A 30-acre swath of lush, Red Oak Mountain terrain surrounds Capitol Vineyards' historic facilities, where owners Lauren Shrem and Matthew Noland forge an eclectic collection of French-style wines from Virginia grapes. With help from a resident French winemaker and vintners across the state, they press an array of vintages, dispensing the elixirs during events inside the facility's historic, rustic tasting room. Constructed as a post office in the 1800s and used as a general store in the early 1900s, the site still bears its original wooden bar, floors, and grizzled prospector.
Vintage Piedmont unites a grandiose group of family wineries, each cozily sprawled within a 15-mile distance of the others. Ernest oenophiles can mosey among them at their own pace, ensuring no one exhausts their seeing-eye elephant. Barrel Oak Winery boasts a pastoral setting, 20 acres of vines, and a BowHaus white that blends vidal blanc, sauvignon, viognier, and more for a bright flavor ($24). At Philip Carter Winery, the 2009 chardonnay intermixes lemon zest, a vanilla bouquet, and pear notes ($24). Desert Rose Ranch & Winery sustains an unpretentious atmosphere, unlike snobbish grape groups for third cousins of royalty. Varietals include the Hitch Hollow chardonnay aged in French oak barrels, or the Sparky, a European-style rosé. Rappahannock Cellars and Hume Vineyards regale taste buds with delectable drinks from locally grown grapes. At each libation station, take home two commemorative wine glasses and receive 10% off bottles of wine.
Rolling hills and meadows cascade toward the organic-farming grounds that surround Paris Barns, where red-roofed buildings and metallic grain silos stand as pleasant punctuations against the lush landscape. The Virginian soil hosts more than 10,500 tomato plants, as well as other seasonal vegetables and herbs. The grounds also act as a certified wildlife habitat for goats, lambs, and alpacas, as well as more exotic animals such as flightless emus, which entertain visitors with their aggressive posturing and spot-on Groucho Marx impersonations.
In addition to harvesting their crops, the zen-minded farmers share their passion for sustainable living with the community at events and workshop that dish the ins and outs of organic farming. When the weather turns warm, the staffers shear wool from the resident sheep and alpacas, demonstrate crafts, and sell fiber-based arts. Meanwhile, beekeepers raid rows upon rows of hives for pure, organic honey.
Wind rustles through the trees of the George Washington National Forest as knobby bike tires crunch over fallen leaves on a single-lane rocky trail. While mounted on rented Kona mountain bikes and outfitted with Kali protective gear, cyclists navigate trails that wind through the forest and the Massanutten mountain range, led by Shenandoah Trail Cruisers's seasoned guides. Their tours are customized to suit riders' abilities, preferred duration, and desired level of Sasquatch interaction. Each begins with a basic introduction to mountain biking before groups embark on trails that range from easy gravel roads and packed dirt and single-track trails to more advanced and rugged trails with steep slopes, bumpy roads, and scattered mud patches, resulting in rides that teach shifting, breaking, body position, and adjusting riding to new obstacles.
About 90 minutes from Washington, DC, Historic Rosemont Manor is nestled atop a picturesque knoll looking eastward over the Shenandoah Valley. Gardens, trails, and walking paths crisscross the manor’s expansive grounds, but nature lovers venturing off property can visit the nearby State Arboretum of Virginia, which offers free admission every day of the year to visitors drawn by its 300-tree ginkgo grove, sinuous trails, and other attractions. At Cedar Creek Battlefield, an attached museum details one of the Civil War's most crucial battles, and walking trails lead pedestrians through the battlefield’s earthworks. Local ranches lure equestrians with the clip-clop of horseback rides, and hot-air balloons allow travelers to fly like a majestic eagle or a mutant birdman as they soar over the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering pristine views of the landscape.
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.