Start at: Linden Vineyards
Linden’s owner Jim Law is a local hero for his grape-growing know-how. His decades of trial and error—some of the vines that produce his signature Hardscrabble Chardonnay date to the 1980s—have led to major gains in wine quality in the region. When you arrive, put your name on the list for the popular reserve-cellar tasting at noon ($25), then queue up for a free 30-minute tour, which begins at 11:30 (weekends only). It covers the Hardscrabble vineyard and ends in the cellar with a discussion of winemaking technique. The reserve-cellar tasting gets you away from the tasting room’s hubbub and features some of Linden’s best, including single-vineyard wines and older vintages. Note that on weekends, Linden’s policies prohibit lingering after your tasting—grounds and facilities are reserved for wine-club members. Regular tasting: $8.
Snack stop: The Apple House
The 54-year-old Apple House is an institution in these parts. Eat in or carry out sandwiches of Virginia ham or BBQ plus house-made apple-butter doughnuts. 4675 John Marshall Hwy., Linden; 540-636-6329.
Last stop: RdV Vineyards
RdV made national headlines almost immediately after opening in 2011. Its success was no fluke—from conception, it aimed at becoming Virginia’s standard bearer in the high-end wine market. Architecturally, RdV is a standout, with a minimalist, barn-style building wrapped around a towering silo that glows in the evening. A dramatic wine cave with stone archways, along with carved-out spaces for private wine dinners, mimics the best in Napa. Four French grape varieties grow on 16 terraced acres, from which two Bordeaux-style blends are created, each selling for upward of $75. Visits are by appointment; we recommend making your online reservation for around 3 pm. The 90-minute tour is a relaxed exploration of the winery and wine cave, followed by a winetasting paired with local cheese and charcuterie. Tasting: $50 a person.
Round trip from DC: 140 miles
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This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Washingtonian.