Alexandria, VA – Virginia wine country has met the challenge of life in the time of coronavirus head-on, creating out-of-the-box opportunities to welcome guests in a safe, Covid-compliant environment. Adapting to new health and safety protocols, wineries have enticed winter visitors with hot mulled wines, socially distanced indoor seating, private bubble lounges, heated patios, and propane or wood-burning fire pits replete with s’more kits.
December’s diverting snowfall did little to deter diehard oenophiles. The enchantment of vines illuminated by white lights amid a blanket of bluish-white snow drew pilgrims throughout the month to Bluemont Vineyard in Bluemont and 50 West Vineyard in Middleburg.
Now in its second year, Bluemont expanded the illumination down and across the near 1,000-foot mountaintop. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Tysons Corner and Ballston. Aside from keeping vigil fireside while waiting for the grand illumination with glasses raised in good cheer, there were candle and gingerbread house making activities for the whole family throughout the month, as well as a holiday epicurean wine-pairing feast.
Wines to try: The Ascent, named for the steep climb up through the mountainside vines to reach the tasting room, a complex lusty full-bodied red; the 2018 Viognier Reserve, a classic tip of the hat to Virginia’s iconic white grape; and the Norton Port, for those who like it aromatic, intoxicating, and sweet.
50 West Winery lit the vines for the first time this holiday season, the glow visible from Route 50, across the highway, and up the mountain. Live music every weekend in the tented patio makes everything merry and bright. The lights linger at 50 West and the introduction of 50 West’s new Merlot and Cabernet Franc beckon wanderers to explore this five-year-old winery at the gateway to picturesque Middleburg.
Wines to try: In addition to the new 2019 Merlot and Cab Franc, consider the 2016 Aldie Heights Cuvée, a 2020 Governor’s Cup Silver Medal winner, and the 2019 Piedmont, an unexpected blend of Sauvignon Blanc and something of a secret (it’s Chardonnay and Petit Manseng, but don’t tell). Get it while you can because that’s all folks!
At Fabbioli Vineyards in Leesburg, the holiday theme was The Polar Express. Inside and out, this winery is warm and inviting, with owner Doug Fabbioli and his merry band of elves greeting guests in a festive and fun wonderland of wine. Even the holiday Raspberry Merlot comes in evergreen-shaped bottles. There’s always a fun theme in place at Fabbioli: Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Downton Abbey, to name a few. Fireside tastings are safe and private, with extremely-well socially distanced cushioned patio seating. Fire tenders deliver fresh firewood and check on the state of your flames. Fabbioli is dog-friendly outdoors, with free-range kitties inside. Call ahead to reserve a tasting table inside or to reserve a fire pit.
Wines to try: Bicoastal, a dry red Zinfandel so named because it comprises both Virginia-grown and California-grown grapes. The Chardonnay, a classic French-style, smooth but not too buttery without overpowering oak, is a 2018 Virginia Governor’s Cup Silver medal winner. The Barbera and Sangiovese are a pleasing nod to the winemaker’s Italian roots and a less frequent offering among Virginia wineries.
A bit farther down the wine-country roads in Washington, Virginia, is Little Washington Winery. This almost 11-year-old winery also offers immensely quaffable craft brew on tap as part of their Winery and Brewery. Propane fireplaces on the second-story deck look out to unparalleled views of Old Rag and Stony Man Mountain in not-so-far-off Shenandoah National Park. Carl and Donna Henrickson also offer their award-winning wines at the expansive mansion house and adjacent sister winery of Skyline Vineyard Inn. Covid-compliant, socially-distanced wine and beer tastings and Wine education classes continue to be offered on site.
New this fall was a Par 60 18-hole disc golf course laid out on the grounds of both wineries. It has proven to be more than challenging for even the most experienced disc golfer. The steep front-40 hillside increases course difficulty and also makes a fine sledding slope on a snowy winter’s day. Use of the course is free, and Jenkins Mountain Disc Golf/Skyline Brewery/Little Washington Winery branded putters, drivers, and woods discs for the tree-dense holes are available for sale.
Wines to try: Award-winning George, the new Blanc de Blanc, the Sparkling Rosé, and anything curated by sommelier Andrew from the Dirt Road selection, taking you around the world with wines from Texas or Arizona all the way to Bulgaria and beyond to South Africa.
As we recover from the holiday season, plan to fend off the post-New Year winter blues with a visit to your favorite or as yet undiscovered Virginia winery. Call first to check weather conditions, current hours, and reservation requirements.
Don’t let a little snow and cold scare you off. Wine loves winter. And Valentine’s Day is coming!
Lots of wineries to visit in our region!
These are a few of the Virginia wineries offering winter-warming options:
Ankida Ridge, Amherst
Barrell Oak Winery, Delaplane
Bozzo Family Vineyards, Purcellville
Breaux Vineyards, Purcellville
Cana Vineyards and Winery, Middleburg
Casanel Vineyards and Winery, Leesburg
Cave Ridge Vineyard and Winery, Mount Jackson
Creeks Edge Winery, Lovettsville
Ducard Winery, Etlan
Doukenie Vineyards, Hillsboro
Early Mountain Winery, Madison
8 Chains North Winery, Waterford
Green Hill Winery and Vineyards, Middleburg
James Charles Vineyard and Winery, Winchester
Magnolia Vineyards and Winery, Amissville
Narmada Winery, Amissville
Potomac Point Winery, Stafford
Paradise Springs Winery, Clifton
Revalation Vineyards, Madison
Sunset Hills Winery, Hillsboro
Two Twisted Posts Winery, Purcellville
Veritas Vineyards, Afton
Walsh Family Wine, Purcellville