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.
Though spectral forms and shadowy figures still reside in The Haunted Cottage, its greatest legacy is as the occasional vacation home of assassin John Wilkes Booth. Also known as the Booth House, The Haunted Cottage is home to paranormal researcher Vince Wilson, who helms the haunted abode's ghost tours and maintains the paranormal library and history museum, where guests can spy a vampire skeleton among other supernatural exhibits. All this knowledge pours from Vince's mouth during tours and investigations, which pair breakdowns of the house's 150-year history with actual equipment designed to catch ghosts, from cameras and digital recorders to EMF meters delicately hoisting a morsel of cheese.
The Haunted Cottage also strives to school spirit-seekers with paranormal-research training that cycles through parapsychology topics such as extrasensory perception, hypnosis, and psychic healing.
The sun has risen over Ridgefield Farm & Orchard for more than a century, dusting its orchard's apple trees, its winding cornfield maze, and its acres of pumpkins with warm, nurturing rays. Generations have flocked there from across the country, snipping fresh buds from flower gardens during the summer months or scampering though the pumpkin patch come fall. The advent of autumn also marks the beginning of the farm’s apple-picking season, when dwarf orchard trees grow heavy with juicy gala, empire, and 13 other varieties. After the annual pumpkin-picking and Halloween celebrations have passed, the grounds offer up an abundance of firs and spruces to be used as Christmas trees or stacked up and tied together into one giant Christmas tree. Throughout the year, the onsite country store peddles seasonal produce and housemade jams to boast the bounty of the farm's fields and to keep visitors fueled.
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.
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.
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.
River & Trail Outfitters owners Lee and Eunsook Baihly have been acquainting customers with the area's natural beauty since 1972. Their outdoor-exploration company's more than 70 friendly staffers accompany customers on relaxed, informative rafting, kayaking, canoeing, biking, and tubing excursions. In addition to having mastered river- and boat-safety skills, staff members are experienced in first aid, CPR, and the correct way to ask dolphins for directions. River & Trail Outfitters also accommodates businesses, organizing team-building events and rock-climbing excursions or hiking trips. The Baihlys' environmental commitment extends to an in-house recycling program and the use of biodiesel fuels.