TIPSY TOURIST: Mark Cascia Vineyards

Mark Cascia Vineyards and Winery grows their own grapes on their property on Kent Island for almost all of their wines. California muscat grapes are imported for their only sweet wine.

Mark Cascia Vineyards and Winery grows their own grapes on their property on Kent Island for almost all of their wines. California muscat grapes are imported for their only sweet wine.

Mark Cascia Vineyards and Winery offers a wide variety of wines to taste.

Mark Cascia Vineyards and Winery offers a wide variety of wines to taste.

Just across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on a flat piece of land jutting out into a picturesque part of Cox Creek, an aerospace engineer and a judge are growing grapes and making some pretty sophisticated wines, deep velvety reds and crisp, bright whites — with a sweet muscat thrown in for the sweet wine drinkers.

Mark Cascia Vineyards and Winery fulfills the winemaker’s lifelong dream of operating his own winery. And it does so deliciously.

Drive to the end of Thompson Creek Road, all the way and you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see row after row of grapes. When we arrived, harvest had begun. But lots of vines still were heavy with clusters of red, black and green grapes, carefully covered with netting so we would get the grapes instead of the birds.

The tasting room is bright and airy with games to play or a water view to admire for those who stop by for a glass or a full tasting.

The tasting room is bright and airy with games to play or a water view to admire for those who stop by for a glass or a full tasting.

The tasting room is set in a bright airy room inside a gray-sided building.Outside there’s a deck overlooking the water, a perfect place to sip a Chardonnay or one of Cascia’s signature blends.

That's Cox Creek, which empties into Eastern Bay on its way to the Chesapeake. The picturesque spot has become a favorite of brides who celebrate their weddings here.

That’s Cox Creek, which empties into Eastern Bay on its way to the Chesapeake. The picturesque spot has become a favorite of brides who celebrate their weddings here.

I don’t think there’s a finer way to spend a Sunday afternoon than sipping wine at a winery that’s set  on a beautiful piece of this good earth. And that’s exactly what I got here on the Eastern Shore.

The winery produces both varietals and interesting blends.

The winery produces both varietals and interesting blends.

And the wine? I was partial to a Vino Cascia Blanc, a bright white blend that includes a bit of petit manseng grapes. A little floral, a little citrus, I took it home with me.

The winery also produces   a golden viognier, a crisp, light chardonnay and that muscat. It’s the only one made from grapes not grown on the farm. Visitors partial to the sweet prompted the winemaker to buy California muscat. And the resulting wine, with a hint of orange on the finish, has kept him going back for more. It’s a big seller.

Nearly harvest time in the vineyard.

Nearly harvest time in the vineyard.

There are reds, too. A ruby red zinfandel made with a loose cluster grape — good in the Eastern Shore humidity — is fruit forward while the more traditional zinfandel is smoky with a hint of leather and tannin. Like chocolate in your wine? I do and I definitely found it in a blend and a varietal. Cascia’s signature bordeaux blend Queen Anne’s Reserve, which combines cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cab franc, petit verdot and malbec, has a hint of chocolate on the finish. The merlot is fruitier, lots of cherry, and then there’s that chocolate finish.

A lifelong dream has come true for the Cascia family — aren’t we lucky?

ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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