Friday, June 9, 2017

10 Virginia Wineries in a Day

Winery hopping is a term usually reserved for a day event for winos (with a DD, or Uber, or Lyft, for the day) who visit many tasting rooms, buy a few bottles to go, and then move on. This is something that does not occur very often for the Notebook; typically, we visit 2 or 3 wineries, and then hang out for several hours at the first (or last) winery.

Winery hopping in the past has been best suited for areas where wineries are a stone's throw away from each other: the "banana belt" southeast corner of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes is a good example. About 25 wineries within 3 miles, due to the micro climate on this part of the lake that resembles Napa County for growing (the extremely deep section of this part of the lake controls freezing, and the soil is more fertile). And speaking of Napa, that is another wine region where visitors can hop around wineries in close proximity to each other; just select south Napa, central Napa, or north Napa, and do it.

Virginia has not really been conducive to this type of winery hopping. Even wineries in the Monticello AVA, although there are many, require at least 15 minutes of drive time per winery. For years, we've been pondering when Virginia will officially enter the realm of "day winery hopping." Thanks to Loudoun County, Virginia is now on that special map. In particular, the wineries along route 9 (Charles Town Pike), near the West Virginia border. This formerly remote highway now suffers from unfortunate "winery traffic jams" on Saturdays, and some Sundays...especially one frustrating intersection containing what must be the longest red traffic light in the county (those familiar with the Loudoun County scene will know which intersection we're talking about). Route 9 is now the Northern Virginia Wine Highway, and adding Harper's Ferry Road, a right turn off westbound route 9 that cuts a diagonal over to West Virginia, gives winos (driven by someone not partaking) even more to choose from.

We were up to the challenge. So here are 10 Wineries in one day, with winery links, for those who want to follow along. We'll start on the western side and work our way back to Route 7. (Important note: In order to preserve yourselves, we strongly urge doing tastings only; as inviting as the mood may be to "stick around," the nature of winery hopping is to hop).

1. Breaux Vineyards
There is no better way to start the hopping than at this Loudoun County (and Virginia) winery staple. The new tasting building is gorgeous and the views are some of the best in the state. Virginia wine with a Cajun atmosphere.

2. 868 Estate Vineyards
A whopping quarter mile from the Breaux turn-off, this is a newer winery with vineyards at an elevation that gave the winery its name. A bit too early for lunch, but the restaurant on the premises is award-winning.

3. Two Twisted Posts Winery
We suggest turning LEFT when you leave 868, in the direction of West Virginia, to check this even newer winery. Several years ago, they had to open to the public before their tasting room was finished, as they received the Governor's Cup straight out of the chute with their chardonnay. The owners set up a tent near the driveway and this soon-to-be-legendary-Virginia winery was born.

4. Hillsborough Vineyards
Another Loudoun staple, with consistently stellar wines and mountain views galore from their hilltop tasting room.

5. North Gate Vineyard
Take a right as you hit the village of Hillsboro, drive about 2 miles, and one of the Notebook's favorites in the entire state will appear on the right. Wonderful wine, nicely done LEED-certified tasting room, and calming pine forest views.

6. Doukenie Winery
Virginia wine with a soft Greek touch, another long time favorite that also updated its tasting room in the last few years. The painted turtle-filled pond with its "peninsula" jutting into the water makes you want to stay here for hours...but you have 4 more tasting rooms to hit!

The patio and pond at Doukenie:

7. The Wine Reserve at Waterford
The name is a mouthful but this newest location on our list, where Loudoun Valley Winery previously existed, is a winner, and offers a different kind of tasting experience. Whichever you select, "Virginia Tasting" or "Regions Beyond," you are in for a treat.

8. 8 Chains North Winery
Ben Renshaw is one of the top winemakers in Virginia. His wines, especially the reds, are shining examples of what the Commonwealth offers. Ths is the wine The Notebook shared with French wine snobs, who previously would not even think about trying a Virginia wine. They were totally won over.

9. Hunter's Run Wine Barn
A touch of the Emerald Isle in the middle of Loudoun County. Gerri and (occasionally) Annie welcome you and offer some charming wines, including very tasty port-style.

10. Casanel Vineyards or Dry Mill Vineyards (all depends which direction you land on business route 7...)
At this point in the day, your bellies are full of wine, and since you have a DD, or are using a Reston Limo or other service, direct the driver to either turn left or right at the T intersection of route 9 and business route 7 (the intersection past the new traffic circle over the route 7 bypass). Flip a coin if you have to. You cannot go wrong with either selection. Turning left towards Leesburg brings you to the cozy Dry Mill Vineyards, with its rustic tasting building built from an old horse stable. Turning right towards Hamilton leads you in the direction of Casanel, and if you're lucky Nelson himself will be on the premises, entertaining you with stories about his foray into the winery business. Grab a spot in the gazebo on the pond and kick back with a glass (perhaps of water or Gatorade...)