A few minutes outside Middleburg is the family-owned Piedmont Winery, one of the first growers in Virginia. Two spare black barns house the winery and tasting room; tastings are $3. An outdoor deck and tables near the stone fireplace make good resting spots. In addition to a popular Cabernet-and-Merlot mix called “Hunt Country Red,” try the tasty dessert wine “Felicita.” 2546-D Halfway Rd., The Plains; 540-687-5528; piedmontwines.com. Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays 11 to 5.
Wend a few miles along back roads past horse farms, brooks, and stone barns until you come upon the historic brick manor house of the Winery at LaGrange. Opened in 2006, it makes a popular port called “Snort.” Picnic tables outside and cozy rooms in the house upstairs make for ideal spots to break open that picnic basket. 4970 Antioch Rd., Haymarket; 703-753-9360; wineryatlagrange.com. Daily 11 to 6.
Jog a bit south of Route 66, where the Shenandoah Mountains hug the land more tightly and you’ll come to Marterella Winery, a welcoming perch on a hill. The family’s dogs may be resting by a fireplace on the patio. A ten-flight tasting is $10. Don’t miss the crisp Vidal Blanc and a dessert wine called “Sweet Nothings” that pairs well with chocolate. 8278 Falcon Glen Rd., Warrenton; 540-347-1119; marterellawines.com. Thursday through Sunday 11 to 6.
A Two-Day Trip to Taste Virginia’s Finest Wines
Split-rail fences, vintage plantation homes, grazing horses, and the gentle Blue Ridge Mountains set the backdrop for some of Virginia’s best wineries, all in and around Charlottesville.
After the drive down, you might stop for lunch at the Farm Shop at Kluge Vineyards, which serves proper meals such as chicken pot pie and quiche. The winetasting ($10 for five generous portions) is unorthodox, presented in a stylish tray that holds fluted plastic cups. Sample the Blanc de Blanc, a tasty sparkler, and the award-winning “Rose,” which benefits from the consultation of a top French Champagne producer and earned a spot on Food + Wine’s Best list this year. 3550 Blenheim Rd., Charlottesville; 434-977-3895; klugeestateonline.com. Daily 11 to 6.
Without Thomas Jefferson, there’s a good chance Virginia wouldn’t have a wine industry at all. See where it all started—before his dreams for world-class American wine were cut short by the Revolutionary War—at Jefferson Vineyard. Try the clean Pinot Gris and the blended Petit Verdot. 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Charlottesville; 800-272-3042; jeffersonvineyards.com. Daily 10 to 6 (9 to 5 in summer).
About half an hour outside town, Keswick Winery gives visitors a good sense of what the state has to offer. Grab a bottle of “Chambourcin,” an oaked and earthy French-American hybrid and winner of the Gold Medal at the 2007 Governor’s Cup. Bottle in hand, retire to the patio, overlooking the 400-acre estate with ponds and swans. This plantation is steeped in Civil War history—it was used as a Confederate campsite. 1575 Keswick Winery Dr., Keswick; 888-244-3341; keswickvineyards.com. Daily 9 to 5.
At the end of the day, you can check into the luxurious Keswick Hall at Monticello. The spa’s $460 Keswick Reserve treatment features a Shiraz body scrub, red-wine body mask, and Pinot Noir facial. Afterward, head to Fossett’s Bar, a cozy room with chairs clustered around a fireplace. The bar offers tastings of wines from Blenheim Vineyards, owned by indie rocker Dave Matthews. Don’t miss the “Cab Franc,” which is less tannic than most and popular with area sommeliers. Tastings every Saturday and Sunday noon to 11, weekdays 3 to 11; blenheimvineyards.com. Rooms at Keswick start at $295. 701 Club Dr., Keswick; 434-979-3440; keswick.com.
The next day, stop at Horton Cellars, in a faux medieval château complete with rocky turret. People come for the “Horton Norton” and Viognier as well as Norton Port, the only one made in Virginia from 100 percent Norton grapes. Tastings are free. 6399 Spotswood Trail, Gordonsville; 800-829-4633; hvwine.com. Daily 10 to 5.
End your wine trip at nearby Barboursville, Disneyland for oenophiles. Alongside the vast tasting room—which features a museumlike space dedicated to the history of the winery’s best-selling red blend, “Octagon”—is a shop with a nice selection of books on wine. Outside on the 830-acre property, rambling roses line stone paths that cut through a working farm complete with cows. Atop a hill sit the remains of a Thomas Jefferson–designed home created for a former governor. Nearby is a bubbling stream, a perfect place to throw down a blanket and sip wine. You may not want to leave this beautiful property—and you don’t have to. Barboursville has converted outbuildings to inn accommodations; rates start at $225. If you must return home, you can reserve a table for lunch at Palladio Restaurant, which features Northern Italian cuisine in honor of the vineyard’s Italian owners. A three-course lunch with wine pairings is $55. 17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville; 540-832-3824; barboursvillewine.com. Monday through Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday 11 to 5.
Dandelion Wine and an Ecofriendly Vineyard
The hilly landscape near Frederick is home to several wineries. And the area—just north of Montgomery County—is an easy day trip.
Start at Berrywine Plantations/Linganore Wine Cellar, which, in a word, is big. Don’t let this put you off. Visit during the week and you might get personal attention from Anthony Aellen, one of the founders’ sons, who delivers impromptu wine lessons. This may be the only place you’ll get to taste retro dandelion wine, a weedy concoction, and thick honey mead. Sweet wines are standouts here, so sample the raspberry and peach wines, both of which won the 2007 Governor’s Cup. 13601 Glissans Mill Rd., Mount Airy; 301-831-5889, linganorewines.com. Monday through Friday 10 to 5, Saturday 10 to 6, Sunday noon to 6.