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Plot Your Course through Virginia Wine Country

Plot Your Course through Virginia Wine Country
Written by Lia Grabowski | Photo by Tom McGovern

With more than two hundred vineyards and wineries, Virginia has made its mark as a wine country destination. For a manageable getaway, we’ve outlined how to drink your way through the Shenandoah Valley

Your Home Base

From the energetic hub of downtown Charlottesville, there’s an impressive twenty-seven vineyards and cidermakers with tasting rooms within a two-hour radius. But C-ville isn’t just a place to rest your head. For most of the year, the city is home to 16,000 University of Virginia undergraduates; the nearly 200-year-old university has shaped Charlottesville’s identity. And, from its mountaintop perch, Monticello has watched the city’s culture evolve, shaped by art, food, music, and business.

For breakfast, go for a café au lait and a chocolate almond croissant at MarieBette Cafe and Bakery. This haven for Francophiles has a counter brimming with fresh pastries and breads, plus a full sit-down brunch. Beer Run is another well-loved spot for brunch and it’s a one-stop shop for Virginia craft beers. Blenders whir with vibrantly colored fruit smoothies and açaí bowls at the Juice Laundry. If it’s carbs you need, try Bodo’s Bagels for a simple egg and cheddar on an everything bagel. Stroll down pedestrian-friendly West Main Street toward the university, and you’ll find some of the best specialty foods in town at Feast! Walk a little farther and ask a backpack-toting UVA student to point you toward the Lawn. Grab a Virginia ham sandwich at Take It Away to enjoy under the shadow of Jefferson’s iconic Rotunda.

C&O Restaurant is Charlottesville’s quintessential fine dining experience, with an unbeatable wine list. It’s also worthwhile to visit Belmont for dinner. On the outskirts of this popular residential neighborhood is authentic neapolitan pizza purveyor Lampo. Order a local draft and the margherita DOC as you sit in awe of the restaurant’s 6,000-pound Italian-made oven. An assembly of some of the best restaurants in town are nestled side-by-side in the center of Belmont. You can’t go wrong with anything on the laundry list of small plates at Mas Tapas. But before you book reservations anywhere, check the menus at Tavola and the Local.

After dinner, it’s back downtown to the Alley Light for a Dealer’s Choice made by celebrated mixologist Micah LeMon, who crafts many of the bar’s tinctures and infusions in-house.

Boasting some ninety stalls, Charlottesville City Market is a hub of activity on Saturday mornings between April and December. The popularity and scale of the farmers market is indicative of the city’s appreciation for locally sourced goods. The market is adjacent to downtown’s open-air pedestrian mall, which is the best area to stroll and shop. Check out New Dominion Bookshop, the oldest independent bookseller in Virginia.

Hit the Trail

Make the short jaunt from Charlottesville to pick up Interstate 81 and you’re already spoilt for choice. There’s Ox-Eye Vineyards’ tasting room in downtown Staunton’s wharf district. Owners John and Susan Kiers have been growing grapes in Augusta County and supplying area wineries since 1996. In 2010, they started bottling their own estate wines, putting out unique options like Traminette (a dry white with notes of lychee and mango­), Grüner Veltliner (a full-bodied white popular in Eastern Europe), and Lemberger (a peppery red from the Blaufränkisch grape).

In nearby Fishersville, Barren Ridge Vineyards honors its historic roots. Owner John Higgs inherited the abandoned property that was once a booming apple orchard—in its heyday, it was the largest apple producer in the country. After an inspiring stint in Europe, Higgs and his wife transformed the property, retaining some of the original structures and finishing others in reclaimed wood from the circa-1890 apple shed. Since the first planting in 2007, Barren Ridge has racked up accolades, including top marks in the inaugural Shenandoah Cup festival in 2019.

Want to mix things up? Rockbridge Vineyard in Raphine launched a brewery venture last November. Now visitors can visit the taproom for a selection of five small-batch brews, including a Black IPA that pairs dark malt flavors with the usual hoppy notes. Back on the wine side, the two-time Virginia Governor’s Cup winner offers affordable bottles that drink high-end. If dessert wine is your jam, look for a bottle of the 2017 V d’Or—made in the style of an ice wine, the orange-and-honey inflected blend took home top marks in 2020.

Will Brake for Cider

About halfway between Charlottesville and the state’s northern border, a few impressive cideries are tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley. The first, Old Hill Hard Cider, is part of a century-old orchard; owner Shannon Showalter’s father took over the property in 1965, making it a popular destination for farm-fresh produce and the highly anticipated Showalter’s Apple Cider released each fall. Shannon and his wife Sarah jumped on the hard cider train when the industry began to flourish in 2010 and the couple shows no sign of slowing down. Sample the different bottles on offer for a taste of how apple varietals and terroir make the tasting notes in hard cider just as complex as your favorite wines.

In downtown Harrisonburg, Sage Bird Ciderworks started as a homebrew project for owners Zach and Amberlee Carlson. While their original gallon of mead didn’t quite pan out, the fermentation bug was firmly rooted, and the couple moved on to experimenting with cider. Six years later they opened Sage Bird’s brick and mortar, offering tastings of their ciders from Virginia-grown apples and special seasonal varieties that mimic other beverages you may recognize. If you’re a sucker for sour beer, try the tart Summer Harvest Sour. IPA lover? Dolly Hops combines apples with blueberries and hops for an earthy-fruity sip. Chardonnay all day? Pass the Sauce has those same oaky notes, plus a tang from tart cranberry.

Make the Trek

At the furthest reaches from base camp, you’ll find a handful of family-owned operations worth visiting. Briedé Family Vineyards, run by Virginia natives Paul and Loretta Briedé, focuses on sustainable practices and unique grape hybrids. (They also import an impressive selection of French Champagnes if you’re in the market for an elegant souvenir.)

Stop at both Veramar Vineyard and James Charles Winery for a taste of the Bogaty family’s dedication to winemaking, which spans three generations. Patriarch James Charles Bogaty started the operation twenty years ago with Veramar; his son Justin joined as winemaker the following year. Since then, the businesses have expanded to three distinct locations, all of which fuse Old World traditions with Virginia-grown grapes. Pick up a lesser-known bottle, like Seyval Blanc—notes of golden delicious apple and fresh honeysuckle—or a friendly blend, like the Red Rooster, a combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec that makes for a floral and peppery end product.

Plot your course
from North to South

Briedé Family VineyardsWinchester
Open Saturdays and Sundays

Winchester CiderworksWinchester 
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

James Charles Winery & Vineyard | Winchester
Open everyday

Veramar Vineyard | Berryville
Open everyday

Twin Oaks Tavern Winery | Bluemont
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Valerie Hill Vineyard & Winery | Stephens City
Open everyday 

Star in the Valley Estate Winery | Strasburg
Open Fridays and Saturdays

Cedar Creek Winery | Star Tannery
Open Fridays and Saturdays 

North Mountain Vineyard & Winery | Maurertown
Open Wednesday through Sunday

Glen Manor Vineyards | Front Royal
Closed Tuesdays

Muse Vineyards | Woodstock
Open everyday

Shenandoah Vineyards | Edinburg
Open everyday 

Wolf Gap Vineyard & Winery | Edinburg
Closed Tuesday through Thursday

Cave Ridge Vineyard | Mount Jackson
Closed Tuesdays

Winery at Kindred Pointe | Mount Jackson
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Old Hill Cider | Timberville
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Wisteria Farm & Vineyard | Stanley
Open Friday through Sunday

Sage Bird Ciderworks | Harrisonburg
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Bluestone Vineyard | Bridgewater
Open everyday

Brix & Columns Vineyards | McGaheysville
Open everyday

Marceline Vineyards | Mount Crawford
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

CrossKeys Vineyards | Mount Crawford
Open everyday

Ox-Eye Vineyards | Staunton
Open everyday

Barren Ridge Vineyards | Fishersville
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Rockbridge Vineyard & Brewery | Raphine
Closed Mondays

12 Ridges Vineyard | Vesuvius
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Lexington Valley Vineyard | Rockbridge Baths
Open Saturdays and Sundays

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