It looms over the vineyard like a castle.
A Tuscan castle, that is. The villa is 8,400-square feet of red tile and cream plaster that perfectly embodies the theme of Running Hare Vineyard.
“Our intent is to recreate memories of the gentle hills of France, the beauty of Tuscany and the feel of Napa” says each and every label of some 15 wines now produced on the Prince Frederick estate.
And boy do they.
Running Hare Vineyard is the jewel of Southern Maryland’s growing wine movement. More than 20,000 people annually visit the 291-acre estate that was once home to the legendary Judge Perry Bowen, whose country justice often saw the Calvert County Circuit Court official sentence offenders to work release programs. Some happened to work tobacco on Bowen’s farm.
Bowen sold the farm to the current owners in 2007, who created the winery that now produces more than 3,000 cases annually of award-winning red and white wines.
Do you like Chambourcin? Oh, it’s a smooth desert red wine aged for two years in oak barrels. The Chardonnay will excite you with fresh citrus and pear aromas. The Jack Rabbit Red has been known to be uncorked at many picnics thanks to its excellent pairing with chicken or pork. The Jack Rabbit white is great with chicken or seafood.
How about a Chilean Malbec, a peppery wine aged for two years in oak barrels. The Pinot Grigio’s citrus taste and the Riesling’s smell of flowers are perfect for outdoor outings. And the Sangiovese, well get ready for cranberry and black cherry with a hint of dry cocoa and vanilla that makes your glass empty in no time.
“It all starts with great grapes,” said Running Hare’s wine maker Jerson Garcia. “People want something new so we’ll work with the wine and starting blending to look for something that tastes good. People like sweet wine on a hot day.
“It’s always exciting to see what’s going on every year with the grapes. We try to have a little of everything.”
The vineyard’s VIP club continues to grow, more than doubling to 500 people nowadays. Tastings at the vineyard, which now also has a craft beer garden thanks to its joint venture with the Calvert Brewing Company, sometimes see 450 people visit on Saturdays.
And there’s often a wedding on weekends from April to November. Indeed, the winery already has 46 scheduled this year. Some 250 guests can fill the facility.
“The winery is a beautiful background,” said general manager Kim Owen.
The Tuscan villa is also used for various charitable functions. But, the biggest day might be the Fourth of July. With fireworks, music and food, it has become a tradition in Southern Maryland to attend.
“The venue sees all types of parties from 21st birthdays to 50th birthdays to bachelorette parties,” Owen said. “There are families and we’ll see people come out from Washington.”
After all, it’s a lot shorter of a trip than to Tuscany.