Northern VA wine country

A hidden gem and one of my happy places.

Summary:

Best Wine:

  • Hiddencroft Vineyards
  • Maggie Malick Wine Caves

Best Ambiance with decent wine:

  • Sunset Hills
  • Creek’s Edge
  • Bluemont Vineyard
  • The Barns at Hamilton Station (Live music)

Breweries worth a trip:

  • Bear Chase Brewery
  • Harper’s Ferry Brewing

Must Eats:

  • Magnolia’s at the mill: Purcellville, VA
  • South Street Under: Leesburg, VA
  • Sabor de Cuba: Frederick, MD
  • Shoes Cup and Cork: Leesburg, VA

Why Virginia Wine Country?

Virginia is the second largest producer of wine in the US with over 300 vineyards.  Approximately 100 of those vineyards are in Northern VA surrounded by beautiful scenery, country dirt roads and horse country.  While it is gaining in popularity, this area is still a hidden gem where you can find small quiet vineyards that do incredible tastings for $5. 

Best time to travel?

Spring- While fall is big for harvests, festivals, and foliage (for what VA has), this time is also the most crowded and you will be competing with weddings, bachelorettes, and bridal showers.  VA is beautiful in the spring with warm sunshine and springtime blooms.  April is also cherry blossom season in Washington DC, making for an excellent possible day trip into the city (I will cover Washington DC in a separate blog post). 

How to get there:

Typically, I drive.  I live in MA, about 8 hours away, and while the drive isn’t short,  it is worth it to me to save a few hundred dollars.  When coming from the north, I recommend going down through Pennsylvania.  While traveling down 95 is shorter, the traffic in NYC, NJ, Baltimore, and Washington DC are unpredictable and not worth the headache.  Drive west down 84 into Scranton and take 81S to 15S.  This has you drive through some beautiful countryside and avoids most of the major traffic areas; however, try to avoid Scranton and Harrisburg PA at rush hour and watch out for thick fog.

When I do fly, I hunt around for the best deals.  There are lots of different combinations of airports both up north and near wine country.  If I get my preference, I fly out of Hartford or Providence and into Washington Dulles.  Boston and Reagan National are difficult to get in and out with horrible traffic and Boston is very expensive to park.  Baltimore isn’t a bad airport but is the furthest away from wine country.

  • Up north: Boston Logan, TF Green Providence, or Bradley in Hartford.
  • Near wine country: Washington Dulles (35 min), Reagan National (1 hr), BWI Baltimore (1:30 hr).
  • Currently, Hartford to Washington Dulles is your best bet with United flying for $167 roundtrip.
  • Southwest used to have deals Hartford to Baltimore for $39.

Upon arrival, you will need to rent a car because wine country is extensive and there are minimal public transit or Uber/Lyft options in the region.

Accommodations:

I am very lucky.  When I go to VA, I have a wonderful friend willing to house me for the weekend so I do not need to worry about accommodations. 

The closest hotels are in Leesburg.  This is a larger town in the hustle and bustle of suburbia and about a 30 min drive from many of the best vineyards.  Although this is an option, if you want to experience the best of Northern VA, I recommend either a bed and breakfast or Airbnb in Purcellville, VA or the surrounding towns. 

Wherever you choose to stay, book about 6 months in advance; there are not a lot of options so they fill early.  Expect to spend at least $200 a night in this region.

Safety first:

For all days, please plan your drivers.  There are a wide variety of wine tours and limousine services in the area.   Uber and Lyft may also be available but confirm availability before starting. 

Between my friends and I, we have always managed to have a safe driving plan.

  1. Designate a driver and alternate each day so everyone can enjoy.
  2. Plan your food.  Eat a hearty lunch before starting your day.  Then, almost all of the vineyards, allow you to bring in your own food, so pack a picnic or grab some sandwiches before you start.  Most of the vineyards also sell food, so be sure to grab some snacks with your wine throughout the day.
  3. You will find plenty of delicious wine so if you don’t love it, don’t drink it.   I know, sacrilege, but you can pour it out and save your drinking for those wines that you really love. 
  4. Work your way closer to home.  If you are planning on stopping at multiple locations, start with the furthest out and move closer to where you are staying so in case you find yourself too intoxicated, you can always get an Uber.

Itinerary:

Since what you choose to do will be governed a bit by where you choose to stay, I am just going to list fun day time and evening activities that you can mix and match as you please.

Daytime:

  1. Grab sandwiches at South Street Under to fuel your adventures.
  2. Vineyard hop: Hiddencroft Vineyards (Best wine), Creeks Edge (Beautiful barn and view), The Barns at Hamilton Station (Live Music)
  3. Vineyard hop: Maggie Malick Wine Caves (Best wine and food), Two Twisted Posts, Breaux Vineyards (most popular), Hillsborough, Crushed Cellars (great small winery feel), Sunset Hills (beautiful views and barn)
  4. Vineyard hop: Tarara, Hidden Brook, Lost Creek, Eagletree, Winery 32, Fabbioli
    1. The Potomac Cluster of Vineyards.  Fabbioli started the VA wine movement and has helped many of the new vineyards get up and running.  Because of this, his vineyard is a true staple in the area and is worth a visit. Just note that these also tend to be some of the busier vineyards due to their location, so I’d recommend going on a weekday, if you can.
  5. Washington DC- DC deserves its own weekend and I’ll write a separate blog about it, but you could also enjoy it for the day.
  6. Harper’s Ferry- Enjoy hiking, tubing, or shopping in this historic, waterfront town.
  7. Frederick, MD- Cute historic town with excellent shops and restaurants.
  8. Battle of Manassas (Bull Run)- Visit the location of the battle of Bull Run in Manassas VA. 

Evening:

  1. First Friday in Leesburg
    1. The town of Leesburg, VA opens late on the first Friday of each month.  Street performers, wine tastings, art galleries, shops, and restaurants come alive in this historic downtown location.
    1. Stop in at Shoes Cup and Cork for some drinks and bocce.
  2. Frederick, MD. 
    1. Frederick, MD has several wonderful restaurants and fun shops with a wonderful historic feel.  If eating in Frederick, I’d recommend Sabor de Cuba, Black Hog BBQ, or Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas. 
  3. Great Meadow Polo Club -The Plains, VA
    1. Great Meadow has polo matches every Saturday night starting at 5:30 pm. You can bring your own food and drinks, so pull together a picnic and your favorite bottle of wine from the day and enjoy a night with the horses. The event can be as casual or as fancy as you would like and all are welcome.
  4. Breweries
    1. The breweries tend to be open later and often have live music.  I’d recommend Harper’s Ferry Brewery or Bear Chase Brewing Company.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: