Cape Gazette

Exploring the upper Chesapeake - Havre de Grace

By Dennis Forney | Aug 21, 2012
Photo by: Dennis Forney Joseph Lertch in the Bottle Shop at The Vineyard Wine Bar in Havre de Grace.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2012 • Woodland Creek • Sassafras River

In The Year of Many Lords

Taking a week off, though never really off.

Spent yesterday in Havre de Grace, right where the mighty Susquehanna flows into the Chesapeake, a great river valley drowned by global warming many years ago. That phase of global warming may have been exacerbated by excessive amounts of dinosaur manure which eventually translated into giant plants which eventually decayed, fell under great pressure from heaving mountains and over the millennia transformed into diamonds.

Isn't it amazing to think that diamonds started out as dinosaur manure?  Remember the Superman episode when the caped hero squeezed a lump of coal with his superstrength and, creating a beautiful diamond bigger than the Hope specimen, matched the amazing alchemy of time?  Rumpelstiltskin. Straw. Van Morrison. Music.  "Most people don't realize my job is turning lead into gold." - Philosopher's Stone.

At the Vineyard Wine Bar in the heart of downtown Havre de Grace, owner, chef, sommelier Joseph Lertch offered a quick history and geography lesson.  "Havre de Grace - named Harbor of Grace by General Lafayette - came within one vote of being designated the nation's capital. Midway between Baltimore and Philadelphia, located on navigable water, right in the thick of the War of 1812."

Joe chose Havre de Grace because of its history, the rural atmosphere so close to urban centers - Philly, Wilmington, Baltimore all just a hop skip and a jump away, Philly and BWI airports within 45 minutes, Amtrak station two miles from downtown, or jump on a boat and cruise your way down the Chesapeake like John Smith - no work, no eat - did back in the 1600s.

High recommendation for The Vineyard and Havre de Grace.  When Lertch takes time off, he packs up and comes down to the Cape Region. In his wine bar, 70 different wines by the glass and great variety of sandwiches and flatbreads adorned with chicken, chorizo, roasted red peppers, local cheeses and vegetables - not unlike Half Full in Lewes. Great jazz on a solid sound system.  "We use the European seating method.  You reserve a table or seats at the bar - no one's allowed to stand - and they're yours for the night.  Reservation is the only way you'll get in.  We tell people when they come in and it's full: 'If something comes open we'll give you a call, but the people here - whether they're drinking water or wine - they have their seats until they're ready to go.  We're always full on weekends."

We stopped by for lunch on Monday.  Very quiet.  One other table.  We got lots of attention.  Havre de Grace starts each week slowly and builds toward the weekend.  Not unlike lots of places.

In a room next to the restaurant, Vineyard has a big screen TV, comfortable chairs and racks and racks of the wines he serves.  They're all for sale.

Havre de Grace a friendly town. Beautiful boardwalked promenade along the waterfront with historical and natural interpretation.  A nice day trip or an overnight. You won't be disappointed. Here are some more photos from the territory:

The Concord Point Lighthouse, built in 1827, is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the U.S. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
Four generations of the Dougherty family - the matriarch 93, the youngest barely a year - enjoy a porch visit in downtown Havre de Grace.  They were kind enough to direct us to the Bomboy's chocolate shop a few blocks away.  The name sounds like the rumble of the cannons test firing at the nearby Aberdeen Proving Grounds. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
In front of an artistically painted house in Havre de Grace, a friend left a message. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
A Chesapeake heritage vessel, the skipjack Martha Lewis - built by legendary Eastern Shore boatbuilder Bronza Parks - ties up at the substantial public marina in Havre de Grace. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
This is the original lighthouse keeper's house near the Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace.  The stone area shows the original shape of the house. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
During the roaring '20s of the 20th century, Havre de Grace - visited by the likes of Al Capone - was known as Little Chicago.  The Bayou Hotel - overlooking the upper reaches of the Chesapeake - was built during the era.  Now, a mile or two away, in a secluded sanctuary over looking one of the beautiful creeks of the region, a facility known to locals as Father Ashley serves as a retreat for celebrities and others across the nation seeking escape from substance abuse. Friends and relatives visiting them add to the economy of Havre de Grace.  This photo shows the Bayou Hotel. (Photo by: Dennis Forney)
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