Alexandria, VA – The first snow of the winter season kicked off the new year with considerable gusto, dropping up to 14 inches in parts of wine country. The picturesque vines blanketed with sparkling snow crystals set against the white-capped peaks of the Blue Ridge are about as inviting a winter’s scene as even painter Rockwell Kent might capture on canvas.
Whether gathered around an outdoor fire on a seasonably warm day in January or February or seeking shelter from winter’s shivering bones, snuggled in front of a roaring hearth, winery destinations offer sanctuary from the cold, bleak days ahead until spring returns, awakening the vines again.
Z~ Oenology reached out to members of Nancy Bauer’s Virginia Wine Love group to gather a 411 list of wineries specifically offering free firepits. Not wanting to exclude some of the most popular vineyards in NOVA, those charging a rental fee will be included in the wine-tasting fireside options.
Fireplaces indoors make for a shorter list. Despite the historic landscape of Virginia wine country, not all wineries offer the luxury of a centuries-old stone hearth large enough to sit inside. Few things paint a more iconic picture of life among the landed gentry than parking in a comfy chair in front of a roaring fire with a pup plotzed on the rug nearby, watching you savor a glass of your favorite Virginia vino.
Wineries that permit Fido fireside include Breaux Vineyards in Hillsboro, where dogs are allowed indoors to relax in front of the old tasting room space fireplace, and Barrel Oak Winery (affectionately called BOW for their canine hospitality), where dogs rule supreme, holding court, safeguarding the coveted hearth seating.
The new Sunset Pavilion at Cana Winery and Vineyards of Middleburg is a spacious, winter-enclosed outdoor space with a stately stone, wood-burning hearth that invites winery-loving pooches to stretch out fireside for pupperoni barkuterie snacks and tummy rubs. Come for the spectacular sunsets. Stay for the fireside romance and relax sipping a glass of their distinctive reds: Merlot, Malbec, and the more elusive Tempranillo with your besties, two and four-legged. Or, if a special celebration is on the calendar, uncork a bottle of the 2017 Unité Reserve from Melanie Natoli’s award-winning Estate Library Collection. The trio Library Reserve pack for $150 is now sold out, but single bottles of the 2017 Unité Reserve are available online and at the winery.
If you go white in winter, spring, summer, or fall, try the Albariño, similar to Cana’s 50 West neighbors’ sold-out 2018 and 2019. Their terroir, slope, and hilltop southwestern exposure produced some notable Albariño vintages these last few years. Be sure to pick up a Cana Rosé or Merlot squeaky chew toy on sale at the winery to keep your CANAine companion content while you Chardonnay the day away.
Other NOVA wineries with fireplaces include 8 Chains North, 50 West (clubhouse), the Barns at Hamilton Station, Bluemont, Bogati, Casanal, Corcoran, Creek’s Edge, Doukenie, Dry Mill, Fabbioli, Fleetwood Farm, Hidden Brook, Little Washington Winery (at Skyline Vineyard Inn) Lost Creek, Otium, Quattro Goombas, Stone Tower, Walsh Family, Williams Gap, The Wine Reserve, and Zephaniah. If Z~Oenology missed a winery, please let us know and we’ll add it online ASAP!
It wouldn’t be Christmas in Wine Country without a pilgrimage to Bluemont Vineyards for the lighting of the vines. The snow came late, showing up the day after the final illumination night on January 2nd. Z~Oenology has covered the event in the past, fortunate to enjoy the incomparable spectacle amid several inches of freshly-fallen holiday snow. There’s nothing like it to ignite the spirit of the season.
While the mild temps for most of December didn’t require coats, the mystique and allure of the fireside wine tasting on the mountaintop, with vistas overlooking all of Loudoun Valley and beyond to Tysons, Ballston, and on a clear day even Roslyn and D.C., proved to be irresistible. Add to that a glorious sunset, quite quaffable wine and beer (and hot cocoa for the so-inclined) followed by dusk’s light show, and you have yourself an impromptu event. Reservations for firepits and tables (with wait service) are required on weekends. The firepits rent for $75 for two hours.
During the first year of COVID, many wineries began requiring advanced reservations with deposits applied to purchases while visiting. However, most wineries renting firepits, whether wood-fired or propane, do not apply the rental fees toward wine and food tabs. Wineries found the cost of a constant supply of wood and the inflated propane costs due to high demand and scarcity to be prohibitive to sustain throughout another winter unless they charged.
Renting a firepit can be costly (and no, you can’t bring your own). It is a luxury that most winery daytrippers cannot reconcile, preferring to allocate their funds toward more wine. But it is more affordable if shared among a group of four to six. Other popular wineries renting firepits are 50 West in Middleburg and Sunset Hills in Purcellville. The fee at their smokeless, wood-burning firepits is $75/per two hours for up to six people. Two Twisted Posts in Hillsboro rents their firepits at $10 an hour, available by reservation or walk-in. There’s also a new heated enclosure to accommodate more than the maximum of ten people per firepit allowed.
Nearby Paradise Springs in Clifton offers firepits by reservation. It costs $90 for a three-hour Boxwood Patio Firepit experience for up to 12 people and their pups. This includes two Paradise Springs Winery logo blankets.
Another fireside and wine pairing right here in Old Town is Sonoma Cellar at 207 King Street. The intimate brick and pea gravel back patio has a firepit, heaters, and comfy fleece blankets to cozy up with while sampling the expansive selection of California vintners as well as Virginia vintage fare paired with an eclectic menu appealing to the committed carnivore as well as any unwavering vegan, served with a NoCal locavore cuisine bent.
Fortunately, most Virginia wineries are not charging guests for using the firepits at this time. Milder temperatures in the fall going into December and through New Year’s have no doubt kept demand relatively low. But winter is not only coming, it’s checked in for the duration. We can’t hibernate, and why would we want to with all the great grape experiences awaiting us indoors and out? It’s a comfort to know there are diverting options to keep warm for all budgets. And don’t forget ̶ ’tis mulled-wine weather.
Here’s the list of Virginia wineries that do not charge for gathering around a warming fire. Don’t forget the s’mores fixings! And #CHEERS for a healthy and happy new year of friendship, fellowship, and kinship among Virginia wine lovers!