Virginia boasts more than 280 wineries surrounded in plush greenery, mountain views and quaint towns. October is wine month in Virginia, there’s no better time to visit, especially with all the fun promotions and activities planned in anticipation.
Recently, we explored Middleburg, VA, it’s one of DC/VA‘s top wine destinations. Located in Loudoun County, an easy 40 minute easy drive from Dulles airport – you can rent a car or take a Uber/Lyft.
It’s the most beautiful time to explore wine country, the leaves are beginning to change and it’s very picturesque with beautiful colonial homes, antique shops and wineries. It’s also exceptionally dog friendly.
There are some really incredible properties you can’t miss, like Greenhill and Stone Tower Winery, which I could easily have spent the day at and many smaller wineries that are worth stopping by. We picked all dog-friendly wineries so we could bring Charlie, but regulations around dogs are always changing so make sure to call first and pick a beautiful day to spend outside with your pup.
How to Plan Your Trip:
There are over 50 wineries in the area, I visited 6 so there’s so much more to see and try. The Virginia Wine Board is a great resource to help plan your trip, check out their site at virginiawine.org.
Hiring a tour company is also an option, we worked with Bruce W. Schutte of Wine Pro Tours, who knows just about everything about Virginia wine, and is an exceptional resource for wineries in the area. His company picks you up from your hotel and drives you to the wineries of your choice for a very fun day of drinking without driving. Here are the wineries we visited:
During my visit I heard a lot about how Virginia wines are closer to French and European wines than California and this felt very evident at Greenhill. A must visit, this is the foremost boutique winery destination in Loudoun County, laden with awards and press. Reservations are recommended and if possible take the tour, especially if you’re lucky enough to have Sebastien Marquet, the properties Winemaker & Chief Commercial Officer to lead it.
He’s incredibly talented and this was the most informative wine tour I’ve ever experienced. We learned a lot about the process and a lot of interesting information such as how oak can soften the acidity of a bottle in contrast to stainless steel barrels which you have more control over and preserves the acidity but doesn’t offer the woodnotes.
Different types of oak can impart different characteristics, for instance Hungarian Oak is smokier than French. We toured the facility, saw the barrel rooms and then walked the vineyard and sampled the grapes, before heading in for a tasting. It was fascinating.
Set atop Hogback Mountain on 306 acres, this was one of my favorite wineries from the visit. I could probably spend all day at this winery, the property is vast and stunning! The décor is perfection, which comes to no surprise since the family that owns it also owns Belfort Furniture. There’s lots to explore on the grounds, the views are exquisite and it’s a gorgeous setting for an event or even to get married. Dogs are welcome inside the Harvest Barn and outside, throughout the property. Don’t forget to run the boar’s nose and make a wish, apparently it’s a thing…
868 Estate Winery
This charming winery, set on 120 acres of open pasture, vineyards and wooded hills is unique in that it also has a farm to fork restaurant on the property, the Grandale Restaurant. Plan your trip around meal time or on the weekends when they fire up the grill and do outdoor tastings. Their tasting room serves a selection of Virginia wines curated by their winemaker, Carl DiManno. The Cab Franc 2015 was one of my favorites from our tasting.
Overlooking the vineyards, this is a smaller winery that’s family owned and operated, complete with a dog park in the back. They opened in 2006 making them the 26th Winery in Loudoun county, which now has roughly 50. If you do the tasting make sure to try the LoCo Vino 2016.
If you’re a Norton fan, this is the winery for you. For those who don’t know, the Norton is a hybrid grape, native to Virginia and named after it’s founder Dr. Daniel Norton. It’s an acquired taste but this local gem consistently produces quality red wines of great character and intensity. Sit outside, dogs are welcome on the grounds (but not inside) and enjoy a glass. The owner, Jennifer McCloud is so wonderful and took us on an unforgettable tour of the property, where I sampled several grapes, including the Norton, which was delicious.
Cana is an intimate winery, that sits on a picturesque hillside, nestled between the historic towns of Aldie and Middleburg. Against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we were welcomed by live music on the patio as we entered the property. I enjoyed several bottles and took home a 2016 Petit Manseng and a Sweet Vermouth. The Petit Manseng was exceptional, medium body fruity blend with a touch of residual sugar. Also I highly recommend the cheese plates and spreads.
Where to Stay:
If you’re looking for an indulgent experience, the Salamander Resort and Spa does not disappoint. Set on 340 acres, there is a lot of room to breathe and explore. We travel a lot but this was easily the most dog friendly property we’ve ever visited. Charlie and I had a great time running in the grass, exploring gardens and saying hello to the horses. Charlie likes to boss them around.
Everything about this property is absolutely stunning – the rooms, the decor, the dining experience, and even the small details like the board games. Even if you don’t stay, it’s worth a visit to have a bite the restaurant and walk the grounds. Make sure to hit the stables and visit the horses, or better yet, go for a ride! The location is prime and only minutes (or rather blocks) from Middleburg town. I’d like to go back for a weekend and not even leave the property it’s so exceptional. Speaking of Middleburg town, it’s so cute lined with restaurants, boutiques and of course dog shops (it’s very dog friendly).
While you’re there… visit Marshall, VA
Stop in Marshall, VA for dinner at Field & Main Restaurant for one of the most exquisite farm to table experiences (they also have an excellent wine menu of local VA bottles). It’s a real gem by Star and Neal Wavra and special destination that serves up the best of Virginia from the decor to the meals enjoyed. The duo beautifully restored the space which was a restaurant in the late 1700s and managed to keep the charm while creating an intimate place to gather.