Virginia, United states
Historically significant sites, picturesque pastoral landscapes, elegant equestrians and affable winemakers set Virginia apart as an excellent wine destination on the East Coast. With six AVAs and nearly 200 wineries to explore in every part of the state, a comprehensive visit is nearly impossible. Luckily, visitors can begin their Virginia wine journey in Washington, D.C., and take in terrific wineries, historic inns, outdoor activities and mouthwatering meals via scenic drives through Loudoun County and Charlottesville.
Where to taste:
At North Gate Vineyard, the solar-powered, LEED Gold-certified winery building features a wheelchair-accessible tasting room and live music. The Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville boasts spectacular mountain and sunset views. It offers affordable tastings ($7 for seven wines) and monthly “Winemaker for a Day” events that let novices blend their own wines. Celebrated rocker Dave Matthews owns Blenheim Vineyards, a scenic Charlottesville winery, and designs the labels of the wines created by Winemaker Kristy Harmon. The timber-frame tasting room is dog-friendly and located just five miles from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Visitors to Charlottesville should consider a stop at the Trump Winery—formerly the renowned Kluge Estate and Vineyards; the tasting room features an outdoor terrace where guests can sample wines while taking in 900 acres of scenery.
Prominent wine varieties:
Virginia is well-known for producing voluptuous Viognier and food-friendly, Bordeaux-style blends. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are grown in abundance, along with Petit Verdot and Merlot.
Where to dine:
Local cheeses and meats are the focus at The Wine Kitchen, a convivial wine bar with themed flights (such as “Pinot Envy”). Set in a restored 19th-century grain mill in Old Town Leesburg, the rustic Tuscarora Mill offers local ingredient-packed dishes, 14 beers on tap and a 2,000-bottle cellar. Vintage, in the gorgeous Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, offers Southern specialties with a global twist.
Where to stay:
On the premises of the gorgeous Barboursville Vineyards is the 1804 Inn, a restored 19th-century estate and Palladio, the vineyard’s Italian eatery. The 265-acre Goodstone Inn and Estates, with roots dating to 1768, is located near 30 wineries, and offers a fine restaurant and luxurious plantation-style accommodations.
Rachel Martin, executive vice president of Boxwood Winery, says: “The Middleburg area is rich with agriculture. Regional specialties flourish
under Chef Tarver King at Ashby Inn where local food and wines mix perfectly.”
Tour the plantation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, take a horseback riding lesson or get lost in 500 miles of trails at Shenandoah National Park.
October is Virginia’s “Wine Month,” with free or low-cost wine festivals, barrel tastings and harvest parties.
When to go:
While wineries are open year-round, stunning fall foliage makes autumn a prime time to visit.
Blenheim Vineyards: blenheimvineyards.com
The Inn at Willow Grove: theinnatwillowgrove.com
The Wine Kitchen: thewinekitchen.com
North Gate Vineyard: northgatevineyard.com
Shenandoah National Park: nps.gov
Sunset Hills Vineyard: sunsethillsvineyard.com
Tuscarora Mill: tuskies.com
Additional Wineries to Visit:
Boxwood Estate Winery
With its state-of-the-art, modern barrel room and gorgeous grounds, Boxwood is a must-visit. Run by the family of former Redskins owner John Kent Cooke, the 16-acre vineyard produces estate-bottled Bordeaux-style blends (renowned French winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt consults). Call ahead to schedule a tasting and tour.
Located on the banks of the Potomac River, this scenic, 475-acre vineyard in the Catoctin foothills offers visitors a stunning setting in which to taste their single-vineyard wines. Don’t miss Tarara’s top-seller, Viognier.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
It doesn’t get more farm-to-table than at this restaurant. Rustic American cuisine—featuring organic produce from Patowmack Farm—is served in a window-filled space overlooking the Potomac River and pastoral grounds.
Goodstone Inn and Restaurant
Chef William Walden’s earthy but refined French food wins wide acclaim and the lengthy wine list has many local Virginia selections. Favorite dishes include Duck L’Orange and a Wild Mushroom Crepe (with shiitake, hedgehog, oyster and hen of the woods mushrooms) drizzled with truffle sauce.
Try this classic Virginia recipe:
Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb
The restaurant at the Goodstone Inn in Middleburg—the heart of Virginia’s wine country— is renowned for elegant French-inflected fare, seasonal ingredients and local wines in a historic dining room. This recipe from Chef William Walden showcases tender Colorado lamb and herbess de provence.
For the chapelure:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of herbes de provence
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Coleman’s Mustard
Dash white wine
For the lamb:
2 French cut lamb racks (preferably organic or Colorado, about 28 ounces each)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1½ tablespoons pepper, divided
½ tablespoon thyme
½ cup tablespoon Coleman’s Mustard
½ cup chapelure
Mint or rosemary sprigs, for garnish
To prepare the chapelure:
Add the extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic to a skillet and cook until fragrant. Remove at once, reserving the oil. Add the oil to the breadcrumbs and mix by hand or with a wooden spoon and season with herbes de provence. Lastly, add a little salt and freshly cracked pepper to the crumbs, then add Coleman's Mustard with a splash of white wine, just enough to make a smooth consistency, and whisk.
To prepare the lamb:
Season the lamb racks with 1 tablespoon each sea salt and pepper on both sides. Rub in ½ tablespoon of thyme and ½ tablespoon additional black pepper. Brush the racks with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Sear in a hot skillet loin side down until browned nicely. Brush with the Coleman's Mustard and then coat the rack(s) generously with the chapelure. Roast at 450°F for about 8 minutes for medium-rare. Let the rack rest for about 4 minutes until carving. “I prefer to use 26–28-ounce racks as there is a larger eye and tend to be more flavorful…especially domestic lamb from Colorado,” says Chef William Walden. Garnish with mint or rosemary.
This dish would pair well with ½ cup seasonal vegetables, with the lamb served over a bed of creamy polenta with Swiss chard and bacon. If you have lamb jus or rich veal stock on hand, drizzle over the lamb and garnish with mint or rosemary.