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A Drive Through Virginia's Wine Country


Napa Valley is the typical destination for wine lovers, but Virginia has been booming over the last few years.

Photography by Oliver and Laura Joszt

Wine Enthusiast Magazine

With roughly 200 wineries throughout Virginia, each with its own distinctive atmosphere, there is bound to be something for wine enthusiasts to find and enjoy. And the region has been booming for wine lovers recently. This year named Virginia one of the 10 best wine travel destinations for 2012.

Virginia made the list along with prestigious wine destinations such as Napa Valley, Calif.; Champagne, France; Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary; and Veneto, Italy.

Among the popular wines in Virginia are Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. An economic study by the governor found that from 2005 to 2010 the economic impact of wineries grew by 106%. During the same timeframe, the number of wine-related tourists increased by 62%.

There’s an odd mix of new and old in Virginia’s wine country. New, because a large number of wineries have cropped up over the last decade. However, the area is steeped in history — it's not too far from the nation’s capital and home to sites like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s 5,000-acre plantation.

Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane — just an hour outside of D.C. — is very dog friendly. and not just because the owners love their dogs and have named wines after them. Seeing large dogs (on leashes) is incredibly common. The outdoor seating area is quite large for families and they encourage you to bring food, although on the weekend there are food vendors.

The wines here are a little pricier than some of the other wineries in the area, perhaps because of the popularity of the winery. The 2009 Petit Verdot — which has won two gold medals, six silver medals and five bronze medals — will run you $39. They give guided tours, which need to be set up in advance, or you can wander down to look at the wine vats on your own.

There are a number of wineries in the immediate area, including Vintage Ridge, Aspen Dale Winery and Three Foxes.

Three Fox Vineyards has been quiet and peaceful the few times I have visited. Although it’s less than 10 minutes from Barrel Oak, Three Fox doesn’t get as crowded. With tables set up under the trees to one side of the property, just outside the house or even in the middle of the vineyard, you may feel compelled to sit around with a glass of wine after your tasting. Three Foxes’ dessert wine, a favorite of my family, the Rosso Dolce Chambourcin, is the most expensive at $29.

Thirty minutes south of Delaplane is a rather unique winery: Narmada Winery. During your tasting you can peruse a short menu of Indian food. So we ordered some vegetable samosas, aloo tikki and kulcha to eat outside on the deck with glasses of wine. The fare is decent, although not fantastic, Indian food, but it has a kick (just the way we like it). Plus, it’s plenty enjoyable to eat with a glass of the Mom white wine while taking in the view of the

property's lake and surrounding

rolling countryside on a sunny day.

On the way back to D.C. from Narmada, you can stop at Molon Lave, run and owned by a Greek family. So if the girls offering wine tastings look similar, it’s because they’re sisters. This is a favorite spot of my guide: my own sister. She and her husband are particular to Molon Lave’s reds; and despite being partial to white wines myself, I ended up walking away with Katie’s Charm, a Chambourcin.

Molon Lave wines on top and Cheesecake Heaven on the bottom

Out in the countryside, there’s an odd stand on Lee Highway. It’s little more than a hut, but the large sign proclaims Cheesecake Heaven. It is a drive through cheesecake shop, where you can order pieces or whole pies of espresso chip, peanut butter, coconut cheesecakes and more without ever leaving your car.

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