Dodon 'til Dusk also offered a bit of education — about the land, the vineyard and winemaking.
The summer event was held last week at The Vineyards at Dodon, a five-year-old winery in Davidsonville that is owned by Polly Pittman and Tom Croghan. Pittman grew up at historic Dodon Farm, founded in 1725, and is the eighth generation of her family on the land.
The operation, with some 15 acres planted, grows 13 varieties of grapes from vines chosen from France, Italy and California. At 550 acres, it's considered the largest working farm in Anne Arundel County.
"In all my years in the area, I never knew there was this huge farm there," said Pat McGrath, of Churchton. "It is nice to see the growth in Maryland wines."
Many of the close to 100 people who came took a tour with Croghan in the field and the winery building. They learned how much care is taken to nurture the soils, the varieties of grapes and the search to find just the right stock.
"Our job is to build and maintain healthy, living soils," Croghan said. "We try to be as sensitive to the ecology as possible."
The farm is completely solar, and most of the work is done by hand. That includes a recent culling of nearly half the grapes growing on the vine to have the right balance on the vines and focus the energy and nutrients to get the best yield.
The tour swung to the new winery building where Croghan offered a simple lesson in winemaking.
"We only put in the tank, what we want in the tank," he said, meaning the grapes are sorted three or four times before being crushed and put into the fermenting process.
Then the small crowd moved inside to see 15 foot tall stainless steel tanks and other vessels used during the fermentation. From there the batches of grapes are taste-tested to determine how much of which will go into Dodon's wine blends. The blended wines are stored in casks made of wood from a forest in France.
After two years, the red wines are ready to bottle. Dodon's chardonnays are bottled in their first year.
A vineyard takes time to develop — young vines can take years to build enough flavor into the grapes.
"Our first year's harvest, in 2010, we sold the bulk of it," said Polly Pittman. "Now our vines are maturing."
Pittman is hopeful for the cabernet sauvignon grapes that are typically hard to grow in the area. "But the soils and sloping in that area seems to be ideal for them. They seem to ripen early."
The event was sponsored by the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., which is already planning next year's summer series.
For details about AAEDC's agriculture program, visit www.aaedc.org.
For details about The Vineyards at Dodon, visitwww.dodonvineyards.com