By Nancy Bauer
Three Days in Spotsylvania
Wine, War, And Where in The World Is Stonewall’s Arm?
Spotsylvania is peaceful now, but it wasn’t always that way. Union and rebel soldiers fought hard and often across these lands, and Stonewall Jackson suffered the shots that would cause his arm to be amputated and buried here, in Chancellorsville.
This three-day itinerary is packed with historical tidbits, as well as daily libation breaks for the craft beverage lover, and plenty of entertaining diversions.
Check in to Stevenson Ridge (6901 Meeting St, Spotsylvania Courthouse) for the weekend, and choose your lodging depending on how sporty, fancy, or Daniel Boone-y you’re feeling; the Inn offers a choice of nine restored antique structures for your stay, ranging from an elegant two-bedroom Plantation Home to a rustic 1830’s log cabin. Owners Dan and Debbie Spear restored them all personally, and they’re happy to share some history with you.
Ready to hit the road? Head a few miles to the Spotsylvania County Visitor Center (4704 Southpoint Parkway, Fredericksburg), pick up brochures, and get directions.
Recommended first stop: Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Four major battles of the Civil War were fought in the region: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse. The park is enormous, and filled with cycling and driving routes, historic structures, and several visitors’ centers and exhibit shelters.
Start your visit to the Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Battlefields at the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center (9001 Plank Road, Spotsylvania), where you can pick up maps. Audio tours covering the battles, each lasting three hours, are available at the visitor center bookstores for rent (with a $20.00 cash deposit) or purchase. Find the address for each site at https://www.nps.gov/frsp/planyourvisit/directions.htm.
In the afternoon, Wilderness Run Vineyards (11109 Plank Rd, Spotsylvania Courthouse) is the spot for a wine tasting and visit with a bunch of turkeys – along with chickens, horses, donkeys, llamas and rabbits.
For dinner, Harry’s Alehouse (737 Plank Road) in Fredericksburg gives you 24 choices of mostly local beer on tap. The “Scratch Kitchen” – that is, everything is made fresh, in house – leans Southern, but doesn’t let artificial geographical boundaries get in the way of a tasty Chicago Italian Beef Sangwich, “wurst” platter, or pizza.
Order an early Breakfast Basket from the inn, or whip up your own quick meal – all lodgings at Stevenson Ridge come with a refrigerator, coffee maker, and microwave/toaster.
Continue to explore the battlefields around Spotsylvania with a visit to Historic Ellwood Manor (36380 Constitution Hwy, Locust Grove), where much of the Battle of the Wilderness was fought. Get a guided tour of the house and explore the family cemetery, where Stonewall Jackson’s arm was buried. (His body is 100 miles away, in Lexington, Virginia.)
Feeling ready to mount your own battle? Head over to Wilderness Presidential Resort (9220 Plank Road, Spotsylvania), a campground on 600 acres with cabins and RVs you can rent. A rope course and climbing wall are open to the public (fee based).
Or, if you’ve had enough of military history, spend an hour at the Shannon Air Museum (3380 Shannon Airport Circle, Fredericksburg), which recently re-opened. The Shannon Airport has an interesting history – it was founded in the 1950s by Sidney Shannon Jr., as part of his love for aviation and to honor his father Sydney Shannon Sr., who was one of the founders of Eastern Airlines with World War I flying legend Eddie Rickenbacker. Over the years, the on-site museum was closed and its planes disbursed, until a group of passionate locals brought it all back. (Open Thursday – Saturday.)
Have lunch at the Museum’s retro Robin’s Nest Cafe, or head to the Cajun-themed C’est Bon Cafe and Patisserie (7610 Heths Salient St, Spotsylvania Courthouse) enroute to a relaxing afternoon at the “Tasting Post” at Mattaponi Winery (7530 Morris Rd, Spotsylvania Courthouse), where your wine tasting can double as dessert. The Odeimin strawberry wine is a perennial award-winner and the “Pow Wow” will make you think of chocolate-covered strawberries. Not sweet enough? The “wine & NY-style cheesecake” pairing is one-of-a-kind.
Get an active start on the day with a tour of Spotsylvania Battlefield (9550 Grant Drive West, Spotsylvania, VA 22553 or GPS coordinates: 38.219245, -77.614099). The Spotsylvania Battlefield is the best-preserved battlefield in the park. Book a guide, follow the Loop by bicycle, or drive the 7-mile loop.
Finish your history weekend with some pure relaxation at Lake Anna Winery (5621 Courthouse Rd, Spotsylvania Courthouse), a 20-minute drive west. The winery is one of Virginia’s oldest and always hopping in the summer months, especially. After a wine tasting, top off your weekend with a stand-up paddleboard adventure at Lake Anna Outfitters (4634 Courthouse Rd, Mineral), or just head to the lake for a swim. Lake Anna (6800 Lawyers Road, Spotsylvania) is one of the largest inland freshwater lakes in Virginia.
Wine Trolley Now Boarding
Spotsylvania’s four wineries have teamed up with Trolley Tours of Fredericksburg for an affordable, easy, and especially merry way to experience wine country: on the trolley!
Your ticket includes: 5-hour guided tour to/between four wineries, wine tasting at all wineries (tasting fees included), and a light snack box of winery-appropriate fare. Your guide will share a little bit of history as you pass through historic Spotsylvania County enroute to each stop.
The four wineries you’ll visit are a delightful mix of newcomers and established vineyards, including Eden Try, which is only rarely open for public tastings; the family farm winery Wilderness Run; the popular “winery by the lake,” Lake Anna Winery; and Mattaponi Winery, with its much-loved Tasting Post and award-winning fruit wines.
Trolley tours are available on select Saturdays and Sundays, by reservation. Cost: $70.00 (plus $2.00 ticket fee). More information at fredericksburgtrolley.com/wine
Mary Ann Dancisin contributed to this article. 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.