Three Days of Wine on Northern Virginia’s I-95
By Nancy Bauer
To weary DC commuters, a “3 Days on I-95” itinerary may sound like a cruel joke, but trust us: there’s gold in those exits. And wine.
For this getaway weekend, make Ashland – that burg you whiz by on the way to Richmond – your base of operations. It’s a fun whistle-stop town – railroad tracks go right through the center – plunked down in the middle of a region filled with Civil War sites, great biking roads, an iconic theme park, and a convenient handful of wineries.
Heading south from Northern Virginia on I-95, about 40 minutes past Fredericksburg, your first stop is Sassafras Shade Vineyard. The small winery features some unusual bottles, such as White Chambourcin and Granny Smith Apple, along with the more traditional. Rocking chairs and a porch swing add to the family-friendly feel.
The historic Hanover Tavern is a nice lunch stop, featuring made-from-scratch meals with a Southern flair.
For dinner nearby, try the new burger and beer spot, Industrial Taphouse, before heading back north to downtown Ashland, where you’ll check in to the Henry Clay Inn and enjoy an after-dinner sipper (BYO) by the fire in the drawing room.
Start your Saturday early and explore Ashland on foot. Then stop by Caboose Market and Cafe and pick up picnic supplies as you head out to North Anna Battlefield Park, an intriguing site for Civil War buffs. Park signage guides you as you follow the routes taken by both Grant’s and Lee’s forces in May 1864.
The afternoon takes you back to wine country, just five minutes north to Doswell and Castle Glen Estate Winery. This relative newcomer began planting in 2009 and now produces small lots of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, vidal blanc and blueberry wine, plus a sangria in the bottle.
End your day back in downtown Ashland over dinner at Iron Horse Restaurant, less than a five-minute walk from your Inn. The menu changes seasonally, and there are at least a couple of Virginia wines on the menu (ask them to add more!).
Get an early jump on this three-winery day heading back up I-95. Mattaponi Winery, the first stop, opens at 10am. This rustic winery honors the area’s Native American ancestry through its wines and the art that decorates the tasting room. Wines are mostly sweet and have very loyal fans, especially the Wabamin (translation: white berry) and Odeimin (strawberry).
Another 20 minutes up I-95 and a quick veer left onto Route 17 brings you to Hartwood Winery, a Virginia wine pioneer at 30 years old, and known for its friendliness (they love kids). The original vineyard was planted in 1981, and wines today include some unusual offers such as a chambourcin/niagara/seyval blend, a Beaujolais style red from chambourcin, and a Claret from cabernet sauvignon.
By now you’re starving, but hang in there: the last stop, Potomac Point Winery in Stafford, has a fun little Bistro with a full restaurant menu, including all-day Sunday Brunch. After lunch, step over to the wrap-around bar for a tasting. Grapes grown on-site include viognier, merlot, petit verdot and petit manseng. There’s plenty of outside deck space for a bit of relaxing before heading back up the road.
Who knew I-95 could be so much fun?
For more Virginia winery itineraries, pick up a copy of Nancy Bauer’s book, Virginia Wine Travel Journal 2019. ($15 on Amazon).