Virginia has over 280 wineries, but the sheer number isn’t what stands out to those that know great wine. The secret to Virginia’s unbeatable wines is a combination of factors: The 400-year history behind the vines, the unforgettable experiences that pair with wine, the awe-inspiring scenery you’ll view from a vineyard patio, the incredible food matched with a glass, and of course, the world-class quality that you taste in a Virginia bottle that truly makes our wines the best.
Want to discover these outstanding wine moments? Add the following wine destinations and events to your to-do list for a memorable Virginia vacation.
There are plenty of ways to experience wine country in Virginia. For example, some like to visit Blenheim Vineyards, a winery owned and designed by famous Virginia musician Dave Matthews, and others looking for exercise with their vino, book a vineyard biking tour. No matter your interests, though, you’ll discover there are countless activities that pair well with wines in Virginia.
Go straight from the water to the winery when you book a tour with Burnham Guides on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Paddle Church Creek on a 45-minute guided kayak tour to Chatham Vineyards, where your party will stop on the winery beach and head to the tasting room to sample delicious wines.
Yoga & Wine
Prefer a soothing, less strenuous wine experience? At Veritas Vineyards’ Wine and Yoga Retreat, you’ll start the day with a group yoga session followed by brunch and a vineyard hiking tour, where you can learn about the vineyards and the process behind their incredible wines. End the day with a social cocktail hour with glasses of wine paired with light fare.
Wine Trolley Tours
Visit four Spotsylvania wineries on the Wine Trolley Tour, a five-hour hour guided tour that allows you to relax and enjoy your day without having to bring along a designated driver. Wine tasting fees and an interesting history lesson about the region are included with the cost of the tour.
Taste Distinct Wine Flavors
At Glass House Winery in Free Union, not only will you taste the grapes grown from Virginia soil, but you often end up tasting some of the fruits grown on-site as well. The plant’s growing inside the winery’s glass conservatory add exotic decoration, but they are also practical. The winemakers often add these fruits into the wines, creating distinctively unique flavors that echo the winery’s nature-filled atmosphere.
Each year, there are dozens of wine festivals in the Commonwealth, from the shores of Virginia Beach to the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Here are a few that highlight Virginia’s delicious wine scene.
Annual Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival—Norfolk, May 6-7, 2017
Held along the Downtown Norfolk Waterfront, the Spring Town Point Virginia Wine Festival showcases more than 200 Virginia wine varieties from 35+ wineries. Sip on the impressive wines while you enjoy live music performances, gourmet foods, and shop the selection of locally made goods.
Neptune’s Fall Wine Festival—Virginia Beach, September 9-10, 2017
Neptune’s Fall Wine Festival is an oceanfront event that features some of Virginia’s leading vineyards. Talk to winemakers and vineyard owners to learn about the winemaking process. Along with wine, you’ll have access to local foods, live music performances, and wines available to purchase by bottle or case.
Annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival—Moneta, September 23-24, 2017
The Annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival combines stunning scenery and fantastic Virginia wines to create a waterfront experience you are sure to love. The festival brings together 27 wineries, over 85 food vendors, and live music throughout the event.
Shenandoah Uncorked Wine Festival—Quicksburg, November 11, 2017
Held at Shenandoah Caverns, the Shenandoah Uncorked Wine Festival welcomes the entire family with local food, arts and crafts, agricultural displays, and plenty of fun for the kids. Admission is free, and visitors can sample wines from 10 Virginia vineyards for $15.
Other notable wine festivals:
- Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival—Charlottesville, April 13-15, 2017
- Blacksburg Fork & Cork—Blacksburg, April 29, 2017
- Montpelier Wine Festival—Montpelier Station, May 6-7, 2017
- Vintage Virginia Wine & Food Festival—Centreville, June 3-4
- Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival—Williamsburg, Weekends in May and June
- Vine on the Waterfront—Alexandria, June 24-25, 2017
- The Virginia Wine Expo—Richmond, Dates not announced for 2018
Find even more upcoming wine festivals happening throughout Virginia.
—WINERIES WITH SCENIC VIEWS—
There is something about Virginia’s unbelievable scenery that just makes a glass of wine from the Commonwealth taste so much better. Visit these wineries to drink in the landscapes with your glass of Virginia wine.
Early Mountain Vineyards—Madison
The green, lush countryside surrounding Early Mountain Vineyards make it a popular spot for Monticello Wine Trail trekkers. The winery is situated in the foothills of the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains. Need we say more?
Upper Shirley Vineyards—Charles City
About 20 minutes from Downtown Richmond, Upper Shirley Vineyards sits along the winding rural shores of the James River. During the warmer months, bring along a blanket to sit out on the pristine shoreline grasses and toast to Virginia’s natural beauty.
This small boutique winery is nestled in the Crooke Run Valley about an hour directly west of Washington, D.C., and the jaw-dropping scenery of the region includes rolling hillsides lined with vines and quaint farmhouse structures dotting the horizon. Come at sunset and you’ll never want to leave.
The Barns at Hamilton Station—Hamilton
The landscape surrounding the Barns at Hamilton Station is just as striking as the other wineries mentioned here, but the structure that houses the tasting room almost rivals the scenery (key word: almost). The winery restored an old stone and wood dairy barn that is over 100 years old, and the resulting structure transforms a wine tasting into a storybook experience.
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards—North Garden
There is not a single inch of Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards that could be described as less than breathtaking. In addition to producing some of the best wines around, the vineyard/farm combo also grows their own produce for the on-site restaurant right beside the tasting room. It is no surprise that the vineyard attracts countless couples as a wedding venue; the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the vines growing on the property create a romantic air that you can’t help but adore.
Stone Mountain Vineyards—Dyke
Relax with a glass of vino on the deck at Stone Mountain Vineyards and take in the panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winery sits 1,700 feet above sea level, providing an uncommon perspective of the mountains and valleys of Virginia.
Additional stunning wineries to visit:
- Veritas Vineyards & Winery—Afton
- King Family Vineyards—Crozet
- Breaux Vineyards—Purcellville
- The Dog & Oyster—Irvington
- Abingdon Vineyard & Winery—Abingdon
- Ankida Ridge Vineyards—Amherst
- Beliveau Estate Winery—Blacksburg
- Mountainrose Vineyards—Wise
With every sip of Virginia wine, you’re tasting just a little bit of American history. Virginia’s viticultural history goes back further than any other state, beginning when the early Colonial settlers attempted to plant vines in 1607. Today, several notable wineries give visitors a peek into the past of Virginia’s vines.
In 1619, America’s first legislative body in the New World, the House of Burgesses, passed a law called Acte 12 that required every male land owner to plant ten vines imported from Europe. One of the first settlers to follow the law, John Johnson, went above and beyond, planting vines on 85 acres of land near Colonial Williamsburg. Almost 400 years later, that land is now the Williamsburg Winery, which pays tribute to the estate’s history with their Acte 12 Chardonnay.
Many colonists tried to grow the European vines in America, but for nearly 150 years, their attempts failed. However, in 1762, Charles Carter became the first to break the unlucky streak, sending a dozen bottles of his fine wine to Europe and becoming the first to successfully bottle wine grown in American soil. The results were short-lived, though, and after a single year, he halted his wine production. Yet, almost 250 years later, the Carter family returned to their roots, opening up Philip Carter Winery and planting 1,800 acres of vines to honor the original Carter family member’s 1,800-acre vineyard. Visit this winery in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and sample the incredible products from America’s first winemaking family.
In 1773, Thomas Jefferson embarked on a new challenge, working with his Italian friend Filippo Mazzei to plant 2,000 acres of vines. Careful research and development led to early success in their cultivation efforts, but these results were short-lived. In 1981, owners Shirley and Stanley Woodward Sr. hire Rausse, who also established Barboursville Vineyards, to assist in creating the current winery, Jefferson Vineyards, on the same land Jefferson and Mazzei initially attempted to cultivate the vines.
Reflecting on more recent history, Gabriele Rausse came to America at the behest of his employer, famous Italian winemaker Gianni Zonin, to expand the family’s wine business and grow vines near Charlottesville, Virginia. For once, a European found true success in growing the grapes, creating what is now Barboursville Vineyards.
—WINE & FOOD PAIRINGS—
Wine and food have always gone together perfectly. Oysters are often paired at the wineries on the coast. In the mountains, you’ll find locally sourced Appalachian cuisine served with your glass of wine. While we have picked out a select few, almost every single restaurant in Virginia has at least a few wines sourced straight from the Commonwealth.
If you love oysters and wine, head to Merroir, a riverfront gourmet oyster bar in the Northern Neck. Rappahannock Oyster Company sources the oysters for the restaurant right out of the waters you are looking at, serving their products either raw or cooking the oysters on the outdoor grill just a few feet from the restaurant. Virginia’s fine wines may have finally met their perfect match at Merroir.
The idea behind The Shack in Staunton is pretty straightforward—keep it simple. Craft high-quality food without any of the attitude usually reserved for upscale dining, serving affordable dishes that utilize local produce and meats. You’ll find that the local idea translates to almost every aspect of the restaurant, with many Virginia wines and beers on the constantly changing menu.
Located in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, the Roosevelt is known to be one of the most unique restaurants in the entire capital city. They aim to celebrate foods typical of the South, but with a non-traditional twist that makes your meal unlike any you’ve ever had before. While the cocktails are extremely tempting, what really catches your eye is the wine menu, which features only Virginia wines.
From the beaches to the most remote corners of the state, you’ll discover endless reasons to fall in love with Virginia’s wines. Tell us, what is your most memorable wine experience in the Commonwealth?
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2017. |