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.
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.
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.
Valley Ballooning takes passengers’ breaths away with safely obtained, unobstructed aerial views of the Shenandoah Valley’s majestic rivers, vineyards, and animal inhabitants. Tours at sunrise or sunset cover up to 10 miles, with experienced pilots pointing out such incomparable sights as whitetail deer bounding below or the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains frolicking in the distance. Winter flights include a warming cup of hot chocolate or coffee to keep passengers from growing envious of balloons, and toast packages conclude with the celebratory ringing of sparkling-cider glasses.
A massive figure floats across the sky, roars, and sends fire into the air as it elevates higher and higher. The creature soaring above the Shenandoah Valley isn't a common dragon—it's one of D&D Ballooning's hot air balloons. Since 1981, the company's steadfast pilots have welcomed children and adults into their floating baskets to feast upon views of lush forests and rolling mountainsides. D&D's colorful aircrafts take off just before sunset or sunrise, letting passengers gaze at a sky painted with rich reds, bright oranges, and pinks delicate enough to pad a princess's walls.
Louis Papadopoulos discovered his passion for classic winemaking in 1961 in a centuries-old vineyard outside of Athens, Greece. His first barrels—a red inspired by the mythical homeland of Hercules and an Athenian white that has been made for thousands of years—inspired him to found his own vineyard on a 40-acre farm in Corinth, where grapes flourished alongside orange and apricot groves. When his family relocated to Northern Virginia in 1984, Louis left his farm behind, but he continued to practice Old World winemaking techniques.
Today, the Papadopoulos family shares their love of wines at Mediterranean Cellars Winery, where guests can tour their rolling hills lined with rows of twisting vines heavy with grapes or enjoy glasses on the picturesque patio. Their selection covers a wide range of Old World varietals and regional specialties. The Rechina evokes traditional Greek dinner wine, the Chambourcin uses 100% Virginia-grown grapes to make a full-bodied red, and the limited-release Calypso rose treats palates to a finish far smoother than Odysseus’ departure from her island.
Whether it's in the back of a limo or the deck of a cruise ship, Capitol Wine Tours orchestrates glamorous wine-fueled outings every step of the way. Full-service planning—provided by sommeliers and event planners—takes the guesswork out of organizing ladies' nights, company events, and vendetta missions by spiteful grapevines. Professional drivers pick up tour goers and transport them to each carefully chosen winery, where they enjoy tastings and can picnic on the property with food they've brought along. Capitol Wine Tours also offers romantic outings for couples, fall foliage tours, and wine-country weddings.