By Frank Morgan
Alexandria, VA – Virginia is home to over 275 wineries, about 3,200 acres of grapevines, ranks sixth in the U.S. for wine grape production and is widely considered one of the most promising American wine regions.
The winemakers, wines and wineries of the Shenandoah Valley have played a key role in helping raise the stature of Virginia wine. Initially established in 1982, the Shenandoah Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the oldest AVA in the Commonwealth of Virginia; covering 2.4 million acres, it’s also the state’s largest AVA.
A pastoral wine region framed by the Appalachian and Allegheny Plateaus to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains on the east, the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail is home to 23 boutique, family-owned wineries.
The northern end of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail is just one hour west of Washington, DC. From Veramar Vineyards in Berryville, the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail stretches about 175 miles southwest along the valley, through Harrisonburg and Staunton, down to Blue Ridge Vineyard in Botetourt County.
Along the wine trail, visitors will find historic sites, charming college towns, scenic drives, picturesque views from winery tasting rooms and world-class wines.
The region is home to over 440 acres of grapevines planted atop rolling hills and boasts a diverse horticultural scene with dozens of grape varieties cultivated for wine.
Wines made in the region regularly garner top scores in the annual Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition and in other prestigious national and international competitions.
Adventurous wine enthusiasts can experience a broad range of world-class wines along the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail; from dry to sweet to sparkling, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Chardonnay, Petit Manseng to Cabernet Franc, Riesling to Norton and Traminette.
The climate in the Shenandoah is cooler and drier than most other regions of the state. White wines like Chardonnay and Riesling tend to be fresh and bright with pronounced minerality and crisp acidity. Reds like Cabernet Franc are delicate with a distinctive minerality while Bordeaux-style red blends are robust yet balanced.
In between winery visits, there’s plenty of outdoor activities available in the Shenandoah Valley — skiing, hiking, horseback riding along scenic countryside trails, and kayaking or fishing on the Shenandoah River. Resorts like Massanutten and Bryce offer a range of indoor and outdoor activities year-round.
For history-minded wine enthusiasts, the region offers a study in early American history with National Historic Landmarks, over a dozen preserved Civil War battlefields, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and historically significant downtowns.
Whether you’re an experienced wine lover or novice, there’s never been a better time to experience the award-winning, world-class wines of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail.
COMING NEXT MONTH: Expanded story with maps and wineries.
A Virginia native, Frank Morgan is the author of the wine site Drink What You Like, started nine years ago to chronicle his wine travel experiences and to share stories of the wines, wineries, and winegrowers of Virginia. Morgan is the wine columnist for VA Growler Magazine (The VirginianPilot Online), and a contributor for Savor Virginia Magazine, Piedmont Virginian Magazine, the wine site Snooth, and the founder of the monthly virtual wine tasting series Virginia Wine Chat. www.DrinkWhatYouLike.com