My sister and I visited Big Cork Vineyards back in March during the Maryland Wine Passport Experience. We were fortunate on being able to visit their brand new tasting room which had just opened a few weeks before our visit. So, why am I just now writing this review?
I’ll be honest, I’ve wanted to write this review and had planned on doing it much sooner. Every time I sat down to write it, I just couldn’t decide what to say. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say and I liked Big Cork but everything I thought to write sounded contradictory. Now I’ve realized that the contradiction may be somewhat fitting because in a way I felt Big Cork was somewhat of a contradiction in itself.
I know it sounds odd, just stick with me here.
Big Cork was our third stop for the day, preceded by Red Heifer and Knob Hall. As we approached Big Cork there was a giant sign that made finding it super easy but you don’t see their new, beautiful building until you’ve turned into the drive. Upon turning in we were greeted with a cute and comedic sign to direct us the ‘right way’. (It’s a little hard to see in the photo below but the red sign says ‘Wrong Way’ the blue says ‘Right Way.’)
The tasting room sits up on top of the hill and after going the ‘right way’ we wound around up to to find there was tons of parking. Upon approaching the building we immediately loved the grand entrance way made with gorgeous wooden beams. It was a little hard to get it fully into the frame but you can get the idea from the photo. Once inside however, the rustic tone set by the beams and area surrounding the tasting room was instantly gone.
Dressed fairly casually in jeans, a t-shirt and cardigan I felt under dressed and instantly wondered if I should run to the bathroom to brush my wind blown hair. A very nice man working directed us to the bathroom, only partially because I wanted to brush my hair but mainly because wine tasting all day makes a girl have to go! On the way to the bathroom we noticed the waiters looked like people you would find at a nice five star restaurant with towels draped over a stiff arm. The furniture and decor was very modern and industrial feeling, not at all like the entryway.
I loved the light fixture in the bathroom! It was simple, beautiful and I want it in my bathroom at home! We also took an obnoxious bathroom selfie because what better way feel less awkward than by being a little goofy?
Now, you are probably wondering ‘why is their waiters? don’t you mean tasting room associates?’ I don’t. When you enter the tasting room to the right is a big, u-shaped, beautiful white tasting bar with tall pub height tables around the outer walls. To the left is a small seating area where you can come to enjoy their wine and order from their small bistro menu. It looked like the people seated at the pub tables were also being served by waiters.
We went to the tasting bar and were helped by a very friendly woman who shared all kinds of great information with us about not just the wine, but the vineyard as well. I was pleased with the selection we tried and loved that some were paired with small bites from their bistro menu. The stuffed tomatoes were to die for!
Now, some of you may remember when I wrote a previous review that I mentioned a story revolving around the phrase ‘Smells mayo, tastes like pickles’? Here it is.
Paired with one of the wines was a small dish of bright pink, almost coleslaw looking dip. Writing this review so long after I cannot remember what it was called unfortunately. The woman conducting our tasting told us that the dip seemed to be a love or hate option on their menu. If I recall correctly, the color came from radishes. Being slightly hesitant, I picked it up to smell it before tasting and told my sister ‘It smells like mayonnaise. Must be like a twist on coleslaw’ then I took a bite. Luckily for me, I love pickles and it tasted just like them! After another bite to finish my cracker, I couldn’t decide if I like the dip or not. It was quite the contradiction on smell, appearance and taste!
I can’t say any of the wines jumped out at me. I didn’t dislike them but I wasn’t over the moon about any of them either. However, the whole time we were tasting I was still trying to figure out the decor of the tasting room and figure out what feel it was they were going for which likely distracted me from really tasting the wine.
Around the tasting room I noticed that their shelving and some surfaces were made to look wood-like and hint at the rustic, rural vibe we had expected. As soon as you noticed a rustic touch however you were instantly thrown off by marble bottle holders, a bold white stone counter or a modern, industrial light. I was so busy trying to understand the intended feel for the room that I admit, the wine tasting was not my focus.
There were very clever stools at the tables around us and a large patio out the window. I’d like to visit again and sit on the patio this summer. Being outside and enjoying the weather would make for a much more comfortable experience in my book.
They have a grand opening event scheduled for May 30, 2015 which may be my perfect chance to go give Big Cork another try. Now that I know what to expect, I hope I can enjoy the environment and take the time to really taste the wines they offer.
One thing I would like all of my readers to take away is that while their seemed to be so much contradiction at Big Cork, it was a beautiful vineyard with great service. If you go in with the proper expectations and with an open mind I’m sure you will have a wonderful time and feel comfortable. The impression I got was that Big Cork is moving to be a higher-end, upscale winery rather than a rural, Maryland vineyard. They are definitely well on their way and I’m sure, with a little more time, they will reach that feel/reputation successfully.
Once I am able to visit again I’ll be sure give an update!
If anyone has the chance to visit and would like to share their thoughts as well, we’d love to hear from you! Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org