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: Rappahannock Cellars
Start the day with a drive to Rappahannock Cellars in Huntly, and visit its in-house distillery, Dida’s. The distillery offers brandy, gin and vodka, all made from pressed Rappahannock Cellars grapes. A vermouth, cinnamon-flavored vodka and several aged brandies are up next.
Owner John Delmare and his family oversee much of the winery-distillery operations on the 85-acre farm, and with 12 children, that’s a lot of family in the tasting room and across more than 35 acres of grapes. The winery, which celebrates 20 years of vines in the ground in 2019, recently opened an adults-only rooftop patio and often hosts food trucks, live music and bottling events. Rappahannock has a long history in the state’s Governor’s Cup wine competition, and winemaker Theo Smith has an especially deft hand with straight-varietal cabernet franc and Bordeaux blends.
Next stop: 6 minutes; 5 miles
Bring home the bottle
Rappahannock Cellars Meritage 2017 ($36)
Notes: “Aromas of dark stone fruit, jam and pie crust. Flavors of toasted hazelnut, blueberry and humidor.”
Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot
2nd stop: Lunch at Griffin Tavern
Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill, a short drive from Rappahannock, is open daily for lunch. The women-powered restaurant—Debbie Donehey is the owner and the tavern-style menu is executed by chef Rachel Rowland, formerly of The Ashby Inn—offers hearty sandwiches and burgers with several British options, including fish and chips and a traditional ploughman’s lunch, featuring sausages from Two Fat Butchers in Front Royal.
Next stop: 46 minutes; 32.5 miles
3rd Stop: Old House Vineyards
It’s worth a little longer drive to Old House Vineyards in Culpeper, because once you arrive, you’ll need to stay a while. Owners Patrick and Allyson Kearney and their son, Ryan, earlier this year unveiled Old House Brewing Company on the same acreage as Old House Distillery, which opened in 2015—making it the first commingled winery in the state. Old House now has another milestone as the first entity in Virginia to have a craft brewery, winery and distillery on the same land.
The brewery’s tasting area is a tavern with several hundred seats offering beers on tap, many made from grains grown on-site. And the distillery, located 100 feet from the winery, pours samples of spiced rums, including a coffee-flavored version; Blue Agave Nectar, which is Old House’s version of tequila; and a triple-distilled vodka, made mostly from vidal blanc grapes. This fall, gin and brandy will join the lineup.
Oh, and there is still wine. Old House has 30 acres under vine and produces a variety of bottlings, including its signature dessert wine, Arctica, which uses late-harvest vidal grapes that are frozen post-harvest and cluster-pressed for Virginia’s version of sweet ice wine.
Bring home the bottle
Old House Vineyard Melange de Maison NV ($22)
Notes: ”A unique blend of wines spanning multiple growing seasons … presents a fruit-forward and well-balanced wine with moderate tannic intensity and a soft, lingering finish.”
Grape: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Chambourcin
Pen Druid Brewing produces wild-fermented beers made with native yeasts from around the brewery. It only sells what it makes on-site in Sperryville, so if you like it, buy it …
Glen Gordon Manor in Huntly is a former Wells Fargo stagecoach stop turned bed-and-breakfast with 45 acres of grounds and views of nearby Shenandoah National Park … Cibola Farms, a 400-head bison ranch in Culpeper, has a retail store full of steaks, ribs, sausages and jerky for you to bring home and enjoy, plus bones and leather for decor.