Valentine's Day is falling on a Saturday this year, which will be bliss for restaurants and wineries all over the Commonwealth (and country). The blogmasters' emails are getting stuffed with messages from many Virginia wineries, all staking the claim as "the most romantic spot for you and your Valentine." If you're a fan of the Virginia wine scene, you probably have your favorites. Whether it's a live band and mingling with other couples, or a quieter, more intimate spot by the fireplace, the Notebook has you covered.
Our 10 picks for "Most Romantic Wineries," in no particular order..........with a few highlights to whet your appetite (or thirst):
1. Fox Meadow Winery (east of Front Royal)
What could be better for that special day than partaking in what we find is some of the best wine in the state, while "looking down on the mountains?" The bloggers have been coming to this winery since their opening in 2007, and their vintages just get better with each year. Hopefully some Le Renard Rouge ("The Red Fox," their multiple award winning red blend) will be open for your visit.
2. Flying Fox Winery (Nelson County)
An up close and personal location, utterly charming, with delicious wine for all palates (bone dry, semi dry, and sweet). The fireplace warms the tasting cabin up nicely. You won't want to leave this spot. Try the "Trio," a delicious blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
3. Three Fox Vineyards (Delaplane)
Two good fox wineries deserve another! Like Flying Fox, the tasting cabin here is warm and intimate, and you're surrounded by rolling foothills on all sides (plus a creek runs through it!) The Italian atmosphere is irresistible, and the wines are beautifully balanced. Our favorites are the La Trovatella Merlot, with notes of blackberry and bacon, and the slightly sweeter Gatto Bianco.
4. Twin Oaks Tavern Winery (Bluemont)
Not a fox winery, but their logo used to sport a fox, so we will make do with that. Twin Oaks Tavern actually was a tavern during the 1920s and 1930s, in the time before air conditioning, when Washingtonians used to travel to the mountains to escape the heat of the summer. On a clear day (or even partly cloudy day), you can see forever...into West Virginia. The winery has a northwest exposure, and West Virginia is a mere 5 miles away. The view here is just as impressive as Fox Meadow, and the wines are exceptional; impressive considering their young age. The signature wine here is Raven Rocks Red blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
5. North Mountain Vineyard and Winery (south of Winchester)
The tasting building here is something out of a fairy tale book - the owners have German backgrounds, so you get a definite Alpine flavor here. The wrap-around tasting area includes a comfortable sitting area that is tastefully decorated. If it's warm enough (for February), the owners will ignite the firepits outside for a rustic touch. Our go-to wines here are the Claret, a Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot blend; the spiced holiday wine (which can be served cold, or mulled); and the apple wine.
6. First Colony Winery (south of Charlottesville)
Although we have not visited since the ownership change (we're banking that Fritz the Cat is still ruling the tasting room here!), we will write under the presumption that the wines, which were already good to excellent, have gotten better, and the low key vibe inside the tasting room remains. This is a great getaway in all seasons; the back patio facing the woods for the warmer weather, and upstairs, or by the fireplace, for the colder months.
7. Paradise Springs Winery (Clifton)
As one of the wineries closest to the Nation's Capital, get to this spot early (like at opening time) on "V Day" to get your spot by the fireplace in the back. Pull up some sofas, order some tasty treats from their extensive menu (or bring your own picnic), and grab a few bottles of Viognier, with its notes of apricot, grass, and melon, and Meritage, their best wine, which hits you with black cherry and licorice.
8. Barren Ridge Vineyards (near Staunton)
The most ski-chalet like winery on our list, this is a busy spot, yet the staff treat all visitors as if they're part of their family. Another winning tasting room with a fireplace. Our faves here are the Red Barren, a semi-sweet blend of Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, with notes of raspberry and fig, and their Merlot, an award winner with a touch of cherry and coffee.
9. Potomac Point Winery (near Stafford)
Another popular location (get there early!) Potomac Point is an impressive property that resembles a commercial Napa winery, but within its vast tasting building are intimate nooks and crannies, some with fireplaces, that will work well for the big day. The Chardonnay is really special here, crisp with a touch of green apple, and the Norton, with its notes of rhubarb, is a unique and tasty style to enhance your experience.
10. Old House Vineyards (near Culpeper)
A name like "Old House" invokes many a romantic image, and the location never disappoints. It's one of our favorites in the entire state, with plenty of space to stretch out (including private spots). If it's warm enough, be sure to check out their unique pond with the island. All wines are truly great, but the favorite has to be Wicked Bottom, a "Chambourcin Reserve" with smokey characteristics; complex like the best Italian Chianti. And although we rarely go for sweet wines, their Arctica, an "ice wine style" (not a true ice wine) is delicious, especially poured on pound cake.
We're certain we've missed some favorite romantic spots - feel free to chime in with your faves. Enjoy your special weekend in VAVINO country!