I knew Virginia had wineries, but what I didn’t know is Northern Virginia’s wineries rival the picturesque ones in Napa Valley. Guess I should have expected the over-the-top wineries being so close to Washington, DC and Virginia was the first place in the United States to grow grapes and make wine, dating back over 400 years to Jamestown settlement in 1609. Three of the four upscale wineries I went to are in Loudoun County, the richest county in the United States because of a booming tech and internet industry, burgeoning wine scene, expansive wheat-growing agricultural sector and stunning horse farms.
I flew in on a Thursday afternoon to spend time with my friends Brenda and Louis in their new home in northern Virginia, along with other dear friends Christy and Greg. The guys were playing in a golf tournament, while us gals were spending several days exploring wineries and quaint historic towns.
Christy and I arrived at Dulles International Airport within a few minutes of each other and Brenda whisked us away to her favorite winery for sips and eats. Stone Tower Winery was a stunning introduction to what I quickly dubbed the Napa Valley of the East Coast. Stone Tower is family-owned and three generations of the Huber Family have lived on Hogback Mountain. Mike and Krist Huber planted classic vitis vinifera varietals on their 300-acre estate. It was about 4:30pm when we walked into the Tower View Tasting Room. Being a wine club member, Brenda recommended we ordered a bottle of the 2019 Kristi Chardonnay to pair with bruschetta made with local heirloom tomatoes and truffle and wild mushroom wood-fired pizza. The wine is fabulous and I’m not a huge Chardonnay drinker. Every morsel of the food was delicious. I was so wrapped up chatting, sipping and eating I didn’t get pictures of our wonderful happy hour/early dinner! That’s a sign I was thoroughly enjoying it. I did take a picture of the view of the rolling hills, some covered with grape vines. As I would find out on this trip all the wineries offer delicious eats to go with wine tasting, something that is a rarity in Napa. We took a couple of bottles of the Kristi and 2013 Estate Hogback Mountain, inspired by Left Bank Bordeaux blends, to continue sipping wonderful Stone Tower wines at Brenda and Louis’s home.
The next morning, we added a little history to our wine tasting with a stop at Manassas National Battlefield Park so I could check off another National Park Service site in my quest to visit all 423 of them. On July 21, 1861, the North and South clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. It was the first major land battle of the Civil War and dispelled any notion of a quick war. The Union and Confederate armies would meet for a second time in Manassas on August 28-30, 1862. We got to the Henry Hill Visitor Center just as a walking tour led by a volunteer was starting. We listened to the beginning of tour then decided to walk on our own since our time was limited. The walking tours normally last about 45 minutes. We walked around Henry Hill and learned about it being a pivotal engagement during the First Battle of Manassas. There’s a two-story home on the hill owned by Judith Henry. The home was in the middle of the battle and Judith was the only civilian casualty of the battle. There’s a small cemetery behind the house with her grave in the middle. We also saw the Stone House, which was used as a makeshift hospital in the First and Second Battles of Manassas.
From Manassas we headed to Middleburg for lunch and shopping. The historic town is filled with beautiful homes and the Main Street is lined with adorable boutiques, galleries, cafes and restuarants. We decided on King St. Oyster Bar for lunch. I ordered a lobster cobb salad (minus the bacon) and it was delicious. After lunch we walked up and down the street popping into multiple cute boutiques like Chloe’s, Zest and Creme de la Creme.
For happy hour we headed to Delaplane Cellars for a wine tasting on their deck. It’s on Lost Mountain and overlooks Northern Virginia’s Rural Historic Crooked Run Valley. My tasting including their 2020 Sauvignon blanc, 2020 Stainless Chardonnay, rose and 2017 Williams Gap. Brenda got a glass of their 2017 Cinq 8 because she and Louis had been to the winery before. I wasn’t a fan of the stainless chardonnay. I tasted Brenda’s wine and the Cinq 8 was my favorite.
For dinner we went to Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill in Salamander Resort and Spa for a wonderful upscale dinner. We all started with a cocktail and I went for The Rosemary. It’s a blend of Hendricks gin and St. Germain, freshly squeezed lime juice and simply syrup with hand-pressed rosemary and served in a martini glass. It was fabulous as was our whole meal. We ordered the Lobster and Corn Gnocchi with Maine lobster, summer corn, miso and wild garden chives as appetizer for the table. Louis raved about the bread basket and when it came around I knew why. I split the Local Greens salad with Brenda. It has aged cheddar, candied Virginia peanuts, Mt. Defiance cider vinaigrette and petite herbs. Christy and I split the Roasted Chilean Seabass. It was huge so glad we did. It was also delicious and the only part of the meal I didn’t get a picture. The executive pastry chef has been featured on several shows on Food Network so we decided to order the Hazelnut Trifle and Milk Chocolate Namelaka. The trifle has Frangelico “tiramisu,” cocoa ladyfingers and hazelnut dragrées. The namelaka looks like a forest. It’s garden mint shortbread, star anise, beetroot cake, lime droplets and raspberry-rhubarb riverstones. It was almost too pretty to eat!
The next day Brenda, Christy and I had a two-winery Saturday. It was a picture perfect fall day and we decided on two wineries with outdoor seating and less than 30 minutes away. The first was Boxwood Estate Winery. It’s owned by John Kent Cooke, former owner and president of the NFL Washington Football Team. The 26.5-acre of the historic landmark farm has sustainable vineyards planted with traditional Bordeaux varietals, predominately cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and sauvignon blanc. I did the light sips flight. It has a sauvignon gris, sauvignon blanc, and two roses. We paired our tasting with a seasonal board with baguette and hummus with pita chips. We sat up among the vines instead of in the tasting room or patio. It was delightful!
The second was Greenhill Vineyards in a picturesque pastoral setting. We sat on the porch with a wonderful view of the tasting tent and tables in the pastures. This adults-only winery is pet friendly so it was fun to see dogs while tasting. I tried a glass of their Seyval Blanc and really enjoyed it. We noshed on their Italian board with cheeses, olives, prosciutto, grapes and other treats including a warm baguette. It was so lovely we ordered a bottle of their limited release rose to stay a little longer. It was a wonderful end to a wine adventure in northern Virginia and I can’t wait to visit my friends Brenda and Louis again for another one!
Jennifer Broome loves great wine and great food. Check out the Travel Taste section for more sips, eats and some recipes from her travels. Check out blogs Baja’s Backcounty Wine Wonderland, Wine-ing Through Niagara and The Sparkling Story of Schramsberg for more wine travel stories.