Make Mine Virginia Wine
, the bumper stickers boast. I suppress a giggle at my hopeless
kinsmen, who are enormously proud and outspoken about Virginia culture and heritage. Virginians aren’t exactly modest about their roots. I am reminded repeatedly that Virginia was the site of the first English Colony at Jamestown, the home of the Founding Fathers, and the first vineyards in the New World, when Thomas Jefferson transplanted grape vines from France to his own backyard at Monticello.
Over 200 years after Jefferson's first attempt, Virginia is experiencing a renaissance of wine-making, as vineyards are sprouting up across the state, and the government entices farmers with tax breaks for growing grapes. Despite my Virginian pedigree, I’ve been a little reluctant to try the wine, my mouth puckering in anticipation of the grape-juice-vinegar that would surely disappoint. After all, I’ve been living in San Francisco for four years, nurturing a taste for Napa wines like Opus One that I can’t afford, and pride myself on having tasted wines on global travels from Tuscany to New Zealand's Marlborough Valley.
My father's wisdom finally broke through my obstinacy, on a recent drive through the beautiful Virginia Piedmont. This time of year the Blue Ridge Mountains are aflame with orange and crimson, just the beginning of Fall's show of colors. We pulled over at Gray Ghost vineyards
, a quaint winery just off Route 211 near Warrenton. As I pictured, the cool stone room was brimming with Virginia artifacts, memorabilia and lore—especially about the mythical Civil War hero whose picture adorns each namesake bottle of Gray Ghost. What I hadn’t pictured was the genuine warmth and Southern hospitality in this little space. Despite all that Virginia state pride, this country house is unpretentious and down-right humble when it comes to their wine.
I sniffed a glass of their talked-about dessert wine and slowly ventured a sip. I was in for a shock. Wow, this stuff was good. Too bad the harvest this year produced such a limited number of cases.
Simply put: Now I’m hooked. I’m planning to tour as many vineyards as possible in this great state. Apparently even environmentally-sensitive rocker Dave Matthews
has a vineyard near Charlottesville now. And what a better time for a roadtrip than now? The leaves are changing, and October is Virginia Wine Month.
Below is a sampling of the special events and tastings (also found here
) along with a smattering of recommended luxury hotels in the vicinity:
Farfelu's Harvest Days Weekend
13058 Crest Hill Road
Flint Hill, VA 22627 (Rappahannock County)
Enjoy an afternoon of fine wine and live music amid the fall foliage. Challenge your friends to a game of horseshoes or bocce ball or hike the river trail. Special wine discounts and gourmet cheese and sausage available for purchase. Located just 60 minutes west of Washington, DC, Farfelu Vineyards offers award winning wines in a one-of-a-kind rustic setting. Tour the 1860’s dairy barn-turned-tasting room, linger on the expansive deck, picnic on locally-produced artisan cheeses and sausages or grill up your own feast at the picnic pavilion. Pet Friendly! Well-behaved dogs on leash always welcome.
Date: Saturday, October 08, 2005 - Monday, October 10, 2005
Where to stay?
I venture to say that the The Inn at Little Washington
is one of the top hotels in the country. As a kid, the Inn loomed in my imagination as the
destination for weekenders from the other Washington (DC), and beyond that—travelers from all over the world. With country stores, craft shops and galleries, the town of Washington is almost too-cute. (People actually live here?!)
Northern Neck Seafood Extravaganza at Ingleside
5872 Leedstown Rd.
Oak Grove, VA 22443 (Westmoreland County)
Get the best seafood in the Chesapeake Bay area on Virginia's Northern Neck. Enjoy live music, tours, tastings, wine and gift specials. Includes souvenir glass $40
Date: Saturday, October 08, 2005
Where to Stay? The Tides Inn
is located in Tidewater’s quaint town of Irvington. This landmark hotel recently celebrated its 55th season with a lovely, full restoration. Dine in one of four restaurants overlooking the Chesapeake Bay watershed, or relax in the full-service, waterfront spa. The Inn also offers a golf course and clay court tennis. But the best feature is the daily yacht cruise aboard the Miss Ann, the 127-ft National Historic boat, docked in the hotel’s 5-Bell marina.
Monticello Wine Trail Festival
Jeffersonian Wine Grape Growers Society
1486 Oalencroft Lane
Charlottesville, VA 22901 (Albemarle County)
The festival is held at The Boar's Head Inn, Route 250 in Charlottesville. Experience the beautiful fall colors while tasting award winning wines from 18 of The Monticello Viticultural Area wineries. Craft vendors, food available at an additional cost, free parking and entertainment. Bring a picnic, sit by the lake and enjoy the day.
Date: Saturday, October 01, 2005 - Sunday, October 02, 2005
Autumn Starry Nights at Veritas Vineyards & Winery
Veritas Vineyards & Winery
145 Saddleback Farm
Afton, VA 22920 (Nelson County)
Autumnal bliss by the fireplace inside or out. Enjoy live music, dancing, wine and a great crowd. Bring your blankets and picnic baskets to watch the sun go down and the stars come out. Reservations accepted for tables, lawn always available.
Date: Sunday, October 09, 2005
Clover Forest Plantation Wine Festival
Clover Forest Plantation
5371 Whittcamp Road (Route 618)
Goochland, VA 23063 (Goochland County)
Each year the Clover Forest Plantation holds a Wine Festival to celebrate winemaking in Virginia and to help a deserving charity. This year's beneficiary is once again Goochland Fellowship & Family Service, a family-oriented organization dedicated to "helping others help themselves" since 1952. The Festival will feature arts and crafts, live music, food, exhibits and demonstrations, and of course the vintages and vintners of several noteable Virginia wineries. For an extra charge (weather and wind conditions permitting) patrons can enjoy a hot air balloon ride. The lovely Clover Forest mansion is newly opened as a Country Inn, and so patrons can enjoy a free house tour and learn about the architecture and history from costumed historic interpreters.
Date: Saturday, October 22, 2005 - Sunday, October 23, 2005
Where to Stay? Keswick Hall
is located in the heart of Virginia hunt country, close to historic Charlottesville and only minutes from Thomas Jefferson's historic Monticello. Formerly known as Villa Crawford, the hotel has been sensitively restored to create a unique and intimate hotel with grand style. The country estate boasts clay and hard tennis courts, fitness center and spa services, and a stunning horizon-edge swimming pool. Keswick Hall’s Arnold Palmer Signature Gold Course is one of exceptional natural beauty, featuring ancient oaks, grassy wetlands, streams and spectacular mountain views. The 48 rooms are individually and distinctly designed with luxurious furnishings. All offer views of either the championship designed Golf Course, beautiful Virginian countryside or the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.