Read on for a list of the best wineries near Leesburg, VA!
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: Virginia Vineyards with a View
Short History of Virginia Wine
Before I list some of the best wineries near Leesburg, VA, I want to give a short history of Virginia wine. “Short” because when compared to wine-making in other places around the world, and even compared to the American west coast, Virginia’s history of winemaking is very short.
That’s not for lack of trying or desire though. Wine was supposed to be one of Virginia’s main exports in colonial days. When the settlers first came to Jamestown, each man was required to plant and tend at least 10 grape vines. But they couldn’t get them to grow. The European varietals kept being destroyed by pests and disease. With the wild success of tobacco, interest in Virginia wine-making eventually died.
Thomas Jefferson, francophile that he was, wanted Virginia to have as great a wine-making legacy as France. He tried to cultivate Bordeaux grapes on his land at Monticello, in the hopes of one day realizing the promise of Virginia fine wines. Over 30 years, he never successfully produced a single bottle of Virginia wine. 100 miles northeast, George Washington had the same abysmal results with his European vines at Mount Vernon.
By the late 1800s, wine made from Native American grapes were actually doing well on the international stage, with a bottle of Virginia Norton winning “best of all red wines” at the Vienna World Fair in 1873. But then, Prohibition brought all attempts to improve Virginia’s wine crop to a halt. By the 1940s, there were only 15 acres of planted grapes in the entire state.
In the late-1950s, some experimental plantings showed promise, and in 1970 six new wineries opened up. By 1995, there were 46 wineries in Virginia. Ten years later, that number was up to 107. Today, in 2018, there are over 300 wineries, making Virginia the 5th largest wine producing state in the U.S. (only behind CA, OR, WA, and NY). Classic Virginian stubbornness and persistance lives on today in the success of the Virginia wine industry.
Best Wineries Near Leesburg, VA
Leesburg, VA is the last city west of Washington, DC before you leave the metro area and hit the Virginia countryside. It’s also the gateway to the Northern Virginia wine region. There are some fabulous wineries further west in Loudoun, but most day-trippers from DC don’t want to go too far past Leesburg. So I’ve put together a list of the best wineries near Leesburg, VA. All of these are within 10 minutes of downtown Leesburg.
Related: Read this to learn what NOT to do at a wine tasting!
- Willowcroft makes this list partly due to its seniority – operating since 1984, it’s the oldest winery in Loudoun County. But Willowcroft deserves its spot on this list for other reasons too.
- The tasting room is in a historic barn built in the 1870s. The rustic setting is unusual for wineries in this part of Virginia, but it’s refreshing. Situated atop Catoctin Ridge, the views from the picnic area are lovely, and its backroad location makes you feel like you’re much farther from civilization than you really are.
- The wine: Willowcroft grows twelve varieties of grapes – the five Bordeaux grapes and six white grapes. Though I’m typically a red wine girl, Willowcroft’s whites are delightful. Their Vidal Blanc is the perfect sit-on-your-porch summer sipping wine.
- Visiting info: Tasting room is open Thurs-Sun, 11am-5:30pm. Tastings are $10 for 8 wines – though my mom and I went just before they closed one time and they ended up giving us 14 wines. We left pretty happy 😉
- Full disclosure: I work here. You might remember my last post about Virginia wines where I mentioned my side gig. Well, this is where it is! But this isn’t a sponsored post, nor am I getting some kind of bonus for recommending Tarara. I genuinely believe Tarara produces some of the best Virginia wines and is well worth your time.
- Tarara is the second oldest winery in Loudoun County, behind Willowcroft. It sits on 470 sprawling acres right on the banks of the Potomac River. In warm weather, guests can sit on the 21 and over patio, or take the kids out to the picnic tables by the pond. But what makes Tarara truly unique is the man-made cave that acts as the wine cellar. You can peak into the cave from the tasting room and, if you’re lucky, they sometimes offer tours.
- The wine: Jordan Harris, Tarara’s winemaker, is one of the top 40 under 40 American winemakers. His 2010 Cabernet Franc was one of the first Virginia wines to receive a 90+ score from Wine Enthusiast. The guy knows what he’s doing. My favorite currently on the tasting menu is the Nevaeh Red, a bold red blend that would be perfect with a steak; don’t miss it!
- Visiting info: Tasting room open 7 days a week, 11-5 weekdays, 11-6 on weekends. Tastings are $15 for 6 wines, $20 for 9 (but if you come between 11-12 on Saturdays, they’re free!)
- Zephaniah Farm recently made Travel + Leisure’s list of the top 25 wineries in America, so, naturally, it should be on your list of Leesburg area wineries to visit.
- The charm of this place is that it’s truly a hidden gem. It’s completely overlooked by tourists in favor of its super-crowded neighbor Stone Tower, but that’s why Zephaniah is worth visiting. There are no tour buses filled with drunk bachelorettes here; the family is singularly focused on producing quality wine and establishing relationships with their guests.The Hatch family has owned the property since 1950, and today operate the tasting room in the living room of their c.1820 house. A visit here is sort of like going over to your friend’s house and sharing a few glasses of wine by the fire.
- The wine: Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin are the stars here, and the pair make a stellar blend in the Three Captains.
- Visiting info: Open Fri-Sun, 12-5:30. Tastings are $10.
- If you like food paired with your wine tasting, Fabbioli is where you need to go. Fabbioli’s signature trait is that they pair each wine tasting with a selection of gourmet snacks. The menu changes each month, so even if you’ve been before, it’s worth going again to taste the latest food offerings. This month, they’re pairing their Chardonnay with Lemon Goat Cheese, Lemon Pear Marmalade on a Stone Wheat Cracker, which I definitely need to try!
- The wine: Fabbioli specializes in fruit wines, which are honestly just not my thing. But they might be yours! For those like me who shy away from the sweet stuff, their Paco Rojo is a lovely, easy-drinking red wine that I highly recommend. And their Raspberry Merlot, odd as it sounds, is incredible paired with a dark chocolate truffle.
- Visiting info: Open 7 days a week from 11-5. A 7 wine tasting, snacks included, is $15.
- No Virginia winery is large by California standards, but Casanel is tiny even compared to just those on this list – they have just 7 acres of vines and produce 1000 cases a year. Casanel is named for owners Casey and Nelson. Nelson is originally from Brazil but, according to him, he didn’t fit in there because he likes to work instead of going to the beach (his words, not mine)! So he emigrated and founded several businesses before starting a winery.
- The property has an outdoor porch overlooking the pond, a perfect spot to enjoy your cheese and wine. The tasting room has a large fireplace and plenty of views of the beautiful grounds.
- The wine: Casanel is one of the first vineyards in Virginia to grow Carmenere, and they offer a single varietal made from it. Aged for 16 months in oak, it’s a must-try.
- Visiting info: Open Fri-Mon from 11-6. Tastings are $10 for 6 wines.
There are many more than just five, but in my opinion these are the best wineries near Leesburg, VA that you should try next time you’re in the area!
Have you been to any of these? What did you think?
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*Disclaimer: I do have a few criteria for every vineyard that I recommend. Just because a winery doesn’t make it on to one of my lists doesn’t mean it doesn’t meet these, but every winery I do feature does.
- First, they have to grow their own grapes. The majority of Virginia wineries do have their own vineyards, so I choose not to feature those that import grapes from other states. I understand that there are reasons and circumstances for doing so and I’m not saying it’s not a legitimate practice! But I’m all about supporting local products and truly Virginian wine. If I want a California Chardonnay, I’ll go to the store and get one. I don’t expect to buy one from a Virginia winery.
- Second, they have to actually have good wine. That’s the most basic job of a winery. The winery may have an amazing restaurant, gorgeous landscaping, awesome events, but if they don’t actually produce drinkable wine, that’s a problem. Now, I’m extremely lenient on this point; you may think I’ve listed some wineries that don’t meet this criteria. But if I went to their tasting room and found at least one wine that I would be willing to drink with my cheese plate, then they have at least one drinkable wine in my book.