In early September, just as the first signs of fall nip at the landscape around the quiet pond and the rolling vineyard—that's when the time is right for Miracle Valley Vineyard to harvest the grapes that will become its estate-grown cabernet franc. But as is so often the case with wine, patience in consuming it is rewarded. The cabernet franc's enticing bouquet of raspberries and violets gives way to a rounded mouthfeel, which balances the ripe fruit flavors with its restrained tannins. During the rest of the year, customers could stick to one of the vineyard's half-dozen other wines, including an off-dry rosé with a lingering sweetness to match its pink hue.
The wine is the main attraction at Miracle Valley, but the grounds are just as enticing. The winery frequently hosts graduations, rehearsal dinners, and other gatherings for up to 50 people, not to mention group tastings in a tasting room that overlooks the lush scenery. While guests are there, they can stroll the territory, perhaps stumbling across bullets from the Civil War raids that took place in the area.
On a stroll through Cobbler Mountain Cellars' winery, one might come across owners Jeff and Laura McCarthy Louden guiding visitors to the cozy tasting room. There, the married vintners describe taste-size samples from their reserve, such as an oak-and-stainless-aged Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of dark cherry and tobacco. The winery's 2011 Meritage won the gold medal award at the Virginia Wine 2014 Governor's Cup Awards while their Hard Apple Cider took home the silver medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in 2014. The Loudens pair their estate wines with samples of local artisanal cheeses and croissants that can be purchased on site.
The pumpkin patch at Hollin Farms contains ten acres of fresh-grown, highly pickable pumpkins. Adopt a lonely uncarved jack-o'-lantern ($.50 a pound), or invite a pie-worthy pumpkin to holiday dinner ($.70 a pound). Fall greens such as turnips, mustard greens, kale, bok choy, radishes, and lettuce ($2 a pound) complement autumn crops of yellow gourds and juicy red apples; pick an unpickled peck for $8 (roughly 32 apples). A lifetime of penciled practice on the backs of cereal boxes couldn't even prepare visitors for the five-acre amazing maze of maize, a free corn labyrinth housed on the premises. For a preview of what to expect around the farm, check out this moving-picture preview.
Bearing the surname of the wealthy, 17th-century Virginian Robert "King" Carter, owner Philip Carter Strother—Robert’s direct descendant and a 12th-generation Virginian—strives to keep his family’s deep winemaking roots alive at Philip Carter Winery. Robert’s sons, Charles and Landon, made wine from the grapes they cultivated on the grounds of their plantation in the mid 1700s, driven by a 1619 law that required all Virginian landowners to maintain at least 10 vines and one three-cornered hat. But the Carters took it further than that, eventually planting 1,800 vines along the banks of the Rappahannock River by 1754.
Fast-forward more than 250 years to 2008, when 27 acres overlooking the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains were purchased. There, Philip Carter Strother would oversee the planting of 1,800 vines in a symbolic nod to his ancestors. Today, daily tastings, educational sessions, tours, and corkscrew lessons take place to let guests peruse the vineyard's rousing [collection of vintages] that helped garner the honors of a Gold for Best Wine Tour in Virginia and Silver for Best Winery in Virginia from Virginia Wine Lover Magazine (http://gr.pn/LS3IXr). Acclaimed wines include the full-bodied flagship 2010 Cleve blend, winner of a 2013 Virginia Governor's Cup gold medal, the 2011 Gov. Fauquier chardonnay, and the bright, acidic 2012 Rosewell.
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