By Katie Bowles
Tired of the drab buildings and crowded streets of NoVa? Grab a friend or two and head to the woods for one of these aqua vitae-oriented weekend getaways. Whether you’re a beer lover, whisky connoisseur, wine aficionado or simply a nature enthusiast, these mountain spots are sure to have something for you.
Wine fit for a king—or a founding father. That’s what you’ll find at Barboursville Vineyards, a historic winery located outside of Charlottesville, 85 miles away from Fairfax. Originally designed as a gift from Thomas Jefferson to Gov. James Barbour, the Barboursville mansion and grounds now encompass an award-winning vineyard, inn and restaurant.
In 2011, Barboursville wine was selected by the British Embassy in Washington D.C. to be featured at its reception for the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Whether you’re a patriot or royalty, a day at Barboursville is nothing short of idyllic. Take a self-guided tour of the grounds any day of the week, or come on the weekend and enjoy a complimentary winery tour.
After exploring, find your way to Barboursville’s Tasting Room, which features a double-sided fireplace. If the fire doesn’t warm you enough, a tasting of at least 16 of the vineyard’s wines is just $5 per person.
After choosing your favorite vino, walk over to Barboursville’s Palladio Restaurant, open Wednesday through Sunday (reservations suggested for lunch, required for dinner) for a Northern Italian-inspired meal. Need a place to stay after all that wine? Reserve a suite at the 1804 Inn right next door, or stay in one of the estate’s cottages (prices range from $240-$475 per night).
While you’re in the Charlottesville area, don’t miss the nearby Blue Mountain Brewery. Located on a sprawling campus in rural Afton (120 miles outside of Fairfax), this award-winning microbrewery also features a hop farm and a restaurant.
Blue Mountain has impressed beer lovers worldwide by winning multiple medals at the Great American Beer Festival and at the World Beer Cup, including the Silver medal for Blue Reserve, a seasonal beer brewed exclusively with Virginia hops.
The brewery is open seven days a week with complimentary brewery tours offered on Saturday afternoons. Come on a Sunday and enjoy the brewery restaurant’s brunch, or on a Tuesday evening for “Geeks Who Drink” Trivia and a fish taco special.
For vegetarian beer enthusiasts, the Brewery offers “Meatless Mondays,” featuring a specials menu of meat-free fare. Blue Mountain visitors wanting to make a weekend of their trip are provided with a list of nearby lodging options by the brewery, and also have the opportunity to reserve excursions to close tourist destinations like Shenandoah National Park.
Want something a bit stronger? Head down to Sperryville, nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains just 60 miles outside of Fairfax, and check out the Copper Fox Distillery’s whisky and gin offerings. Not even 10 years old, this young, family-run distillery delights in old-fashioned charm, with rustic touches like a barn and a black lab named Virginia (Ginny for short) occasionally lounging around the premises.
The distillers here take obvious pride in their work and cut no corners—Copper Fox is the only distillery in the United States that does 100 percent of its grain malting, and all of its spirits are stilled in small batches, one barrel at a time. Take a free tour Monday through Saturday, or stop by the distillery store and purchase a barrel kit to try aging your own whisky.
After spending a day at the distillery, travel 10 minutes up the road to the Inn at Little Washington, which includes Copper Fox on its spirits list. Enjoy a five-star meal (so ranked on the 2013 Forbes Travel Guide) at the restaurant and then stay a night at the award-winning Inn, also given the five-star rank by Forbes (prices vary depending on date).
Travel Deals and Steals
Every Friday evening, dine at the Palladio Restaurant at Barboursville and reserve any available suite in the cottages or 1804 Inn at half price for that same night (promotion runs through March 6).
Check out Wintergreen Resort while in the Charlottesville area and take advantage of its “Ski and Tee” offer—use your same-day lift ticket to receive a free round of afternoon golf at nearby Stoney Creek Golf Course.
Make your trip about more than just the destination: Take a scenic cruise on the Skyline Drive while in the Shenandoah Valley. The Drive is offering entrance free-of-charge in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 20.
Always check weather advisories and road closures before embarking on a trip through rural Virginia. (source: Shenandoah National Park Facebook)