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Aug 25, 2010 11:10 AM

Recommendations of Northern Va wineries for a day visit from DC?

Which vinyards have the best wines to taste and most attractive tasting rooms in the Middleburg, Loudoun and Falquier Counties? We would like some nice food to accompany, probably for lunch. Some friends from California would like to sample the local offerings.

Joan from DC

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  1. Naked Mountain Winery just past Upperville is the first Virginia wine I've had where the cost to quality ratio isn't entirely out of whack. Their Chardonnay's are very drinkable and delicious.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Flaxen_Vixen

      If you do Upperville, I love Hunter's Head Tavern. They serve locally farmed meat:

      1. re: Manassas64

        I second Hunter's Head. Their garden is gorgeous and the last time I was there, the mussles were delicious.

      2. re: Flaxen_Vixen

        Naked Mountain is nice and has one of the prettiest tasting rooms w/ an amazing view from a wall of windows. They do periodic lunches/dinners. I've never been but they sound good.

        1. re: Flaxen_Vixen

          I agree, Naked Mountain produces some really nice wines.

        2. We do a Loundon County loop regularly:

          Sunset Hills
          8 Chains North

          There are a handful of other vineyards you can add to this loop, but they're pretty bad (Doukenie, Breaux, Corcoran, Notaviva).

          For lunch, we always stop at Magnolia's at the Mill in Purcellville. There is also an awesome organic famer's stand along the way that sells amazing (and cheap!) tomatoes.

          12 Replies
          1. re: reiflame

            In Fauquier we really like La Grange and Pearmund. They both do baskets for lunch with sausage, cheese, crackers, fruit, etc.

            1. re: italy531

              I've been travelling to Virginia wineries for 30+ years. Arguably the most picturesque is either Hillsborough or Glen Manor. Despite the Front Royal association and whatever image this might create Glen Manor has chairs and tables in the rear of it that back to a mountainside which looks, for all the world, exactly like Austria or Switzerland.

              Coincidentally GlenManor also has the best red in the state of VA, with all due respect to Barboursville's Octagon. Naked Mountain has a very pretty setting but it pales to both of these. FWIW, I'd make the argument that much of the VA wine country is among the most beautiful of any on earth.

              1. re: Joe H

                I'lll put in a vote for the view off the porch of Chester Gap Winery (on Rte 522 south of Front Royal). The experience in the tasting room is quite spartan, not so much as an oyster cracker between pours, but the Viognier Riserve and the view are sublime.

                We had an interesting experience at Narmada, a new winery near Washington, VA run by husband and wife who are highlighting their Indian heritage both in the way they make wine and in their food and gift shop possibilities. In terms of the former, the wines are primarily off-dry to pair with spicy Indian food. Even the driest wine, the Chardonnay, is much sweeter than any Chard I've ever tasted.

                Narmada's normal snack bar menu includes such things as vegetable samosas, aloo tikki, and chicken tikka; however, this Labor Day weekend added Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, and one more option to the menu. First the good news: Based on the Rogan Josh and the Butter Chicken, the seasoning was very complex with a lovely depth of flavor. Now the bad news: This place is a popular destination for large groups who want to eat and drink wine so the kitchen got hammered. We were served after a half hour wait only because I asked; our ticket was no where in sight in the stack.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  Thanks, Indy 67, we'll definitely try this.

                  1. re: Joe H

                    I was just reading the Harvest 2010 edition of the VA Wine Gazette that we picked up today and there may be a reason why you vote for Glen Manor and I vote for Chester Gap as having gorgeous views. They are two miles from one another as the crow flies, although an article describes GM's slopes as western-facing and CG's as easterm-facing.

                    Finally, not food related. we could use our cell phone from Chester Gap Winery. In addition, there is only one cell tower near Little Washington: at the intersection of Rte 211 and 522, disguised inside a silo. At the intersection, you'll notice exceptionally large gravel shoulders always occupied by cars. That is because anyone who visits Little Washington has to drive to this location to get a cell phone signal (or to call On Star/Destination Assist).

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      Hillsborough is incredible, too. Curiously, sitting at a table outdoors at Hillsborough looks exactly like Tuscany while sitting outdoors behind Glen Manor looks exactly like an Austrian mountainside. Serious. Both have remarkable views. Chester Gap? We'll be there in a week or two!

                      I believe that many of the people reading this have absolutely no idea how beautiful this part of Virginia is. Of course there is much to be said for Annapolis and the eastern shore of Maryland, too.

            2. re: reiflame

              Have to disagree with reiflame on Corcoran and Notaviva--I think they do some of the best wine in Loudoun County. North Gate is a recent addition but also excellent. I can agree with the recommendation of Hillsboro vineyard, which is excellent and has a gorgeous view and the Magnolia's recommendation as well. For views alone Bluemont Vineyard is breathtaking, but the wines aren't my favorite.

              1. re: mdzehnder

                I thought Notaviva's schtick was worse than their wines. Wine to pair with music? Pul-ease.

                Corcoran wasn't terrible (unlike Doukenie) but I found their offerings completely forgettable.

                Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of wine in that loop. I've come to expect nothing but the worst from VA vineyards and it was nice to see that they're finally evolving into something enjoyable.

                1. re: reiflame

                  Out of curiosity, which vineyards' offerings (beyond the ones you've already mentioned) caused you to have such a low opinion of VA vineyards? And what types of non-VA wines do you typically enjoy?

                  1. re: mdzehnder

                    When I first moved here (2003) I went to a few wine festivals and almost everything we tasted was dank, unbalanced and poorly made. I'm convinced that a big part of the problem was the "plant everything and see what works" philosophy. Virginia has a really unique set of growing conditions and things like pinot noir and sauvignon blanc just don't grow well here, and yet the vineyards continued to try.

                    The trend appears to be a limiting of the number of types of grapes grown by each vineyard, which overall raises the quality since you're getting rid of the varietals that don't grow well, and a maturing of their ability to blend.

                    I don't have a set "type" of wine that I enjoy, other than wine that is well balanced. I think it's silly to limit yourself (like those that say they only enjoy "red" wines or won't drink "sweet" wines).

                    Anyways, the quality in Virginia is going in the right direction, which is great! Now I just wish Maryland could get theirs off the ground, but it seems unlikely, given how unfriendly this state is to the alcohol industry.

              2. re: reiflame

                I'm going with a group from work out to a couple of Loudoun County wineries next week. Due to various constraints, we'll be going to one from your good list (Sunset Hills) and one from your bad list (Doukenie). I'll keep an open mind and report back.

                I encourage everyone to visit the wineries of Loudoun County and just spend money in LoCo in general. 8>D

                1. re: Bob W

                  You should include Hillsborough in your trip. For wine Glen Manor's Hodder HIll is an excellent red by either Front Royal or Walla Walla standards. I write this as someone who has been on Leonetti's mailing list since the early '90's and today is a passionate supporter of K Vintners. Glen Manor is a step or two behind both but is the first VA winery that I thought could even challenge them one day.

                  The "Austrian mountainside" setting doesn't hurt either.

                  This is a remarkable thread with Glen Manor's wine maker the author of it. I have not met him, but his passion and dedication comes across in his writing. In person it is in his wine.

              3. This is a great thread, and I thank you all for your tips!

                3 Replies
                1. re: alkapal

                  I recently had the same question come up, and wondered if anyone had an updated list of recommended wineries in the Northern VA area (within an hour of DC). Has anything changed? Any new places I should look at, or older favorites that have declined or closed?


                  1. re: firstbitedc

                    We had a really nice tasting at Tarara in Loudon Co. For a relatively small bump in the fee you can do a premium tasting in a decked-out dining room with reserve wines and a more laid back vibe. Highly recommended.

                    1. re: firstbitedc

                      Definitely sign up for Living Social because just about every winery in the area has had a LS coupon recently for 50% off a tasting.

                  2. I really appreciated reiflame's list of vineyards. Saturday my sister and I went to Sunset Hills and then Naked Mountain. Both were fantastic. SH & NM had some very tasty whites. My sister was over the moon about 3 of NM's reds. There's a pick your own wildflower farm along the way to SH so that was a nice additional countryside activity.