Of corks and chords: Rockville's wine and music festival
Photos courtesy of the artists
It's brand-new and beautiful, a great place to gather – but no one would ever mistake Rockville Town Square for the Napa Valley. Still, the area just east of Rockville Pike will hold its annual festival of wine and music, an event known as Rockville Uncorked.
"It's a great way to highlight Maryland wine," says Colleen McQuitty, the City of Rockville's special services manager. "This is the second year for the wine festival, and it's a nice event for the Town Square."
The event pulls several elements together – all of them fun. First, the wine: Eight wineries from around the state will participate, offering half-ounce tastings of wine in the special commemorative glass the first 2,000 patrons get with their $10 admission ticket.
"There are wine seminars," adds McQuitty. "Wine 101, wine basics – the winemakers from Sugarloaf Mountain Winery are coming."
Kathy O'Donoghue, whose family runs the winery, is looking forward to the event.
"It really is a nice festival, really well done," she says. "Our winemaker Carl Dimanno – he has a degree in oenology from the University of California Davis – will give a 20-minute presentation on winemaking."
Usually, O'Donoghue says, Sugarloaf Mountain Winery invites the public to its tasting room in Dickerson, deep in the heart of the Agricultural Reserve.
"We're the only winery and vineyard in Montgomery County," she notes, "and we've won a number of awards: nine at the [Maryland Wineries] Governor's Cup, including Best of' white wine."
Dimanno's presentation is free – as is the cooking demonstration and the live musical entertainment.
"We have four stages, beginning at noon," McQuitty says. "We like to mix it up, and we wanted to make sure there was something for everyone."
There's the Kelly Bell Band, a Baltimore-based blues and funk outfit that McQuitty admits is a favorite.
"They're high energy," she says. "They play all over the area."
And yet the festival lineup really does have something for everyone. There's singer-songwriter Chris Patterson, blues rocker Melanie Mason, soul-funk rockers Old Man Brown and veteran performer Bill Kirchen, who plays "country with a draw on blues, bluegrass and western honky-tonk" and was named to the Washington Area Music Association (Wammie) Hall of Fame alongside John Phillip Sousa and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl.
Rockville resident Cletus Kennelly will be performing, too. The singer-songwriter lives in Aspen Hill now, but finds that visiting Rockville Town Square brings back memories.
"I grew up in this area," he says, "And there was always music outdoors. I love to play outdoors. I just love being outside, listening to music."
Kennelly says the newly completed Town Square reminds him of Phoenix, where he launched his career as a singer-songwriter.
"They created a downtown – restaurants, a baseball field – and Rockville Town Square is similar. They've done a really good job of bringing music in there. It's a great square."
And because it takes place in a square, the Rockville Uncorked festival can multiply the amount of music on offer by four.
"Four stages, that's pretty unique," Kennelly says. "I've been given the Beall Street stage, so you have me doing acoustic music and Ruthie and the Wranglers with their roots rock.
"And Bill Kirchen – he's really a big deal!"
For Kennelly, the day isn't just about performing solo and trotting out his new songs. He's planning to take in the music on the other stages.
"It's cool for me," he says, "because I'll get to listen to other people play: Bill Kirchner and Daryl Davis. I love that."
He loves some other things about Rockville Town Square: VisArts — "It's fantastic!" — Rockville's metropolitan center for the arts. He likes the restaurants that bring in musicians, and the free concerts during the summer and the festivals – like this one – that pull together different elements of entertainment.
Ruthie Logsdon, the lead singer of Ruthie and the Wranglers who grew up in Rockville, is happy with the changes she sees downtown.
"From a musician's standpoint, there are so many restaurants, so many places to play," she says. "And [on Saturday], the festival offers a lot of things to do – and a lot of great bands.
"I want to get there early to see Bill Kirchen!"
Rockville may not be Napa, but the Rockville Uncorked festival brings out the city's lighter side.
"It's a great venue," says McQuitty. "Not only for the events – the music, the food, the wine – but for friends and family who want to meet and have some fun.
"There's always something going on."
Adds Logsdon: "Where can you hear great roots rock music, drink wine and get a cooking lesson?
"They don't call it Rock'ville for nothing!"
The City of Rockville will host "Un-corked," its annual wine and music festival, on Saturday, noon to 6 p.m., in Rockville Town Center. Admission is free for concerts, wine seminars and cooking demonstrations. The $10 cost to participate in the wine tasting includes a commemorative wine glass for the first 2,000 paid attendees (must be 21 years or older to consume alcohol). Call 240-314-8620 or visit www.rockvillemd