Winter wine tasting in Virginia is a mellow affair. With fewer people to serve than other times of year, the pourers/educators can spend more time with each guest. Many wineries are warm and cozy with fireplaces or woodstoves. Most have light fare available to accompany a glass of your favorite wine. These are places that entice you to linger. As to who has the best wine, you will need to be the judge. That’s the point of tasting, right?
The following wineries are worthy of winter visits. The first four are within two to four miles of an exit off Interstate I-66. Think of the descending exit numbers along I-66 heading west as a countdown to Vaucluse and the Shenandoah Valley. Although we have listed the appropriate exit numbers, consider getting off I-66 at Marshall, Virginia (exit 25) and following Route 55 west (which parallels I-66) for 12 miles, getting back onto I-66 at Linden (exit 13). This is a much more relaxed way to see the Virginia countryside, which is beautiful in winter as well as summer. You will see signs along Route 55 to all these wineries and several others.
Barrel Oak Winery, 3 miles off I-66 exit 25 (Marshall). This is the winery for people who love lots of dogs, lots of kids and lots of activity, especially on weekends. It is large – two-stories/three indoor tasting rooms– friendly, a casual sort of place, less frenetic in winter but still plenty going on. There’s a large woodburning fireplace in the main tasting area and a woodstove in the other first floor tasting area.
There is a variety of casual food available at Barrel Oak, even food trucks on some weekends. Check their website schedule for live music and activities. On milder winter days, take advantage of several outdoor firepits. A very social spot.
Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, 4 miles off I-66 exit 18 (Markham). The owners of this winery are descended from some of the very first winemakers in Virginia, dating back to the 1700’s, although the winery itself is relatively newly established. The cathedral-ceilinged Palladian-windowed tasting room is surrounded by vineyards and is enlivened with bright acrylic paintings.
The tasting room at Philip Carter has a woodburning fireplace and there are outdoor firepits lit if it is not too cold outdoors. Their light fare includes local cheese, summer sausage and chutney.
Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards, 2 miles off I-66 exit 18 (Markham). Perched on a mountainside, reached by way of a one-lane winding but paved drive, the chalet-style tasting room has a cozy fireplace and great views. Outdoors, there’s a firepit for mild days and Adirondaks spread around the hillside. Naked Mountain has a long and popular tradition of offering gourmet Lasagna Lunches on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays in January through March. It’s a good idea to call ahead to make a reservation for the lunch. During the week, they offer light fare to enjoy with a glass of wine.
Linden Vineyards, 3 miles off I-66 exit 13 (Linden). Closed Tuesday through Thursday. With fresh flowers and an artsy vibe, Linden has the feel of an upscale restaurant (without the food). Their no-limo/no-parties-of-more-than-six rules are consistent with the goal of creating a place where visitors can learn about and experience Virginia wine-making first hand. A woodburning stove adds warmth. Although the most sophisticated of the tasting rooms listed, Linden is located up a long unpaved driveway that is beautiful but may not be suitable for 2-wheel drive vehicles in bad winter weather. Call ahead if in doubt.
Once you have made it to Vaucluse and are looking for a winery nearby, we have the perfect recommendation.
Valerie Hill Vineyard and Winery, 3 miles from the inn, is the closest winery to us. Vaucluse and Valerie Hill have a special bond, both houses having been built by former Captains from the Revolutionary War. The 1807 brick manor house contains the winery’s tasting room, definitely not your typical Virginia wine-tasting venue. Light fare is available (such as meats, cheeses, and baguettes) every day, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in winter they are likely to have something heartier such as chili. Not only is the house historic, however, it seems to be haunted and the winery hosts periodic “History and Hauntings”, a buffet dinner, with wine of course, and a tour of the house focusing on its history and the reported hauntings. Check their website for dates and prices, as well as a schedule for live music on weekends.
The wineries listed are open daily year-round. The exceptions are major holidays, such as Christmas and New Years, and for Linden which is closed every Tuesday through Thursday. If in doubt about road conditions or accessibility, please call the winery that day to make sure they are open.
If the weather is good and you are ready to venture out to wineries that are a bit further afield, just ask us here at the inn and we will be happy to help with suggestions. Happy tastings!