Virginia Wine by Fireside
Considering the record-breaking cold weather we have endured in January, you might be wondering why I am suggesting a road trip to the wine country of Virginia. As long as the roads are drivable, the winter is a great time to visit some of Virginia’s fine wineries. Most are open from Thursday to Monday, and some open 7 days a week.
The reasons that I like to visit the wineries this time of year is because there are far less people in the tasting room which allows for a lot of one-on-one conversations with the owners and wine makers. The other visitors you meet this time of year are usually more wine conscious than the summer time visitors…they are usually there for a reason, not just an summer drive. It is a good time to meet new folks and discuss the Virginia wines that are available. Chances are that you will see the same people at the next winery you visit.
The most notable and appreciated aspect of a winter visit to wine country are the many fireplaces, outdoor fire pits and heated patios. Even in the winter we are prone to have 50-degree days, which are perfect for a friend, a coat and a Virginia Cab Franc sitting in the sunshine or by a cozy fire. Which brings to mind that we are more prone to drink red wines in the winter, and there is nothing better than wine and a fireplace.
Also this time of year you will find that most of the wineries are serving up hot soups, mulled wine, chili and specialty items to ward off the cold as well as live music to keep you entertained. Here are some of my favorite places.
About a mile outside of Middleburg on Route 50 you can find Greenhill Winery & Vineyards. The winery consists of 11 acres of grapes with varieties including the Burgundy grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, a Bordeaux combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. The other varieties include Riesling, Seyval Blanc, and Petite Sirah. The historical stone house on the estate, built in 1762 serves as a private tasting house for Greenhill Wine Club Members. While the estate house showcases a beautiful fireplace, the tasting room offers a heated patio as well as small table with fire pits on the lawn.
Traveling through the town of Marshall, you will soon come to Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane. The winery and tasting room at Barrel Oak is large and can accommodate a lot of people, which this time of year makes it nice and roomy. A large tasting bar makes for easy service. There is ample room and tables in the tasting room and tables with fire pits outside that offer beautiful views of the Blue Ridge. The main attraction, however, is the huge stone fireplace in the main room. With two overstuffed leather couches and a small table, this is just too comfy.
Only about a mile north on route 17 you will find Three Fox Vineyards where the owners make “La Dolce Vita a part of your life.” This is what I would call an intimate tasting room. With two separate tasting bars there is plenty of room to stand and taste their wines. When the summer crowds arrive, Three Fox Winery offers tastings outdoors. When it comes time to sit down and enjoy your wine there is an enclosed patio with heaters available…a perfect spot to enjoy your wine and maybe a cigar. There are also tables with fire pits located on the hillside. The views are beautiful and you will feel like you are at a ski resort. If there happens to be snow on the ground, you may bring your cross-country skis and tour the property.
If you are in the Loudoun County area take route 15 out of Leesburg and make a right on Limestone School Road, and visit our writer, Doug Fabbioli at his winery where there is always something going on. A little farther down the road you can find Tarara Winery near the little hamlet of Lucketts.
These are only five of Virginia’s 200-plus wineries. They are only an hour’s drive from Alexandria and the back roads are beautiful as they wind through small towns and pastures with blanketed horses grazing. Within a mile or two of all of these first three wineries are the towns of Middleburg, The Plains and Marshall where you can find great restaurants. The other two are only about 3 miles from Leesburg, where you can find a restaurant for every taste. All of these wineries have won numerous awards and medals for their wines, so get off of the couch and take a road trip!
Written by: Bob Tagert