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.
Named for its location at the western end of the W&OD Trail, Trail's End Cycling Co welcomes cyclists of all stripes with a hefty inventory of gear and bikes alongside mechanical services. Each of the store's experienced staffers is also a mechanic qualified to fit bikes to riders' proportions or the gaudiness of racing stripes to their egos. When not training for the bicycle Iditarod, lead mechanic James Hodges channels 20 years of bike-industry experience into his tune-up tasks, and pro wrencher Bill McCarrick specializes in triathlete bike repair and prep.
The same able staffers also lead custom tours of wineries, fall foliage, and other seasonal sights in warm weather. During the winter, riders can pedal out of hibernation with indoor training rides atop their own bikes, which are secured on special mounts to keep them from zipping away.
Swedenburg is located on historic Valley View Farm, which dates back to 1762 and still has a slight fondness for powdered wigs. The vineyard itself was planted by the Swedenburg family in the 1980s, more than 200 years after the farmland was originally cultivated. Today, the family still lives in the original, Colonial-era "Patent House," a testament to the farm's long history. When you pay a visit to Swedenburg, be prepared for hospitality befitting the landscape and Old World values. Weather permitting, picnic tables with umbrellas are set up for a relaxing wine tasting amid the bucolic splendor. Sample the six wines the vineyard produces, including Riesling with green-apple notes, the dark, oak-berry richness of pinot noir, and a semi-dry rosé for middle-ground wine balance.
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.
As summer turns to fall, the 200-year-old Nightmare Manor opens its doors to scare-seeking guests. Inside, actors portraying the spirits of the Manor's former residents who died in a tragic fire frighten explorers with detailed scenes and special effects as they transverse a series of rooms and surrounding property that would strike fear into the heart of any human, whether dead or undead. In addition to this macabre attraction, Nightmare Manor also houses an outdoor theater, bungee run, and bonfire.