Hitting the Wine Trail
By Bob Tagert
Hitting the Wine Trail
The month of October brings us Virginia Wine Month. Accordingly, we decided to take an extended trip through our favorite wine trails in Virginia for the October Road Trip.
Today there are over 300 wineries in Virginia and as many vineyards. When we started the Old Town Crier the most popular wines were Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Seyval and Rose. Today there are more wines available than I can name so….let’s get on the road.
Although we got a late start from Alexandria (10:45 am) we hit very little traffic on Route 66 due to the fact that the road construction has finally created four lanes except for a few merges. If it isn’t a weekday and 5:00 in the afternoon, Route 66 is the quickest way to get to wine and horse country.
When we got to Haymarket we took Route 15 south for two traffic lights and made a right on Route 55. This was the main road before Route 66 was born. Follow the road until you pass under Route 66 again and turn left at the sign for Pearmund Cellars. There will be another left turn in about a quarter mile or less that will get you to the winery. Chris Pearmund is not only wine maker, vineyard manager and owner but he didn’t stop with one winery, he is also involved with Vint Hill Winery, The Winery at La Grange and recently, Effingham Winery. The tasting room is smack dab in the middle of the vineyard with ample seating around the grounds. The barrel room is in the same building as the tasting room and invites a visit to admire the stacked barrels. All pandemic requirements are practiced here and if you forgot your cigars, you can find a good one here.
Our second stop was at Barrel Oak Winery and Farm Taphouse. Brian Roeder has created an open space winery that caters to guests with fresh oysters, pizza and fresh crafted brews in addition to excellent wines. As you will see by their ad in this issue, dogs are almost the preferred guests. There is ample parking here and socially spaced picnic tables. If you plan to go you can log on to their website and check out how to contact them and reserve a table for no more than six…but be on time. None of the wineries offer the traditional tastings but each one has a plan to get the right wine in your hand. Barrel Oak has an outdoor tasting bar set up where you can figure out which wine you would like to enjoy.
From Barrel Oak we picked up Route 55 to Markham and then picked up Leeds Manor Road towards Hume. At Hume turn right until you come to Rappahannock Cellars. I might add, Leeds Manor road and Hume road are beautiful this time of year. You will also come to Philip Carter Vineyards on Leeds Manor road, a descendant of one of the founders of the Virginia wine industry three centuries ago. This is a great winery with ample room to spread out.
Rappahannock Cellars is one of Virginia’s most dynamic wineries. Notice their solar panels at the back of the west side vineyard. Their wines are always some of the best in Virginia every year and they are previous winners of the prestigious Governors Cup. They also have a neat angle on tasting their products. Although I am used to test tube shooters, they take this to a new level where they create a flight of wines for your tasting pleasure. You can sample reds, whites or a combination and then make a decision on a bottle of wine to drink or a case to take home. While you are here, if you have a taste for a good brandy, gin or vodka, check out Dida’s Distillery. Here classic spirits are made from their high quality grapes. Their products do have a unique taste and well worth trying.
We began to head into Front Royal for a bite until we passed the Blue Ridge Country Store. I have passed this iconic country store for years and never stopped. After I passed by again I made a turn around and we went back. On the porch sat Jack Sharp, the proprietor. As a kid, my summer vacations were spent in a small rural town in Georgia…this place is a throwback to it. The required Coca-Cola signs are out front with a few homemade ones included. I have not used the term “laid back” in a long time…Jack is waaay laid back as is the store. Look for a Personality Profile on Jack in a future issue.
Reluctant to leave Jack, we were hungry so headed to Spelunker’s shakes and burgers in Front Royal. We indulged in a couple of their famous Cavern burgers and shared an order of fresh hand-cut fries. They are also famous for their shakes and custard but we opted for a diet Coke and some sweet tea on this trip. The next time will be a stop for a shake! Now that we were fortified, we headed to Strasburg and beyond to Woodstock, Virginia and Muse Vineyards.
If you have never been to Woodstock, you are missing a real treasure. There are a few towns that dot Route 11 South with Edinburg being the second town. Between the two, you can find restaurants and accommodations from times gone by. The North Branch of the Shenandoah River makes no fewer than eleven turns from Strasburg to Edinburgh. This source enriches the soil and makes for productive farms. The owners of Muse Vineyards have figured this out and have 50 acres of vines which are the sole supply for their wines. Muse offers a very unique sampling adventure. A flight of wines by the glass in a vertical display (see the photo). This winery is enclosed in one of the bends of the North Branch and is absolutely beautiful. The wines, as new as they are have already won one Governors Cup as well as other accolades. As is the case with the other wineries, Muse also offers tasty bites to eat. Muse was the last stop on this adventure as it was becoming late and we had an 80 mile ride home. If you decide to venture here and spend some time, Muse has a fantastic house that you can rent. For more details check out MuseVineyards.com.
For our return trip we decided to skip part of Interstate 66 and take a ride over the mountains to Luray and Route 211 east to Sperryville and Warrenton. From Edinburg, you can take Edinburg Gap Road that takes you over the North Branch of the Shenandoah River and across two mountains to the Shenandoah Valley. Be sure to take in the view at the top of the mountain before the valley. Once you reach Luray, Route 211 will take you over the next mountain and into Thornton Gap on Skyline Drive.
If you need a break, Sperryville is a small town but large in character. There are some ads in this publication from this enchanting town. Cottage Curator is a special place as is Copper Fox Distillery, where you can stop for a sip of their whiskey or a bottle to take home. From here continue on Route 211 East to Warrenton and Route 15 to Route 66. It is truly a beautiful drive after a long day. I really think that an overnight stay is in order for a trip like this. Two great options are available at Rappahannock Getaways – 29 Main in Sperryville and The Loft in Washington. Check out their ad in this issue. They book up fast so make your reservations early.
Although this round trip was over 200 miles, there are numerous wineries to visit on the way in order to shorten your trip. With all of the restrictions these past five months, it is a good time to take a road trip to the mountains this fall. Remember to wash your hands and wear your mask. The wineries take care of the social distancing.
Find a favorite winery in Virginia and bring a case or two home. Fall is the best time of the year for a Road Trip!