If there's anything that matches The Winery at Bull Run's owners' passion for wine, it might be their passion for American history. Knowing the land’s proximity to historic battles, before breaking ground on their new winery the owners teamed up with Civil War excavators to salvage hundreds of bullets, buttons, and breastplates that laid dormant underneath the winery’s Centreville soil since the 1860s.
While sipping on award-winning red and white wines in the tasting room, guests can look over display cases full of artifacts and listen to stories of the farmland's historic past. During warmer months, guests are welcome to relax on the outdoor stone ruins, whose waist-high walls and stone fireplace are all that remain from the original 19th-century estate house.
Like a United Nations of varietals, some of the world’s tastiest wines from countries such as Argentina, Chile, Italy, and France are well-represented within Jackie’s Wine Bar. Connoisseurs savor the unique notes of each pour while investigating the black-framed pictures on Jackie’s coffee-colored walls and the shelves of wine bottles that vie for attention behind the bar by wearing chic designer labels. On Thursday evenings, free salsa lessons invite patrons to set down their glasses and grab their dance partner’s hand; Saturday nights feature live bands that serve dulcet melodies as aromatic bouquets serenade olfactory receptors. Fresh air courses through Jackie’s outdoor patio, where visitors can alternate between sips of wine or beer and bites of sandwiches, desserts, and appetizers.
Dealing directly with venerated wineries, the swirling and sniffing staff at Finewine.com purveys a fine roster of pleasing potables. The trio of vinos hails from California’s Vaquero Cellars, which selects the best grapes from nearby vineyards with a meticulous eye. After barrel-aging for 22 months, the merlot emerges with a full body and a crisp taste, and bright cherry and cranberry lend complexity to the pinot noir’s deep hue and dense poetry. A deep-colored syrah, bursting with the aroma of ripe fruit and knowing glances, rounds out the package.
The vintners at Vint Hill Winery craft nuanced wines out of ripe fruit plucked from California, Washington, and Virginia. Tint your taste buds with two flights of wine per person while lounging on the balcony, which overlooks a barn that was used to intercept messages during WWII and shelter stray cats in 1991. Vint Hill sends sommeliers on their way with a bottle of french-oak barrel-fermented 2008 chardonnay and a 2008 merlot—an herbaceous red with harmonious notes of wild fruit, tobacco, and black pepper. Adopted quaffs may be sipped from the provided, decorative wine glasses or poured down the gullet of a timid schooner before its maiden voyage.
Grape and Grain tours bestow imbibers with a whirlwind six hours to sip and savor a kaleidoscope of diverse beverages. A chauffeur from Prime Transportation begins the day by whisking patrons to a brewery, distillery, and winery, each of which grants samples of their unique brews and vintages while instilling educational tidbits about their creation. At the Mediterranean-style Potomac Point Winery, patrons explore the wine cave and tour the cellar, dining on a bistro lunch and stopping at the olive oil bar to tend jaws creaky from chewing. At Blue and Gray Brewing Company, samples of seasonal beers emerge straight from the tanks to wash down a complimentary dessert, and the tour of family-owned A. Smith Bowman Distillery—a Fredericksburg mainstay since 1934—imparts tricks of the brewing trade that toe the line between tradition and innovation. Discounts on return visits and gift-shop merchandise urge tours to return, and patrons depart with souvenir glasses from each venue that will always remind them not to drink out of the brewer's tank.
If there's one word to describe the success of Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, it's persistence. Owner and winemaker Lew Parker planted the first vines on what is now Willowcroft's home vineyard in 1980, but they didn't grow. They died. Doubt about the feasibility of the project came from everywhere, including the Virginia Extension Service. Lew planted anyway, and in 1981 he grew his first cabernet sauvignon, riesling, and chardonnay grapes. Today, through Lew's hard work and horticultural innovation, Willowcroft bottles 14 different varietals from reds such as the merlot and cabernet franc to whites such as the chardonnay or muscat-ottonel.
Willowcroft's wines maintain a crisp, clean flavor due to the winery's sustainable dry farming, and have garnered a litany of awards since their first vintages in 1984. However, the wine isn't the only draw to the winery. Located atop Catoctin Ridge, panoramic views unfurl from the winery's tasting barn and open terraces, where visitors can enjoy cheese and wine purchased onsite.
Situated along the pastoral countryside, the family-owned-and-operated Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard produces flavorful Bordeaux-style wines in a charming, rustic setting. With today's Groupon, you and a fermentation fanatic get a full tasting of Sugarloaf's award-winning wines, from the brick-red cabernet Franc to the French-oak-aged chardonnay. Once you've introduced your taste buds to each potential grape suitor, you and your tasting-mate each get a glass of preferred wine and a scrumptious assortment of cheeses, complete with olive tapenade to pair. You'll also get two souvenir wine glasses, engraved with the vineyard's name, to take home and display next to other fine glassware, such as your Wrestlemania '87 juice glasses.