With its new coffee bar and wine shop, Galesville, Md., is the kind of place that just sips up on you.
by Diana Prentice
illustration by Richard C. Goertemiller
Sure you can go home again. My husband Randy and I do it every spring and fall when we stop by Galesville, Md., on our way to or from points south aboard our real home, Strider. We consider Galesville a kind of cruising home, because it was here, 25 years ago, that we decided to make living aboard our new way of life. And each year, as soon as we arrive, we revel in the familiar of this quiet 17th-century village, and quickly take note of the changes.
Last spring, for example, we were sad to find that the reliable old West River Market had closed its doors, after a century and a half of serving the local population and transients. On the other hand, we were intrigued to find that another old standby of village life, the beverage store, had definitely taken a turn for the upscale. Instead of windows plastered with advertising posters and aisles stacked with beer and wine cases, the store--now called Homeport Wine and Spirits--gleamed in the bright sunshine that streamed through the poster-free windows and illuminated the coffee bar's comfortable chairs, carefully categorized wine racks and cheerful display cases of fresh pastry and interesting cheeses. This was definitely a change for the better, we thought. Then we noticed that new owners Sally Rich (a former corporate attorney) and Adam Hewison (a futures trader), had also initiated a series of free wine-tasting and hors-d'oeuvre parties they call "Sip, Dip, Chill." Who could resist? Randy and I noted the schedule and immediately made plans to return in July for some sipping and dipping, if not chilling.
One thing that will apparently never change in Galesville, founded by the Quakers in 1652, is that there are only two ways in and out: an old country road and a narrow channel off the West River. On summer weekends both these access routes are bound to be jammed. Happily, though, the water route is generally the better bet of the two. Wine-tasting bound, Randy and I brought Strider through the channel on a bright and sunny Friday in July and picked up a mooring off Hartge Yacht Yard. We clambered into the dink and headed for a tie-up at the village's long community dock, already crowded with dinghies and small powerboats, while kayaks lined the beach.
With its active waterfront, particularly during the boating season, and quiet residential streets, Galesville makes a great place to visit. The antiques shop and art gallery (which occupy an old market and former grist mill) a noon carillon and, of course, the wilt-proof micro-garden. Leaving the dink, we walked past the latter--a "flower arrangement" of old two- and three-bladed boat propellers, perennially sprouting around the flagpole at the pocket-park opposite the community dock. Created by local artist Joan Bell, it's one of our favorite Chesapeake landmarks.
Just a few more steps down the street and we were in front of Homeport, the aforementioned wine and spirits shop. Inside we joined a small group of fellow sippers, who were clustered, little plastic cups in hand, in the corner around a temporary wine bar. On another small stand were laid the tasty bits: crackers, kalamata olive dip and plates of smoked Gouda and blue cheese. Our server, Diana, was pouring a Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling when we arrived. As I began studying the sampling wines-two reds and two whites--Randy said he'd like to start with a red. "Would you like to try a Menage a Trois?" Diana asked. What!? I thought . . . and then realized it was the name of the wine-a California blend of zinfandel, merlot and cabernet. Randy nodded enthusiastically. I chose to stay in the suggested tasting sequence and began with a Bearboat chardonnay. Usually I shy away from chardonnays because of their famous oaky taste. But this one was different. It was better . . . or maybe I should say butter, because that's what it tasted like to me.
As the sipping continued, the group began to compare notes-this one had hints of pear or pepper, that one a soupcon of vanilla or honey. We chatted, sipped, noshed and studied the old photos on the walls depicting Galesville's earlier years. There was a discussion of screw caps versus synthetic corks. Was this wine complex? Did this one have good legs? Color was checked, the wines were swirled and sniffed. I tried desperately to keep pace, to find the peach and honey in the Reisling, or plum, black cherry and spices in the red zinfandel. To my unsophisticated palate they all tasted . . . well . . . good. Very good, in fact.
It's easy to see how Hewison and Rich are becoming trusted mentors for a growing following. Their hard and fast rule is to sell only wines they've tried and liked. They also believe that good wines aren't necessarily expensive ones. Randy and I left Homeport with a deeper appreciation for wine-tasting, and a bottle of each of the four we had sampled. We also picked out one more, which was highly recommended-and at only $7, highly pleasing to the wallet as well.
Before heading back to the dinghy we looked in at the boxy blue and white restaurant/lounge next door, the Topside Inn. Randy and I had spent many evenings there over the years listening to jazz. We were happy to note that, although Topside was under new management, its jazz Sunday evenings remained-though not our favorite, Dixieland jazz. Still in place as well was its cozy fireside dining with a water view and its upper deck, where you could watch the boat traffic.
When we returned to Topside on Sunday, we enjoyed a tempura asparagus appetizer before diving into our steak dinners. A duo played soft, jazzy conga and guitar in the background. Sadly, though, we learned several months later that Topside Inn had closed its doors and was up for sale again. When it finds a new owner, we just hope it will still find a home for jazz.