Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Virginia WineRoad Trip: Route 6 Trail

The Charlottesville area is now home to so many wineries and vineyards (and a few breweries) that selecting the right Wine Trail is the best way to maximize efficiency - driving in a scenic area is great, as long as there are wineries dotted along the way! Route 6, a state highway that runs along the Rockfish and James Rivers south of Monticello, is a unique way to start in the country and end in the city - Richmond. Follow this course and you can do the rural thing and urban thing in one weekend, and hit a few places to imbibe along the way.

Like many state highways, route 6 doesn't follow a conventional straight line path. We suggest hopping on 6 via route 29. However your GPS, Google map or MapQuest map (or if you're a relic like us, your atlas) takes you there, you're looking for the intersection of U.S. 29 and state highway 6, near Faber, Virginia (home of a general store, and that's about it).

You will be rewarded for the trip on Route 29 (especially if you took 29 through Charlottesville) with the first winery - and you're not even on route 6 yet. The turnoff to DelFosse Vineyards is actually about a quarter mile past the intersection of 29 and 6. This place has to be seen to be believed. Picture traveling on winding mountain roads, very narrow in spots, for about five miles, and then coming across a giant campus dedicated to fine wine (oh, and the winery is surrounded by a nature preserve complete with a trail from the winery to the mountain woods). A pond, terraced vineyards, and a cabin you can rent for the night. Plus some amazing and unique wines. Be sure to try the Grand Cru Olivier red blend.

DelFosse is a hard place to find, but even harder to leave. Should you pass up on the cabin rental, find your way back to route 29 and drive northwards back to the intersection of 29 and highway 6. Make the right on 6 and follow the signs towards Scottsville. Scottsville itself is an interesting town that hugs the James River and you may want to stop for lunch. Or, continue on the trek. You still have several wineries to hit before getting to Richmond. About two miles past the village of Columbia, you'll arrive at the next stop: Byrd Cellars. Expect great things from this new winery. The wines are incredible, and the winemaker is serious. He even plans to release a Viognier later this year, even though he confessed to us that he is "not a fan." The winery is perched on a hill overlooking railroad tracks and the James River bed. Not one, not two, but three apple wines, and they are particularly proud of their Nortons (a regular and a reserve). We loved the chardonnay, but all wines are impressive, considering the newness of this winery. And be sure to ask about their "Columbia cats," a white cat with tabby markings that apparently pops up all over this section of Virginia. The winery has taken in several.

The next two wineries are not on Route 6 - okay, we're cheating. But by the time you hit Byrd Cellars, you may have grown tired of the road anyway. Chart a course to Windsong Winery, which you can plot on your own via GPS or ask the nice folks at Byrd (they'll be happy to draw a map for you). Windsong is another relatively new location, on "Funny Tree Trail," named after a strange looking specimen that the owners of Windsong are more than happy to explain. The wines are adequate, with room to improve, and definitely unusual. Three wines rare for Virginia: Muscat, Dornfelder and Garnet, plus a chardonnay and several fruit wines. A very serene location to be sure.

The last winery on this trail is another highly unique one: Grayhaven Winery. Follow U.S. highway 250 or I-64 eastbound towards Gum Spring, and look for the signs. The tasting room exists in a small Tolkien-esque building and the wines are just as unique as Windsong's. The whites are good, but the reds stood out. They boast an incredible Touriga that will keep on your rack for 10+ years. Other must trys are their Cab Sauv and Pinotage, which could be dubbed South Africa's answer to Pinot Noir.

Off to Richmond, if you really feel bold, Short Pump. Just follow I-64 or highway 250 (which becomes Broad Street). The Route 6 Trail offers highly unusual choices for the diehard Vavino fans out there.

DelFosse Vineyards
Byrd Cellars
Windsong Winery
Grayhaven Winery

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