At Shenandoah Buick GMC, drivers amble through an exhaustive inventory of new and used cars, truck, and luxury SUVs. Sales associates can pair customers with the latest roadsters to come off the assembly line, including the 2013 GMC Sierra 1500 and Buick Enclave, or foster an introduction to certified pre-owned Cadillac, Chevys, and Pontiacs. GM-trained technicians can tackle seasonal checks, order genuine replacement parts, or get your OnStar system to stop telling you where you went off track in your quest to be a full-contact mime.
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, from the full-bodied flagship 2010 Cleve blend, winner of a 2013 Virginia Governor's Cup gold medal, to the bright, acidic 2012 Rosewell.
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.
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 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association awarded the winery's 2010 cabernet franc and 2010 petit verdot bronze medal awards, and the 2009 meritage won a bronze medal at the 2012 Nextgen Wine Competition. The Loudens pair their estate wines with samples of local artisanal cheeses and breads.
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.