Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring 2011 Weekend Winery Jaunt # 2 -- The 211 Trail

U.S. highway 211 has been a weekend getaway favorite of the blogmasters and hundreds of other longtime Northern VA residents for decades.

Clear the town of Warrenton, which has unfortunately become just as gridlocked as Gainesville, Haymarket, Manassas and other "exurb" hotspots, make that right turn at the Howard Johnson's (last renovation: 1978) on the Warrenton bypass onto U.S. 211 and drive drive drive……antique shopping and country store hopping for apple cider in Sperryville; cavern exploring in Luray; battlefield exploring in New Market---U.S. 211 will take you to all of these spots, not to mention the Panorama entry of Skyline Drive (and if you’re a real native of northern Virginia, you will recall the wonderful, but sadly closed, restaurant that used to exist here). Now there is another reason to daytrip on this highway--wineries! Several are clustered along highway 211, and as the case with all Virginia wineries, each one has a distinct look, feel and vino list.

After making that right turn in Warrenton, drive a quick eight miles and you'll arrive at the first spot: Unicorn Winery. Partake in their perfect spring and summer offerings (light wines, plus a bold Cab Franc and Meritage), say hi to their laid back dog "Franc," and sit by the pond, at a picnic table or on their deck. This location is only about half a mile from the main road, but feels a hundred miles away from any kind of civilization.

Turn back on to highway 211, and drive a few short miles further west, and make a left into Gray Ghost Vineyards. This spot has a slicker, more "events driven" feel to it than Unicorn, but the wines are stellar. And they make a lot of it here; you may have seen their wines at supermarkets in the area. Whites were the favorites of the blogmasters here, particularly the Vidal Blanc and Victorian White. Their deck overlooks the vineyards and the tasting room is a favorite for year-long residents of South Wales and other nearby communities.

Continuing on westbound 211, Narmada Winery is the next stop. The owners are from India and have wonderfully merged their Indian heritage with nearly every element of this winery, including the food pairings. "Reflection" and "Midnight" are two Chambourcin blends that proudly show off the uniqueness of this grape. The tasting room is large but intimate, and the deck overlooks the foothills. You could be tempted to stay at Narmada for the rest of the day, but push on.....

...To Gadino Cellars. Explore India, and then a bit of Italy, in one afternoon! Gadino Cellars keeps it all in the family, and after just one visit, you will feel like part of the family there. They make a lot of wine here, and all are very good, especially their Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon. They offer two nicely priced table wines, a white (Sunset) and a rosé(Moonrise), which are great summer wines. Trees and rolling hills surround the tasting room, further proof that despite the proximity to other wineries, no two wineries have the same view.

If you still have the energy, a designated driver, and time has not run out, Sharp Rock Vineyards, DuCard Vineyards (discussed in the previous blog entry), and Wisteria Vineyard, past Luray (near the town of Stanley), are not far from Gadino Cellars.

And as an added plus, you may run into Harley riders going to, or coming from, Skyline Drive on this trail. Riders have become quite the wine fans over the past few years; twelve packs of Schlitz and Pabst have been replaced with cold bottles of Virginia's finest.

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