By Nancy Bauer
Wine Finds in Fauquier County
With nearly 30 wineries less than an hour’s drive from the DC Beltway, Fauquier County is a quiet powerhouse in Virginia Wine Country.
A favorite trek for in-the-know fine wine lovers, Fauquier is home to the state’s most acclaimed winegrower (Jim Law, Linden Vineyards) and best high-end wine experience (RdV Vineyards appointment-only tour and tastings), plus numerous crafters of notable small-lot Bordeaux-style blends (Delaplane Cellars, Boxwood Winery, Granite Heights, Pearmund Cellars, among others),
Even before the county’s wine was making news, the rolling landscape and mountain views were a draw at Naked Mountain Winery, Three Fox Vineyards, and, more recently, Barrel Oak Winery.
New arrivals like Blue Mountain Vineyards and Morais Vineyards introduced imposing architecture on wide-open acres, juxtaposed with the warm and cozy tasting rooms of Rogers Ford Winery and Upperville’s The Local Taste (tasting room for Slater Run Vineyard).
One of Virginia’s unique claims to fame is its unparalleled place in U.S. history, and that history is everywhere in Fauquier, from Philip Carter Winery’s long ancestral link to winemaking in Virginia to Aspen Dale Winery’s 200+-year-old tasting barn.
This weekend itinerary gives you a taste of the county’s diversity. When you visit, the Virginia Wine in My Pocket smartphone app (iTunes, Google Play) can tell you which wineries you’re near. All are worthy of a visit.
On Friday afternoon, head out Route 66 to Delaplane. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the towering yellow building on the hill (Barrel Oak Winery) overlooking the valley. But bypass that for now and instead start your weekend at Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery next door. The Zissios family has a history of winemaking in Greece that inspired owners John and Helen to buy this property 20 years ago. The winery opened in 2015 – their estate Sauvignon Blanc is a special treat and the views can’t be beat.
Next, head to BOW – they’re open late on Fridays. Barrel Oak Winery is a center of social activity. “We didn’t want to just sell wine,” says Brian Roeder. “We wanted to create a place of community.” He and his wife Sharon, who makes the wine, have succeeded in this plan. Along with the typical varietals, you’ll find Virginia’s newest love interests, Petit Manseng, Petit Verdot, and more. Extremely dog friendly, too.
For dinner, head over to Marshall. Field & Main opened to happy crowds in 2016. Owner Neil Wavra is a wine connoisseur par excellence and his skill at pairing wine and locally-sourced food is second to none.
For your base of operations, check in to Airlie, a sprawling yet somehow still cozy hotel spread over 300 acres. Rooms are housed in seven outbuildings and cottages tucked into corners of the property. Bikes are provided for getting around (or you can phone for a lift to the main building and restaurant).
Head north to Delaplane Cellars, known as much for its wall of windows and second-to-none view as for its small-production red blends and sedate, adults-only environment.
Next stop is the friendly Philip Carter Winery of Virginia. Owner Philip Carter Strother traces his heritage all the way back to America’s first gold-medal-winning wine, in 1762, produced by his ancestor Charles Carter.
Stop for lunch in the village of Orlean at Orlean Market and Pub, where you can grab a burger, pick up a pie, and fill your gas tank.
A scenic drive through winding back roads brings you to Granite Heights Winery. The farm is huge, but the production so far is small, and owners Luke and Toni are elbow-deep in every aspect. Don’t mistake their lack of size for lack of sophistication: Granite Heights has won more gold medals in a few short years than most wineries can hope to win in a decade.
A Portuguese palace is your next stop. Morais Vineyards’ roots shine through in their distinctive wines: Battlefield, a “Vihno Verde” (green wine) made from the Portuguese Albarino grape; Touriga Nacional, best known as a component in the finest ports; and three dessert wines: Moscatel, Jeropiga and Cherry Wine. The Cherry will have you so addicted so quickly that you’ll need to keep the bottle you inevitably purchase stashed in a very inconvenient location just to keep you from day drinking. And if you are by chance looking for a spectacular wedding venue, you are in the right place.
Saturday’s choice for dinner can be simple and casual with a fresh burger or some chili or wings at Harry’s at Airlie, or upscale and dressy twenty minutes away at The Manor House at the Inn at Poplar Springs. A drive into downtown Warrenton brings you to Claire’s at the Depot for casual yet elegant dining in a historic train station, with a nice assortment of highly-regarded Virginia wines.
Your Sunday itinerary can be as ambitious or as leisurely as you like. Be prepared to drop some bucks, though; today’s not cheap, but you won’t be disappointed.
About a half hour west, in Markham, the adults-only Chateau O’Brien offers an eclectic selection of vinifera varietals and apple wines. Reserve in advance for the Cellar Collection Tasting, $25 per person, before making your high-end selections.
Continuing westward, Linden Vineyards is the property of Virginia wine founding father and guru Jim Law. Jim’s reputation in the industry is unparalleled – he is the acknowledged inspiration for a host of young winemakers throughout the Commonwealth. Consider buying a case to join Linden’s wine club. In addition to access to great wines, only club members can take a table on the members-only deck overlooking the meticulously groomed vineyards.
RdV Vineyards in Delaplane burst onto the local wine scene with quite a splash. Touted as the most expensive – and arguably best-made – wines in Virginia, RDV’s Lost Mountain and Rendezvous have been praised by no less than British wine maven Jancis Robinson. RdV is by appointment only ($65/person) and includes a tour of the impressive Euro-styled cave and a wine tasting with charcuterie pairings. This aging cellar is quite simply world-class.
Also in Delaplane, Arterra Wines is co-located with Hawkmoth Arts. Husband and wife team Jason Murray and Sandy Gray-Murray are authentically living the artisan lifestyle. Jason studied with the aforementioned Jim Law and his wines are testament to his studiousness. Sandy’s creations echo the precision, delicacy and balance of the Hawkmoth (also known as the hummingbird moth) and include ceramics, paintings, etched glass and carved wine barrels. Share a bottle on the secluded deck and review the weekend’s highlights before heading back to a newly refreshed workaday life.
Fauquier Wine Country People’s Choice Awards 2018
In handing out its “best of” awards for winemaking, Fauquier does things a little differently. Each year they host a gathering of wineries that are each invited to pour their best wines in various categories. The public tastes and then votes on their favorites. These are the winners for 2018.
Blue Valley Vineyards (2016 Estate Sauvignon Blanc)
Desert Rose Ranch and Winery (Ole MooMoo)
Granite Heights Winery (Shadow White)
Chateau O’Brien (2012 Vintners Reserve)
Blue Valley Vineyards (2015 Estate Petit Verdot)
Barrel Oak Winery (2015 Cabernet Franc)
Desert Rose Winery (Fiery Run Cabernet Franc)
Arterra Wines (Blueberry Apple Wine)
Morais Vineyard and Winery (Cherry)
Mediterranean Cellars Winery (2013 Penteli)
Nancy Bauer is the author of the new book, Virginia Wine Country Travel Journal, and the founder of the wine country travel app and website, Virginia Wine in My Pocket.com. The book is available on Amazon and at selected wineries, and the app is available on iTunes and Google Play. Contact Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org