Start at: Gray Ghost Vineyards
Begin a visit with a free tour led by owner Al Kellert, during which you’ll peek into everything—the barrel room to the wine library—and learn about the man the winery is named for, Confederate colonel John S. Mosby, the “Gray Ghost.” Follow the tour with a tasting—try the buttery Reserve Chardonnay if it’s available, a longtime favorite. Afterward, stroll in the expansive gardens and see if you can spot the 100-year-old apple tree. Tasting: $5; call at least a week ahead to arrange a tour.
Next stop: Narmada Winery
Across the highway, Narmada organizes its large wine menu into tasting options, such as Fruity and Fresh or Reserves and Classics. Put together lunch from its small plates of Indian cuisine and enjoy it at a high-top table inside or on the deck. Or settle into an Adirondack chair or picnic table next to the vineyards or a small nearby lake. Tasting: $8 to $10.
Next stop: Granite Heights Winery
Most day-trippers still haven’t heard of Granite Heights, a fairly recent arrival offering cozy tastings. Guests sit at private tables in the parlor of an 1800s farmhouse and taste wines poured by one of the owners. Visitors are welcome to take a glass or bottle down to a lake. The wines have already won big awards—try the 2013 Humility red blend. Tasting: $8.
On the way home: Claire’s at the Depot
For dinner, try Claire’s in old town Warrenton. Guests love the brick walls and train-station decor, and regulars know to order the she-crab soup. 65 S. Third St.; 540-351-1616.
Round trip from DC: 131 miles
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This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Washingtonian