Because you love wine anytime, and we’ve heard your 2012 resolutions to travel – or at least explore a bit broader than the Beltway. (Remember, you don’t have to drive far for an entirely new experience!) So jump in the car for a weekend getaway, and get to the grapes in the Shenandoah Valley.
Just over an hour’s drive from DC, this area boasts stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, quaint historical features and a dozen or so fine VA wineries. Sip it up at these top spots…
Chateau O’Brien: As winery mascot Buddy the bulldog welcomes you, owners Howard and Debbie O’Brien will personally pour your glass from either their traditional or reserve tasting rooms. The offerings are accompanied by a wildly popular apple dessert wine… and rumor has it a peach variety may be on the way!
Philip Carter Winery: Winemaking is in this family’s history – and they have the heirlooms to prove it! Tour the tasting room to learn about the history of winemaking as you savor the fruits of this vineyard … and don’t forget the (multiple) award-winning Late Harvest Vidal.
Desert Rose Ranch and Winery: The area’s newest winery, opened in April 2011, started out as as a ranch for breeding, boarding and training horses. Add grapevines and it’s a whole day of fun! As you stand around the tasting room’s int’l “million dollar” bar, ask for the stories surrounding Old Moo Moo, Sparky and R.E.D.
Rappahannock Cellars: Cheaper by the dozen? Bottles of vino, yes. Children, maybe. The Delmare’s and their 12 kids have a true family operation, and a vineyard moved from California to the foothills of the Blue Ridge. The tasting room is less boutique-y than other wineries in the area, and Rappahannock’s Rose seems to win people’s choice.
Chester Gap Cellars: An unpretentious winery with unparalleled rustic ambience. Some of the nicest views in Virginia coupled with some of the nicest price tags on VA wine (most under $20!) Take this tip: Tasting fees are waived when you purchase a bottle.
Naked Mountain Winery: Off the beaten path – even in terms of Virginia wineries – this log cabin-esque lodge has a great atmosphere for tasting by the fireplace, or head outside for a perfect picnic. Naked’s memorable Chardonnay is its main attraction.. or maybe its the “racy” signage throughout.
Three Fox Vineyards: The Italian flags might clue you in to the style of this vineyards wines, made with Italian grape varietals in conjunction with Virginia’s finest. Leave the confines of the small tasting room to enjoy picturesque views…. and hammocks down the hill from the parking area.
Linden Vineyards: Savor the craft – and the Cab Franc and Claret – at this winery which is known as much for its sips as its strict rules. Rules??! No buses. No groups larger than six. And Members Only on the patio. Sounds sweet!
Fox Meadow: Location, location, location. Fox Meadow’s scenic Blue Ridge Mountain views are unbeatable, as is its Freezeland White. Though its rough service leaves a bit to be desired, you’ll be impressed with the suggested food pairings with each of the wines.
Barrel Oak: Bring your pooches – this is the most dog friendly winery we’ve found yet! (There’s even a wine called Chocolate Lab.) Generous seems a trend at Barrel Oak. The cheese plates, particularly, are quite filling, and a full tasting is a crazy twelve wines. Go for the fun, family environment. Leave with bottles of Bowhaus White, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay…