Get a taste for what Delaware’s brewers, vintners and wine experts have to offer on the Wine and Ale Trail, which highlights a dozen locations across the state where dedicated craftsmen are producing some of the most innovative and delicious beverages around.
The trail most people know in Delaware runs from the state’s northern border to the beaches in Sussex County, but there’s another trail visitors and natives alike can follow when they’re looking for a way to unwind.
Established in May, the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail highlights a dozen locations across the state where dedicated craftsmen are producing some of the most innovative and delicious beverages around.
Starting in Wilmington and ending just over the Maryland line in West Fenwick, the trail is designed to provide a comprehensive look at what Delaware’s microbreweries and wineries have to offer.
But, before heading out on the trail, here are five things to keep in mind:
1. Plan ahead
Delaware Tourism Director Linda Parkowski said any potential Wine and Ale Trail tourist’s first stop should be the trail’s official website, www.visitdelaware.com/wineandale.
“They can read about the trail, they can click on all of the partners’ logos and read about what they brew or what they grow, their hours of operation, and get to their websites,” she said.
Visitors can also download a trail map after filling out a short email form.
Some breweries and wineries on the trail offer tours and tastings by appointment only, so it’s important to check their individual websites or call for scheduling details.
Pete Pizzadili of Pizzadili Vineyard and Winery in Felton said he recommends visitors call ahead, to make sure they get the best experience.
“Usually Saturdays and Sundays we have weddings here, and the rest of the week people can just stroll in,” he said. “Plan it and let us know you’re coming so we can be prepared.”
2. Be ready to learn
The vintners and brewmasters along the trail are as proud of the processes they use to craft their beverages as they are of their finished products, and they want to help visitors understand how they take simple ingredients and make delicious beverages.
At the Dover brewery that makes Fordham and Old Dominion beers, head brewer Walter Trifari strives to give his tourgoers a thorough education in all things beer.
“We like to make sure anybody that leaves here feels like they learned something and are a little more educated on brewing and beers in general,” he said. “You’ll get really up close, see inside tanks, see the controls, see where the brewers work. We’ll talk about the magical process of fermentation.”
3. Keep an open mind, and palate
In the worlds of craft brewing and small-batch winemaking, it’s all about experimentation.
New ideas, flavors and styles are how the small breweries and wineries on the trail compete, by offering customers something they can’t get anywhere else.
“We try to always have something unique on tap, not always the beer you can readily find at the store,” said Mark Carter of the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton. “We like folks to come out and give their palate a puzzle.”
Katie Connolly, manager of Fenwick Wine Cellars in West Fenwick, said she likes to help visitors find their new favorite wines.
“The best part about coming in here is you try before you buy. People can come in and we give them a list of all our wines,” she said. “We try to give them as much information as possible on a wine, and nice things to pair it up with.”
4. Bring your thirst and your appetite
Several stops on the trail offer great food alongside their unique beverages, like the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Wilmington, Stewarts Brewing Company in Bear and Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats in Rehoboth Beach.
These stops can fit nicely in the middle of a day of touring, or top off a journey.
“I like the added value of having a meal, some of the finest culinary options are offered near some of the breweries and wineries and also in the facilities themselves,” Parkowski said.
5. Take your time
With a dozen stops from Wilmington to Delmar, the Wine and Ale Trail can be a lot to tackle in one day, especially if you’re planning to spend quality time at each location.
“If they’re very ambitious it can be a one-day trip, if they’d like to spend more time and really enjoy the area, they can make it a three- or four-day trip,” Parkowski said. “I envision it like touring the Napa Valley.”
Tours and tastings themselves might not take that long, but it depends on the location.
“We can get through a tour in a solid 30 to 45 minutes for a pretty good tour including the tasting,” Trifari said. “My main goal is to try to give the best tour possible. We really want to build a relationship with the locals and the people who will consume our product.
For more information on the trail, visit www.visitdelaware.com/wineandale
Email Doug Denison at firstname.lastname@example.org