James River Cellars' picturesque vineyard welcomes guests to seasonal events throughout the year and yields 15 varieties of wines, including the Winner of the Governor’s Cup for the best Virginia wine of 2005. The 6th annual Harvest Wine Festival turns wine keys on Saturday, September 3, from noon to 5 p.m., come rain, shine, or eclipses that make the sun look like a dilated trout eye. Imbibers can sip flights from four wineries, tour the grounds, or expand their knowledge of fermented grape potables during wine 101 seminars. Live music dances in the air, as oenophiles examine wares from local craftspeople and check out treats from food vendors. Alternatively, festival-goers can pack picnics for groups and discerning family pets ($2 admission fee) for an afternoon on the vineyard grounds. To maintain an open festival ambiance, there is no seating, but visitors can tote picnic blankets or sectional sofas.
Nestled in America's Historic Triangle in an area that was first colonized in 1633, The Williamsburg Winery stretches across 320 acres of picturesque farmland known as the Wessex Hundred. The vineyard's first grape-crushing dances took place in 1987, and they've since developed to produce 25 sip-ready varietals along with a lengthy list of vintage library wines ideal for tucking in a cellar or serving to a homesick time traveler from 1993.
In a setting styled to evoke the mood of an 18th-century European winery, tours meander along a pebbled walkway alongside simple stucco structures before ducking inside a quaint wine museum. Inside the tasting room, private wine cellar, or the Gabriel Archer Tavern that overlooks the grounds, oenophiles can swirl, sip, and throw their heads back to gurgle aged libations from a large roster of wines.
Grape and Grain tours bestow imbibers with a whirlwind six hours to sip and savor a kaleidoscope of diverse beverages. A chauffeur from Prime Transportation begins the day by whisking patrons to a brewery, distillery, and winery, each of which grants samples of their unique brews and vintages while instilling educational tidbits about their creation. At the Mediterranean-style Potomac Point Winery, patrons explore the wine cave and tour the cellar, dining on a bistro lunch and stopping at the olive oil bar to tend jaws creaky from chewing. At Blue and Gray Brewing Company, samples of seasonal beers emerge straight from the tanks to wash down a complimentary dessert, and the tour of family-owned A. Smith Bowman Distillery—a Fredericksburg mainstay since 1934—imparts tricks of the brewing trade that toe the line between tradition and innovation. Discounts on return visits and gift-shop merchandise urge tours to return, and patrons depart with souvenir glasses from each venue that will always remind them not to drink out of the brewer's tank.
First Colony Winery celebrates the history and heritage of local viniculture by crafting a cellar’s worth of European-style wines. After sampling from their selection of eight ambrosias—including a tropical seyval blanc and full-bodied tannat—amid the exposed wood beams and checkerboard floors of the elegant tasting room, corral a full glass of your favorite varietal and venture onto the covered patio to savor views of sun-soaked hills while gargling the intricate melodies from Dvorak's New World symphony. Guests then go home with a pair of branded souvenir wine glasses with which they can use as drink vessels at home or as miniature hot tubs for over-indulged troll dolls.
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.
Like the tail feathers of its peacock mascot, Narmada Vineyards is best described by the colors on display at the 51-acre winery. Foremost is the verdant green of the vines, contrasted with the purple grapes and clear blue of the neighboring lake. Then there are the wines themselves, ranging in hue from deep burgundy to bright peach. And finally, there's the metallic sheen of the winery's numerous awards, an avalanche of gold from contests such as the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Of course, a winery can't thrive on looks alone. Combining a background in chemistry with her discerning taste, winemaker Sudha Patil concocts a range of reds, whites, and dessert wines that pair readily with food. The majority of the winery's ingredients are grown on the property, with the remainder sourced from Virginian growers. These handcrafted vintages, producing a modest 3,000 cases per year, are poured inside a rustic tasting room decorated with leather couches, hardwood furniture, and large windows.