Boonsboro offers all of that, as well as a restaurant. Additionally, Big Cork Vineyards has space to host private events, live music and other programming. “The Frederick facility was a means to an end—we had to have somewhere to produce wine until this building was ready,” owner Randy Thompson says. “You can’t open a building like this without wine to sell.”
Thompson is also a big fan of the drive, commenting on the beauty of not only the vineyard, but the surrounding area. “What’s nice about this spot is that it’s all state highways—it’s an easy drive from Frederick,” he says.
Big Cork held a grand opening May 30, and general manager Heather Tapper says they’ve had consistent customers since then. She says a lot of early visitors were from the surrounding area, including Virginia and West Virginia, but since the grand opening they’ve been getting regular visitors from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as Frederick.
After planting was completed this year, the winery has 29 acres of grapes, producing 11 varietals.
The Rohrersville space has been created with an open feel, with high ceilings, white walls and large windows. The cask storage room, which doubles as an event space, has white chandeliers crafted from branches.
Outside, patio seating abounds, with areas both in and out of the shade for enjoying the wine al fresco. There’s also an additional cigar patio with a television for watching sporting events, situated on the opposite side of the building to keep the smokers private.
Sitting on the patio is the ideal way to enjoy food and drink at Big Cork. With a slight elevation (Tapper pegs it at 750 feet above sea level), the patio is breezy and temperate, even when the sun is roasting Frederick. “We’ve a little of our own micro-climate going on,” she says. “In Boonsboro, it will be raining, but it’s not raining here. There’s always a breeze. We’re a couple degrees less in temperature than … Frederick.”
The facility also has a selection of kites and Frisbees for children to use on the grass adjacent to the patio—about half a dozen children were playing with the kites on a recent Friday evening, giggling and chasing each other. Big Cork also has heaters and weather draping to make the patio comfortable no matter the season. “We really try to elevate the service,” Tapper says. “I think people really appreciate it.”
Vines were planted about six years ago at the vineyard, and all bottling operations are moving from Downtown Frederick to the recently finished bottling operations facility. After planting was completed this year, the winery has 29 acres of grapes, producing 11 varietals, ranging from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to more unique offerings, like Russian Kiss, which blends Russian grape varieties with Muscat grapes.
Thompson says an additional seven varieties will be released later this year, bringing the total to 18. “All this fruit was harvested in 2013 to make these seven red wines, and we’ve been waiting on them to be ready,” he says.
Tapper is also excited to see the release of the wines, which were all grown on-site, and are also aging for longer than is typical in the area. Previous bottlings have used grapes purchased from other wineries, but Big Cork is now able to produce all the fruit they need. “We’ve kept those reds in barrels for 24 months, which is unusual, particularly on the East Coast—12 is long on the East Coast,” she says. “But we really wanted the structure and the tannins and everything to come together and be really rich and full and lush.”
Food is served Friday through Sunday, and Tapper, who’s also head chef, stresses that everything is all original recipes and made from scratch in-house. “The best thing is to come drink some great wine and eat some gourmet local rustic fare that’s like no one else is serving, drink some wine and chill out,” she says.
Tapper said she’s found a lot of inspiration from local farms, putting together a brunch menu using local ramps, also known as spring onions, and morel mushrooms as they came in earlier this year. “Some of the dishes are things I’ve made forever, but it’s kind of like wine—you choose flavor profiles that are going to match together and you create something,” she says.
Menu items range from simple selections of local cheeses ($20) or charcuterie ($20), to a variety of sandwiches and tacos, like a New Orleans-inspired Muffaletta ($14) featuring turkey, ham, Gouda, drunken goat cheese and olive salad on a sourdough roll.
Desserts are also made in-house, with a Key lime pie ($8) and chocolate mousse ($8) on the list, but the menu changes with the seasonal offerings, according to Tapper.
Tapper says she created her menu to pair harmoniously with the wines being offered; she says the wines and food help complement each other and bring out all of the complex flavors of each. “Wine heightens food like food heightens wine,” Tapper says. “The whole purpose of pairing wine and food is to elevate the next bite to the next level or the next sip to the next level, to cleanse the palate of each bite and each sip.”