Here’s how to spend a day in Virginia wine country, including where to eat, where to play and what favorite bottles to take home.
1st stop: Breakfast (and to-go lunch) at The Apple House
Start the trip at The Apple House in Linden for warm apple butter cinnamon doughnuts. The restaurant has been making them for more than 50 years, and they’ve sold nearly 5,000 in a day. Linden is sublimely underdeveloped, so also order a to-go sandwich to eat later in the day, because you won’t find many options along the way.
Next stop: 7 minutes; 3.6 miles
2nd stop: Linden Vineyards
Head to Linden Vineyards when it opens at 11 a.m. to get a spot in owner Jim Law’s cozy tasting room—no groups larger than four people, no limos and no parties. Law first planted the estate in 1985, and he is recognized as one of the earliest and most talented winegrowers and winemakers in Virginia.
On Fridays, the lovely terrace and grounds are available to all guests, but they are reserved for wine club members on weekends. If you go on a weekend, try to arrive in time for the free, in-depth vineyard and cellar tour at 11:15 a.m. Or, in December, ask about the winery’s free-form tastings for wine geeks, featuring older vintages and yet-to-be released wines. Also this fall, Linden will feature side-by-side comparisons of its Petit Verdot bottles from two vintages (2014 and 2016) made in different styles. The 2014 underwent a long fermentation and was aged in oak and the 2016 was made with a quicker fermentation and no oak.
Bring home the bottle
Linden Vineyards Village Chardonnay 2017 ($32)
Notes: “The beauty of this wine is in its harmony, complexity and balance.”
Grape: 100% chardonnay
Next stop: 10 minutes; 4.2 miles
3rd stop: Lunch and fresh air at Marriott Ranch
After the tasting, head to the 4,200-acre Marriott Ranch in Hume for a picnic lunch (must order three days in advance, or bring your own food) on the grounds among the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then work it off on a 90-minute trail ride to enjoy the fall leaves in the woods.
Next stop: 28 minutes; 18.2 miles
4th stop: RdV Vineyards
Make the 30-minute drive to Delaplane for a late afternoon tasting at RdV Vineyards. The winery, owned and operated by former Jim Law-apprentice Rutger de Vink, provides a reservations-required hospitality experience without parallel in the state, complete with welcome Champagne (sometimes it’s RdV’s limited-edition rosé), a small-group tour and capped with a tasting of several vintages—including bottles unavailable outside of its pricey membership program—alongside a locally sourced cheese and meats board.
Kids, picnics and pets are not allowed on the grounds, so expect a quiet, unrushed experience with spectacular views and engaged hosts. If you’re lucky, your guide will be estate director Jarad Slipp, who is a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers and a graduate of both the Culinary Institute of America and the International School of Italian Cuisine. Slipp worked in several powerhouse restaurants in DC and New York City before coming to Northern Virginia, and manages to wield his encyclopedic knowledge of wine and winemaking in a way that empowers both vino newbies and experts alike. You’ll hang on his every word.
Bring home the bottle
RdV Vineyards Rendezvous 2016 ($75)
Notes: “This blend … displays a rich, round, fruit-driven style with a generosity and accessibility that make it perfect to enjoy right away.”
Grape: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot
5th stop: Dinner at Field & Main
Sup at Field & Main in Marshall, a quick drive from the winery and a great place to continue exploring some of the state’s top bottles in a casually upscale, neighborly setting. Owners Neal and Star Wavra are passionate about supporting local farmers, distillers, brewers and cider-makers across the Piedmont, and often host special dinners featuring area winemakers. Consider ordering the family style progressive tasting menu to share, highlighting chef Anthony Nelson’s intricate plate work and signature dishes like Buffalo-style fried pigs ear with Crystal Hot Sauce and large-format meat and fish dishes, cooked in the hearth. Ask for a spot near the open kitchen to watch the action, and be sure to check out the Coravin menu for small samples of prized, pricey wines.
If you come to Marshall early, grab breakfast for the next day at Red Truck Rural Bakery … If you’d rather take your upscale picnic lunch to-go, there are plenty of spots to eat along the Appalachian Trail section that winds through Linden … Check out the herbal products at the Paris Apothecary on the grounds of The Ashby Inn & Restaurant, where you can also end the day with dinner on the patio.
The Apple House: 4675 John Marshall Highway, Linden
Linden Vineyards: 3708 Harrels Corner Road, Linden
Marriott Ranch Trail Rides: 4437 Fiery Run Road, Hume
RdV Vineyards: 2550 Delaplane Grade Road, Delaplane
Field & Main: 8369 W. Main St., Marshall