If Thomas Jefferson could only see Northern Virginia now, he’d be so proud. Our state’s most famous and beloved resident — and a fervent lover of wine — always believed Virginia was capable of producing wines that could rival those of Europe.
Though his own efforts to produce wine in Monticello’s rocky soil and humid climate famously failed, no one has ever accused our third president of lacking vision.
Today, Northern Virginia is the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the nation, with more than 200 wineries and dozens of wine trails, all set against a gorgeous backdrop of rolling green hills, lush foliage, charming towns and historic monuments. And some of Europe’s most experienced winemakers are coming to Northern Virginia to help create what many are calling the East Coast’s next Napa.
To properly drink your way around Northern Virginia’s wine country, skip the chugging and driving, which is both dangerous and short-sighted. Instead, hop aboard an Uptown Bus for a proper party bus wine tour. As you tour, toast and taste some of the region’s finest vintages, you’ll enjoy captivating views, breathe in the fresh Shenandoah breezes, explore some of the best Northern Virginia wineries and relax the day away with your friends — both new and old. You never know who you’ll meet on a wine tour, and that’s half the fun.
All you have to worry about is selecting the wineries you want to visit. That’s where we come in. We have the buzz on the best wineries in Northern VA, so consider this your official touring guide.
Though Virginia’s wines may still be earning a name for themselves, Northern Virginia’s wineries are increasingly turning out vintages that earn international accolades. A great place to start is Leesburg, where Fabbioli Cellars’ unpretentious tasting room and earth-friendly, award-winning wines will win over even the most skeptical of wine connoisseurs.
Ranked by The Washington Post among its list of wineries with the “Best wines,” Fabbioli’s 25-acre vineyard and winery was founded by the Fabbioli family of California, who make wines in the traditional way handed down by Doug Fabbioli’s Italian grandfather. A former winemaker at Buena Vista Winery in California’s Carneros district, Doug Fabbioli has made a study and science of winemaking, consistently turning out high-quality wines — primarily red — using traditional methods married with 21st century agricultural science.
The results have earned Fabbioli some of the nation’s most prestigious wine awards, including Double Gold at the Indy International Wine Competition in 2009, as well as Best in Show at the Virginia Wine Showcase, Gold Medal and Best in Class at the 2012 Los Angeles International Wine Competition — and dozens more regional, national and international competitions.
Fabbioli is known for its raspberry merlot, imbued with the flavors of fruits grown on the property. However, all the wines deserve attention, including the “Something White,” a frequent award-winner. Tastings at Fabbioli take place in a casual, cellar-type atmosphere, at a table, much as you would enjoy and savor a fine meal, but without the pretense. Tastings feature seven wines, each perfectly paired with small portions of gourmet food.
Next, a short trip west to the Hillsboro area leads you to Breaux Vineyards. Voted Virginia’s “favorite winery” for three straight years in the Farm Winery Council’s annual public poll, Breaux Vineyards is not only one of the best wineries in Northern Virginia, but it’s also one of the largest, with more than 104 acres of vineyard planted with 17 grape varieties on its 400-plus-acre estate.
Feel free to taste the wine in the large tasting room or take it outside, where there’s plenty of seating on the Patio Madeleine or lawn, or in the courtyard, and enjoy the view of the valley between the Blue Ridge and Short Hill Mountains and landscaped lawn as you sip. You can purchase light snacks on site or at one of the food trucks that occasionally rolls up outside, but you may also bring a picnic to soak up the view — especially if it includes fall foliage, a real stunner.
Oh, and did we mention the wine? The Washington Post puts Breaux’s vintages on its list of “Best wines” in Northern Virginia, not to mention that it’s also among those listed as most kid- and pet-friendly. Breaux’s wines have won numerous awards, including the Gold Medal at the Riverside International Wine Competition, the Gold Medal in the Virginia Wine Lover Magazine “Wine Classic Awards,” Gold Medal at the International Eastern Open Wine Competition, Gold Medal at the US National Wine Competition, Silver Medal at the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, Silver Medal at the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon, Silver Medal at AWC Vienna, Bronze Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards and Best 250 Wines of 2012 (International) #87 by Oz Clarke.
Arrange a weekend tasting at Breaux, when you can often catch live music or special events.
Noted for their beauty, situated as they are amid lush, rolling hillsides and farmlands against a Blue Ridge Mountain horizon, these Snickers Gap-area Loudoun vineyards may only be about a half hour from the hubbub of Washington, DC, but they might as well be a world away.
Next head over to North Gate Vineyard, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet and nestled at the base of the Short Hill Mountains. Here, winemakers Mark and Vicki Fedor primarily grow Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng and Bordeaux red grapes on their quaint 26 acres, one of the best vineyards in Northern VA in terms of its stewardship of the land and its beauty.
The grounds are stunning, thanks to views of fall foliage, a covered back porch for lazy summer days or a beautiful lawn perfect for a picnic. The tasting room and wine production facilities are 100 percent solar-powered and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified, the first in Loudoun County and the second in all of Virginia to be so. Its cozy tasting room with homey, inviting fireplace and friendly staff make it easy to see why The Washington Post places North Gate on its “Best tastings” list.
Of course, this may also be due to the delightfully sinful chocolate-and-wine pairings offered, featuring truffles by The Perfect Truffle, for just an additional $5 more per pairing, or for its renowned apple wine. Sample light snacks as you taste, and enjoy the opportunity that comes with a small winery — to chat directly with the winemakers about their process or their environmentally-conscious practices.
And, of course, it could be the wine. After all, North Gate’s 2013 Vineyard Meritage earned special recognition from judges at the 2016 Governor’s Cup competition.
A day trip to Loudoun isn’t complete without a stop at Bluemont Vineyard, which is often said to have the most spectacular views in all of Northern Virginia’s wine country — on a clear day, you might even be able to see the Washington Monument … or so they say. It’s absolutely a must-see stop on your tour. Situated on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Bluemont Vineyard encompasses not only grapevines, but orchards filled with cherries and black raspberries, which infuse the wines with flavor.
The tasting experience ranks among The Washington Post’s “Most fun” list, which may be due to the view that can be taken in from a picnic on the lawn, or for the ambiance of the tasting room, which features a cozy fireplace. The entire vineyard — except the tasting room — is pet friendly. You may choose from a variety of tasting flights to customize your experience around your wine preferences. And locally produced, affordable foods are available, including cheese and charcuterie plates, flatbread pizzas, tapenades, chocolate truffles and warm baguettes or ciabattas.
As for the wines, Bordeaux varietals are the name of the game here, including a 2014 Meritage that placed Silver in the San Francisco International Wine Competition. If white is your preference, check out what the region is known for: Viognier or Petite Manseng, a wine that proliferates in this region, and which in 2015 earned Bluemont a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco Wine Competition.
FARM GETAWAY TO FAUQUIER
Dotted along the east-west stretch of Interstate 66 through Northern Virginia is the Fauquier Wine Trail, dubbed Virginia’s Horse and Wine Country. Here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just 40 miles west of DC, you’ll find tranquility and scenic beauty in the rolling farmlands, with their charming barns and stone walls, and colonial villages.
It’s here that you’ll find Pearmund Cellars, located nearly in the center of the state on a farm dating back to the 1740s. Talk about unpretentious — this winery welcomes children, who can play in the toy corner or toss Frisbees and balls outside while the adults picnic under giant shade trees. Perhaps this is why The Washington Post calls Pearmund one of the “Most fun” wineries to visit.
Visitors will enjoy a warm, friendly tasting room and conversation with the winemakers, who are among the most decorated in Northern Virginia. And that commitment to education extends to its tours and offerings, which include wine classes. Pearmund also will customize tours to include visits to the grapevines, the Barrel Room or the winemaking process, from vine to bottle.
The 25-acre vineyard features vines that primarily produce chardonnays and a 7,500-square-foot geothermal winery, as part of the proprietors’ commitment to sustainability. Many say it’s the best winery in Northern VA, or even in the state — it’s earned Best Overall Winery in Virginia and Best Winery for Tours by Virginia Wine Lovers Magazine, Best Tasting Room in Virginia by Virginia Wine Lover Readers Choice, Virginia Winery of the Year in the New York International Wine Competition, several Double Golds in the Tasters Guild Wine Lovers International Wine Competition and dozens more.
Hop back on the bus for a short trip west to Fox Meadow Vineyards in Linden for another gorgeous view, one of the finest in all Northern Virginia, thanks to its elevation of 1,700 feet that affords glimpses of up to seven mountain ranges and overlooks Manassas Gap. The winery is fairly young — just 12 years old — and owners Dan and Cheryl Mortland had no background in wine when they started, but Fox Meadow is already a mainstay of the Fauquier Wine Trail.
It’s also a delightfully friendly spot. The Mortlands greet guests in their roomy bar, pouring mostly whites — which do well here in the high-elevation soil — as well as tasty, locally produced morsels that complement the wines.
Located on what used to be the Freezeland Orchard, Fox Meadow excels at fruity wines, such as its Freezeland White, with notes of honeysuckle, passion fruit and mango, or its Freezeland Red, featuring flavors of plum, ripe blackberry and pureed brambles. Fox Meadows wines, from sweet to dry, are big award winners, too, with six Governor’s Cup winners in 2017 alone, as well as bronze, silver and gold medal winners in 2016, in the Wines of the South Competition, Governor’s Cup and Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition.
Green and gorgeous Rappahannock County is nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, a pure and luscious weekend escape that is wonderful enough without the wine — with it, though, life is sweet.
A tour through the Rappahannock Wine Trail must include Gadino Cellars, a picturesque gem featuring a lovely deck and bocce ball court, courtesy of the Italian family that owns and operates it. And we do mean whole family — from kids to grandparents, all are out there picking grapes at harvest time.
Gadino is a small-batch winery that turns out only about 2,000 cases of wine a year, using eco-friendly practices and a locavore sensibility. Its focus is primarily on giving guests the best experience at tastings and events, where the family makes most of their revenue. This means your visit will surely be top notch, as you sample locally made sausages and cheeses and award-winning wines in the Italian-inspired tasting room. You’ll also likely chat with a member of the Gadino family about what went into each of the vintages you taste. Among its accolades is Gold in the 2013 Indy International Wine Competition.
Then grab a seat on the bus for a stunning ride west, right to the edge of the Shenandoah National Park, high on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, almost — but not quite — to West Virginia. You’ll end the day with a bang at the spot tucked away in this hilly heaven, Little Washington Winery. It may be a small operation, producing only eight wines in small batches, but the owners definitely think and act big, taking no shortcuts in their wine production.
A unique tasting experience, the Dirt Road Wine Tour, offers guests an opportunity to taste the unexpected wines you can’t find in stores or wine shops, from obscure but amazing winemakers. The tour offers a glimpse into unusual winemaking styles and rare varietals. This along with Wine Bootcamp education classes and a retail shop voted Best Retail Wine Shop in Virginia, according to Virginia Wine Lovers Magazine, give Little Washington an edge. Not to mention that magazine’s endorsement of Little Washington as #2 winery in the region its festival, Winestock, as the Best Festival, and its lawn as the #2 Picnic Spot in the state.
As for its wines, they’re big, too — George, Little Washington’s flagship red wine, ranks as the #1 red wine in Virginia, and white Shenandoah Steel ranks as the #3 white wine.
Wherever you start and end, whatever your tour has in store and whoever joins you along the way are all up to you. Each of these destinations offers something special to tour guests, and when you don’t have to drive, all you’ll need to do is relax and savor every sip. Contact Uptown Bus to book your customized tour today!