Virginia Vineyard Month, Pt. 3
April is Virginia Vineyard Month here in the Commonwealth! Being the wino that I am, I of COURSE had to find a way to celebrate with all of you! So, I’m going to be sharing a small series of posts featuring some of my favorite wineries in the state.
Part 1: Best Wineries Near Leesburg, VA
Part 3: Vineyards with a View
Importance of Location
Visiting a winery is an experience that extends beyond the actual wine tasting. For the casual wino-lover, it’s a laid back, “chill out, don’t worry about anything else in life for a moment” kind of activity. So when you order that glass (or bottle) of wine to enjoy out on a winery’s patio on a spring day, you need something pretty to look at! Yeah, enjoyable wine is important, but in my experience, a winery’s setting can make or break the experience.
Some tasting rooms look out over parking lots or dumpsters or are right next to cow pastures. Personally, I don’t like manure paired with my Cabernet, nor do I enjoy staring at other people’s cars over my glass of wine. I’ve been there and done that – those wineries won’t be seeing me again, nor will I ever recommend them to you.
Fortunately, with Virginia’s bounty of beautiful natural scenery, most wineries don’t offer the car or cow experiences. The majority are idyllic and peaceful and provide perfect getaways. But there are a few whose vistas truly standout from the rest. So here is my roundup of the best vineyards in Virginia that have a spectacular view.
Vineyards with a View
- I love Hillsborough so much that this is actually the second time I’ve recommended it on here (here’s the first). My favorite winery, hands-down, mostly because of the gorgeous setting. Located in rural western Loudoun County, the tasting room, a circa 1820 stone farmhouse, is situated on top of a hill with views of picturesque, lush Loudoun valley. The outdoor terrace, with its trumpet-vine covered arbor and immaculate rose garden, is my favorite place to sit with a book and a glass of wine on a summer afternoon.
- The wine: Their 2014 White Merlot was spectacular – it’s a Rose style wine, but made with Merlot grapes. So it as all the complexity and dryness of Merlot, but without the heaviness. The 2015 is currently on the tasting menu, but, insider-tip, the 2014 is better. I like it since I’m a red-wine girl, but don’t want a heavy red wine when I’m sitting outside in August in Virginia. But, their Cabernet Sauvignon is also excellent if you want to stay inside.
- Visitor info: Open daily 11-6.
2) Glen Manor
- Glen Manor is situated at the base of the Blue Ridge, in a glen formed by the surrounding mountains (hence the name). High above the vineyards, you can see Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park making its way along the ridge line. The family bought the land in 1901, and built the manor home shortly after that. The vineyard was planted on the surrounding hills in 1995, and today, the winery is operated by the fifth generation of the Lawson family. It truly is a spectacular location – the farm is tucked away from any main towns and the tasting room offers a sweeping, uninterrupted view of the western slope of Mt. Marshall.
- The wine: They have several lovely red blends here, my favorite being the St. Ruth, a Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petite Verdot blend that’s medium-bodied with lots of fruit. Their late harvest Petite Manseng is also lovely.
- Visitor info: Open Fri-Sat 11-5, Sunday 12-5, and Monday 11-5.
- DuCard is another favorite of mine. Nestled in a hollow just minutes away from Old Rag mountain and the bottom trailhead for White Oak Canyon, DuCard is a haven for hikers finishing up a day’s work in Shenandoah National Park. Or for those looking for some Virginia mountain holler hospitality.
- The wine: Viognier is the star here. My family shared a bottle of the 2014 vintage last time we were here; after a full day of hiking, those refreshingly crisp notes of white peaches and melons were heaven in a glass. I haven’t tried it yet, but their 2016 Viognier just won gold at the Governor’s Cup. I have tasted several delightful Viogniers that lost to DuCard, so that’s definitely worth checking out.
- Visitor info: Open Fri-Sun, 11-6. During peak leaf season (Sept-Nov), they’re open every day. Tastings are $10 per person.
- Bluemont likes to advertise that they are located 951 feet above sea level, but it sure looks a lot higher from their tasting room! The winery is situated on top of an eastern-facing slope that offers a vast view of all of Loudoun County. There’s even a rumor that on clear days, you can see the Washington Monument, 50 miles away. Bluemont always has some kind of event going on – live music, festivals, special food pairings – so it’s worth checking out their calendar to see what’s happening.
- The wine: Other winos that I know aren’t huge fans of Bluemont’s wines, and for the most part I agree. However, Bluemont produces my all-time favorite single-varietal Merlot, which is why they make it onto my recommendation list. It’s rich, bold, but delightfully smooth – all the good qualities of Merlot without that hit-you-in-the-face quality Merlot so often has.
- Visitor info: Open every day 11-7 (but they are extremely busy on pretty, sunny days and Saturdays, so beware). They offer several tasting options, but the Elevation Tasting is the one where someone will actually guide you through the tasting – it’s $15.
5) Ankida Ridge
- This is as close as wineries can get to the middle of nowhere in Virginia. When driving to the Amherst County farm, you keep on going up and up and up and past the “end state maintenance” sign before you finally reach tiny Ankida Ridge. At over 1700 feet elevation, it’s one of the highest vineyards in the state, with arguably the best mountain view.
- The wine: They may only have 6 acres under vine, but that doesn’t mean their small batches of wine are poor quality. The one and only time they entered a wine competition, their 2014 Chardonnay won Gold at the Governor’s cup. Their lovely Pinot Noir is also a rarity in Virginia, whose hot and humid climate usually makes growing Pinot impossible. But Ankida’s location allows it to be the exception.
- Visitor info: Only open on Saturdays and Sunday, 12-5.
- If you make it up the one lane winding gravel mountain road, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Part of the Monticello AVA, Stone Mountain Winery is the second highest vineyard in the state, located at the top of, you guessed it, Stone Mountain. The large tasting room offers expansive views of the surrounding ridges and valleys below.
- The wine: You all know I’m a red girl, but this is not the place to come for reds. Whites are the strong suit here, particularly the stainless-steel aged Chardonnay. But if whites aren’t your thing, the fantastic view is still worth the trip.
- Visitor info: Open Fri-Sun 11-6. Tastings are $10-15 a person. Don’t use your GPS to get here! Their website has specific directions that will save you some trouble, especially if you don’t have 4-wheel drive.
For more vineyards with a view, be sure to check out the wineries along the Monticello wine trail!
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