With the holiday season can come lots of time with house guests. And you know what they say about house guests – like fish, they start to stink after a few days. But what they also say about fish is that it goes well with white wine – and for our region, luckily there are some pretty good opportunities to both get your house guests outdoors, and discover some pretty decent local wines.
Especially in the vicinity of Washington DC/Northern Virginia, here are a few recommendations of scenic spots and decent wines – especially nice to take out-of-town guests for the day:
First, a few tips:
- First, be prepared to pay a tasting fee – especially at some of the better vineyards. Yes, counterintuitive, but most now do. Would think they would want to encourage post-tasting, impaired-judgment wine purchases, but hey, whatever.
- Second, I have found that Virginia has some very nice, affordable whites and some okay reds. A $25 bottle of Virginia red can be a good as a $15 bottle of California red, but if you throw in the cost of airfare to Sonoma County, CA, Virginia wines are pretty competitive.
- And third, a caution: The wine is always better at the vineyard (especially when you’re visiting your 3rd vineyard in one day), and it certainly isn’t going to taste better at home. For instance, I have “a friend” who woke up the next day and can’t quite remember why it seemed like a good idea to pay $240 for a case of Virginia red wine, and why it didn’t seem quite as good as when I, I mean he, was sitting with a tasting-induced buzz at 11:30 AM one Saturday morning looking over a beautiful Virginia piedmont vista from the deck of a cool tasting room. But I digress…
Coolest tasting room: Bogati Bodega & Vineyard near Round Hill, VA. You feel like you have stepped into an upscale California vineyard tasting room. While not actually on a vineyard (they are associated with sister-vineyard Veramar , it has a great lounge with a wonderful tapas menu and often has live music. Share a flight of wine with a tasting menu, but beware of their generous pouring and toss your keys to another driver in advance. They are also adjacent to a great country market, so once your judgment is truly impaired, go next door and buy up the homemade pies, local organic meats and country crafts. Have kids with you? Send them next door to buy ice cream and duck food for the on-site duck pond. http://www.bogatibodega.com
Best vineyard to go with Kids: Veramar Vineyards, near Berryville, VA. They have pretty good wine, plus a patio and large rolling lawn down to a pond outside of their tasting room. Kids can play on the lawn, and they also sponsor many outdoor weekend events like movies and live music. Perfect for a warm day. http://www.veramar.com
Best all-around destination: Linden Vineyard, Linden, VA. They have a beautiful lodge-like tasting room on a scenic vineyard outside of Front Royal, and have some very nice, high-quality wines. Our favorite time to visit is early fall because not only is it an opportunity to buy good wine for Thanksgiving dinner, but they also have pick-your-own apple orchards. However to preserve the serene atmosphere of the place, they have recently scaled back access to their larger tasting areas to those in their “case club” – those who have purchased at least a case of wine in the past year. I’m not a big fan of buying VA wine by the case, but this is one of the few places where I would recommend it. http://www.lindenvineyards.com
Best overall wine (in the Northern VA region): Chester Gap Cellars, Chester Gap, VA. It’s a rustic spot outside of Front Royal with a modest tasting room (usually run by the friendly proprietors who have to interrupt their field work when you pull in), but the wines are solid, dependable and worth the trip just to buy the wine. And if you are lucky, while you are sipping the wine, you may see one of the black bears wander through that occupy the nearby woods. http://www.chestergapcellars.com/
So go ahead and wine about, this Christmas season!