Virginia is for Lovers...and Lovers of Wine in Washington D.C.'s Wine Country
Day One: Arrival
Shortly after my friend Christy and I arrived at Dulles International Airport, our friend Brenda whisked us off to her favorite winery. Simply stunning is how I would describe Stone Tower Winery’s bucolic landscape. It felt like we had been transported to the Italian countryside, not just outside of D.C. Three generations of the Huber family have lived on Hogback Mountain at this family-owned winery. Instead of a tasting, Brenda ordered a bottle of their Kristi Chardonnay, and we headed out to the terrace for its expansive view of the 300-acre estate. While noshing on bruschetta made with local heirloom tomatoes and a truffle and wild mushroom wood-fired pizza, I felt like I was looking out over vine-covered rolling hills in Tuscany. We ordered several bottles of wine and pizza to go, then retreated to Brenda’s home for a casual evening on her patio overlooking a golf course.
The next morning, we went to MANASSAS NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARK. Union and Confederate armies clashed on these fields overlooking Bull Run on July 21, 1861, in the first major land battle of the Civil War. They would battle again here on August 28-30, 1882. You can take a volunteer-led walking tour from the Henry Hill Visitor Center, but we opted for a self-guided tour and walked the 1.1-mile Henry Hill Loop Trail learning about the First Battle of Manassas. Near the end is a historic two-story home owned by Judith Henry. It was in the middle of the First Battle of Manassas, and she was the only civilian casualty. Another interesting building nearby is the Stone House. It was used as a makeshift hospital during both battles. If you have more time, do the 20-mile self-guided driving tour to see the sites of the Second Battle of Manassas. For history-filled hikes, walk either the First Manassas Loop Trail (5.4 miles) or Second Manassas Loop Trail (6.2 miles).
Part of experiencing Virginia’s wine country is exploring its quaint historic towns like Middleburg. It’s filled with cute shops, lovely galleries and delightful eateries. We decided on King Street Oyster Bar for lunch. The lobster club salad paired beautifully with a local sauvignon blanc. We spent a few hours popping in and out of adorable boutiques like Chloe’s of Middleburg, Zest Clothing & Co., and home goods shop Crème de la Crème.
Happy Hour and Dinner
Overlooking Northern Virginia’s Rural Historic Crooked Run Valley, the deck at Delaplane Cellars on Lost Mountain is a glorious spot for a happy hour wine tasting. It’s near AAA Five Diamond Salamander Resort & Spa, where we had dinner at Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill. If I weren’t staying with friends, this resort would be my pick for where to stay because of activities ranging from golfing to horseback riding. It’s in the middle of wineries and in the heart of Virginia’s horse country. Harrimans is known for steaks but has a plethora of seafood offerings too. The food and drink presentations are colorfully artistic with edible flowers and other accoutrements. They use locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, like candied Virginia peanuts on the local greens salad. The namelaka dessert special we ordered looked like a forest, complete with raspberry-rhubarb river stones.
Day 3: Wine-ing Through the Day
Originally we planned to go to three wineries but enjoyed our first one so much that we only did two. Our first stop was Boxwood Estate Winery, owned by John Kent Cooke, former president of the NFL team that now goes by the Washington Commanders. Instead of staying in the tasting room or on the patio, we went to a wonderful spot among the vines to enjoy the view of the 26.5-acre historic landmark farm with sustainable vineyards. Sipping Light Flights (two white and two rosé tastings), we nibbled on a seasonal cheese board served with a warm baguette.
As hard as it was to leave this picturesque setting, we headed to our next tasting at adults-only Greenhill Winery and Vineyards. They have a tasting tent and tables in the field, but we opted for the shaded porch. Instead of a tasting, we ordered glasses of their Seyval Blanc. With notes of fresh-cut grass and flavors of honeydew and lemon zest, it was the perfect choice to sip while enjoying the winery’s pastoral setting. While sampling their delicious Italian charcuterie platter, we ordered a bottle of their limited-release rosé and let the afternoon slip away. With outstanding food offerings, I realized the wineries here don’t want you to do a quick tasting. They want you to enjoy a wine and dining experience in the landscape of rolling hills dotted with grapevine rows and horse farms. It’s like being in Tuscany, but less than an hour from Washington, D.C.
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