October is Virginia Wine Month, and the Shenandoah Valley is an ideal place to celebrate it.
There are about 300 wineries in the state, with dozens scattered up and down the Valley in idyllic pockets of natural beauty. For agricultural splendor, there is nothing quite like a vineyard, and indeed, Virginia’s reputation for producing excellent wines is escalating. Several of the vineyards listed below have won prestigious awards for their wines. The majority of these businesses go beyond pure production and offer tours, tastings, special events, music, weddings, picnics, wine clubs and seminars that add to their allure. Here’s a short list of some we know you will enjoy visiting:
Barren Ridge Vineyards
I-81, Exit 225
At Barren Ridge, located in Augusta County, the owners turned an old apple packing barn into a state-of-the-art winery, tasting room, and event facility. They used reclaimed wood and preserved the charm and character of the original structure. The tasting room features wonderful wines that are available daily for complimentary tastings, or sample rotating varieties for just $8. On this, their 10th anniversary, they’ve been celebrating all year. Don’t miss Open Mic Night, Thursdays in October and November. Hours: Sunday—1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday-Wednesday—11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thursday-Saturday—11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
I-81, Exit 247A
The family planted the first vines in 2001 and opened the tasting room in 2008. Built in a spectacular Valley setting minutes from downtown Harrisonburg, Crosskeys Vineyards offers a diverse selection of award-winning wines. Various wine tasting options from $5 to $12. Select from about 20 varieties. Crosskeys also operates a Bistro with lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch; Taco Cooking Classes, Salsa Under the Stars and other events that combine food, wine and good living. What else is special about them? Their annual New Year’s Eve Ball has raised more than $250,000 to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Crosskeys’ website lists “Summer Hours” as 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily.
Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchards
I-81, Exit 167
Located minute from Bedford and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchards boasts 30 varieties of wine made primarily from the fruits grown on the (sixth generation) family’s farm. During the season, visitors may sample and purchase the fruits from which the wines are crafted. Homemade cider, jellies, jams, butters and other products are available. Visitors can also enjoy visiting the farm animals on walking trails. Operated by the Johnson family, whose ancestors settled in the county in the 1700s, the winery is well-known for the annual Horse and Hound Wine Festival on the second Saturday in July, where Horse and Dog events are the main attractions. Hours: Open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. April – December. Fruit available August – October. (Extend your stay at Peaks of Otter Lodge.)
Wisteria Farm and Vineyard
I-81, Exit 264 to 211
Located just south of Luray, near the small town of Stanley, Wisteria is both a vineyard and working farm, complete with sheep, chickens and a classic Shenandoah Valley setting. Wisteria’s wines are made from 100% estate-grown grapes and include: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay (oak and steel), Viognier, Traminette, Seyval, Vidal, Petit Verdot, Carmine, and Norton. Three semi-sweet blends (Velvet, Ashtaroot, and Adonis) and a dessert wine (Sweet Daisy) are available as well. The regular tasting fee is $8 for eight wines and includes a souvenir glass. Hours: Open daily from noon to 6:00 p.m.
The Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop is a network of wineries/vineyards, plus several breweries and distilleries. (Their website has a colorful, printable map on its home page.) The wineries include:
Chester Gap Cellars (540-636-8086) Just outside Front Royal, 1000 feet in elevation, and minutes from I-66. Sample Viognier, Roussanne, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng and innovating blends. Hours: Friday- Sunday, 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m.
Desert Rose Winery (540-635-3200) With a motto of, “We take our wine and wine-making very seriously, but not ourselves,” you have to love this place already. Just $5 includes a tasting of four different wines; $10 allows 10 varieties. Located in Hume, about 15 miles southeast of Front Royal. Not many wineries operate an Arabian horse ranch on the same property. Open every day of the week, noon-6:00 p.m.
DuCard Vineyards (540-923-4206) Located in the small hamlet of Etlan in Madison County, the winery produces classics such as Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The winery is also known for several superb red and white blends such as the Popham Run Red and Gibson Hollow White. Open seven days a week through November, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Gadino Cellars (540-987-9292) makes small lots of wines from select vineyard blocks reflecting diverse growing conditions and microclimates. Estate varieties include: Pinot Grigio, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The chance to play Bocce reflects the owners’ Italian heritage. Find Gadino in Washington, Virginia. Hours: Friday, Sunday & Monday 11:30-5:00 p.m.; Saturday 11:30-6:00 p.m.
Quieveremont Winery (540-987-3192) The name is derived from the French for goat hill, reflecting the original farm’s roots back to 1753. Today, this Washington, Virginia winery offers Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng. In the tasting room, sample six wines for $12. Hours: 12:00 to 6:00 p.m. Thursday and Sunday; 12:00 to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Rappahannock Cellars (540-635-9398) The first vines were planted here in 1999, and their acreage produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Seyval, Norton, Vidal, Merlot, Malbec, and Chardonnel. Located in Hume. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (6:00 p.m. on Sat.) 7 days a week.
Sharp Rock Vineyards (540-987-8020) Established in Sperryville at the base of Old Rag Mountain in the 1700s, Sharp Rock remains popular with hikers and others looking forward to a tasting—seven wines for just $5. Their “Old Rag Red” pays homage to the mountain, easily seen from the upper level back porch. Other products include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chardonnay Reserve, Cabernet Franc, Rose’Noir, NV Chamois Rouge, Chamois Blanc, Rose’ (dry), Pinnacle Blanc, Synergy, and Pinnacle. Hours: During October, Thursday through Monday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Beyond visiting a vineyard or winery, a number of Valley accommodations are hosting wine packages in October. In White Post, L’Auberge Provencale is holding a South American wine dinner on October 14 and a Fall Harvest Wine Dinner on November 4. Book reservations here for Oct. 14 and here for Nov. 4.
In Luray, Shadow Mountain Escape offers several Wine Packages. In October, guests receive a bottle of sparkling Prosecco and two souvenir glasses for just $30. See their whole list of wine packages here. (Note: Many cabins, B&Bs and other accommodations in the Shenandoah Valley offer money-saving packages of different types throughout the year. Keep your eye on this page to see these special offers.)