Columbia's autumn festival is as fine as its wine. Every year Maryland's wineries are welcomed to the Symphony Woods to fill cups and uncork bottles all day long.

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure to have a surprise. Surprise? Scratch that and make it a big glass of vino will you buddy? Time and wine wait for no man.

Gates open at the barely acceptable drinking hour of 11 a.m. and 30 wineries start uncorking vintages. Some attendees try claiming that arriving at a wine festival this early means they can find a good spot to spread picnic blankets and lawn chairs. Who’re they kidding? Next they’ll be telling us that they come as much for the wine as they do for the taste classes, artisans, musicians and food vendors. Sure they're a nice perk but the fun's all in the tasting no?

Wine in the Woods and indeed the Maryland wine scene as a whole, has come a long way since its conception a quarter of a century ago. Maryland now has 70 wineries compared to around 20 a few decades ago and Wine in the Woods hosts roughly half of these. 25,000 wine drinkers arrive from all over the state to sip in spring evenings in the Symphony Woods. Then there's the food, a range of dishes from kettle corn to oxtail stew. Try some of the chocolate truffles afterwards.

The Saturday runs until 6 p.m. and the Sunday rounds off an hour earlier. Saturday attenders will be able to watch the live music on the Merriweather Post Pavilion concert stages from lawn seats, past performers include The Band Perry from Tennessee. Rock and rollers will know only too well that Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and The Who have all trod the boards of this legendary venue.

The Taster Guilds International and the Maryland Wineries Association host seminars and lectures, suited to both connoisseurs and beginners. Learn about the history of Maryland red, white and dessert wines. Early bird tickets start at 25 dollars and on the door tickets are 35 dollars, the price includes unlimited fills from all wineries.

The only surprise in the woods today is the prompt late morning pop of bottles being uncorked. We'll see you at the bar.

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