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.
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.
Recently opened in 2009, the tasting and hospitality center at Sweely Estate Winery boasts scenic vineyard views from the attached open-air terrace. As guests take in the sights of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, Sweely’s winesperts pour a medley of fine French-style wines, including reds aged in French oak barrels and whites enhanced by premium grapes in gravity flow. Compare and contrast the fermented flavors with the accompanying cheeses, then apply the included $10 credit toward a bottle of memories such as the refreshing Sweely Estate pinot gris ($16), graced with palate-tickling notes of green apple and citrus, or the Sweely Estate merlot ($20.95), swirled with mixed berry and minty overtones.
Inspired by the culture and the wines of Argentina, Bogati Bodega is designed to provide guests a welcome respite from the everyday. Guests enjoy internationally styled wine gather and relax in the cool shade of the “Buenos Aires Terrace”.
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.
A log cabin tucked between the Potomac and a dense blue grove of pines might seem more likely to dispense moonshine than merlot. But seen up close, the rustic timbers hold as much outright elegance as backwoods charm. In the summer, oenophiles nibble cheese and crackers to pair with sips of fruity whites, dry, robust reds, and sweet wines on the evergreen-scented veranda. In the winter, a roaring fire keeps things toasty while guests trade bites of fondue. The vintners ascribe to a philosophy of experimentation, tweaking their blends, methods, and California Raisin impressions based on customer feedback. The winery completes the picture of Arcadian bliss with a gift shop and gallery stocked by local artists.