The image has almost become a symbol of the Shenandoah Valley—acres of lush grape fields sweeping toward the rippling Blue Ridge Mountains far in the distance. Immediately you imagine yourself with a companion, enjoying a fine wine on the patio and taking in that view.
This scene is easily duplicated at one of the Valley’s many vineyards and wineries. As of March 2018, Virginia ranked sixth in the nation in the number of wineries (276). And the industry’s growth has been fast: Between 2010 and 2015, the economic impact of the wine and grape market in Virginia nearly doubled, rising from about $747 million in 2010 to $1.37 billion in 2015.
But dry statistics are not what draw wine lovers to the Shenandoah Valley—a day sampling wonderful Virginia wines in a naturally beautiful region does just that. Here’s a thumbnail guide to some of the vineyards where you can taste award-winning Virginia wines in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Wisteria Farm and Vineyard
Co-owner Sue Ishak told us, “We are located in Page County, known for its rural character and scenic beauty, between the towns of Luray and Stanley. Our small farm winery is nestled on the western slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with gorgeous views all around. We harvest and process all our wine from the grapes we grow. We have a walking trail through the vineyard to our creek at the back, with picnic tables to enjoy. This is a working farm and vineyard; we have a small flock of natural-colored Romney sheep as well as free-roaming chickens for your viewing pleasure, while picnicking and enjoying our wine!”
On selected dates from June through September, Wisteria hosts a popular “Music Under the Arbor” series of talented live musicians. Tastings: $8 for eight wines and a souvenir glass.
Barren Ridge Vineyards
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. Acoustic Music and Open Mic nights take up a lot of a busy event calendar. This month, hear Manny Araoz, August 4.
The family planted the first vines in 2001 and opened the tasting room in 2008. Establish just minutes from Harrisonburg but surrounded by 360-degree mountain views, Crosskeys Vineyards offers dozens of wines including a number of Virginia Governors Cup medalists. Plus, they are working on a new facility that will help increase their production to 15,000 cases a year! Enjoy lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch at their Bistro (11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., April – October), and don’t miss “Salsa Under the Stars” or the live entertainment on “Finally Fridays.” Planning a wedding or other special event? Give Crosskeys a long look.
Peaks of Otter
Located at the base of Peaks of Otter near Bedford, there is no shortage of views at Peaks of Otter Winery. “We are constantly told how much people enjoy our views,” said co-owner Nancy Johnson. “From the apple blossoms in the spring, to the berries and peaches in the summer, and to the apples in the fall — even the snows in the winter. Our farm sets in a valley with spectacular views in any direction,” she continued. “It has mountains all around and is at the foot the Peaks of Otter, one of the most famous mountains in Virginia. We are a Virginia Century Farm and our family has been on it for six generations—101 years.”
Choose from about 30 types of wine made from the fruits grown on the family farm—and, the owners are waiting for a permit to establish a brewery! The winery’s origins started in a dirt cellar beneath an old pack house that was built in 1941. The pack house is still used today for sales of fruits, jams, relishes, and jellies in season. Weddings, events and festivals keep the winery’s calendar full.
Blue Ridge Whisky-Wine Loop
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.) A drive along the loop, and stops at virtually any of the vineyards, enables spectacular Valley views. The wineries include:
Chester Gap Cellars (540-636-8086) Just outside Front Royal, minutes from I-66. Sample Viognier, Roussanne, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng and innovating blends.
Desert Rose Winery (540-635-3200) Located in Hume, about 15 miles southeast of Front Royal. Not many wineries operate an Arabian horse ranch on the same property. More than a dozen fine varieties of wine to choose from, and live music offered frequently. Three tasting options, starting at $6 for four wines.
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. Live music every Saturday. Tastings: $10 per person for seven wines.
Gadino Cellars (540-987-9292) makes small lots of wines from select vineyard blocks reflecting diverse growing conditions. Estate varieties include: Pinot Grigio, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Find Gadino in Washington, Virginia. Tastings: $10 per flight.
Quieveremont Winery (540-987-3192) This Washington, Virginia winery offers Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng. Join them June 22nd for a special “PaellaDeliciosa” feast. Tastings: $10 for five wines—one chardonnay, one rose’, three reds.
Rappahannock Cellars (540-635-9398) Their 3,000-square foot Barrel Room just opened in May for special events. 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. “Premium” tastings: $10.
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. Their “Old Rag Red” reflects this well-known peak in Shenandoah National Park, easily seen from the site. Bonus—spend the weekend or longer at the Cottage or Carriage House.
Not a Vineyard, but What a View—Wine tastings are held frequently in Shenandoah National Park at Big Meadows and Skyland. See the schedule here.
Banner photo courtesy Crosskeys Vineyards