Virginia is known as much for its many products and resources as it is for it rich Colonial heritage and history. As early as the 1600s the commonwealth has been a center of production for many goods and luxuries. Historians tell of our forefathers growing tobacco along the cobbled streets of Jamestown, and for nearly a century Suffolk has been regarded one of the peanut capitals of the world.
Cotton, ham, and seafood are also popular exports, as is wine. Few people outside the bacchanalian world realize that Virginia is popular wine country, ranking tenth among US states in grape production! There are over one hundred active wineries in the commonwealth of Virginia, covering nearly 2500 acres of land, and producing as many as three hundred thousands cases a year. On average, over four thousand tons of grapes are produced annually to make Virginia wine. You'll find nearly every variety of red and white grown in Virginia, from the sweetest Rieslings and tart Chardonnays, to the sharpest Merlots and Cabernets this side of the Mississippi River.
Wine festivals are hosted all over the state, as many as three hundred annually, with many state vineyards taking home national and international awards for their produce. Wine making has been a devoted practice in Virginia since the dawn of the early colonies; it is a tradition well-preserved in the thousands of bottles sold each year to wine enthusiasts. Not only is Virginia the first state to produce US presidents, it is the first to produce wine, and over the centuries the practice has aged as well as the vintages! In Northern Virginia in particular, one doesn't need to travel "sideways" to enjoy a pleasant winery tour.
From Stafford County to the lip of the DC beltway one can over 30 wineries, many of which offer tours and tasting specials. As the majority of Virginia wineries are small, family-owned enterprises, it is strongly recommended to contact ahead of time for operating and tour hours. On occasion, some wineries may schedule events in conjunction with other local businesses - a quick internet search on Virginia wines and the Virginia Wine Association will lead you to a wealth of information to help you plan a fun wine tour.
Once you're on the road, look for the road signs bearing a purple cluster of grapes that indicate the directions to your destinations. You are more likely to find them off the beaten path, on state and local roads, rather than the interstates. When you plan your next Virginia wine tour, be sure to take a few detours to the Northern Neck region near Stafford and King George Counties and Washington, DC. Here are a few popular picks which are certain to please the palate: Hartwood Winery: Fredericksburg This historic farm has been producing fine wine since '89! Hartwood Winery hosts many tastings and events throughout the year, allowing visitors to sample their crisp Chardonnays and Clarets. Lost Creek Winery: Leesburg Lost Creek offers unusual but delicious blends to savor, from apple and grape wines to late harvest wines made from high-sugar grapes. Three Fox Vineyards: Delaplane Three Fox specializes in Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and Viognier vintages on their fifty-acre farm.
Wine aficionados are also invited to subscribe to a special vintner's circle, where one can "sponsor" vines and be trained in the winemaking process. Linden Vineyards: Linden For over twenty-five years, Linden has produced some of the finest Bordeaux wines in the Commonwealth. Tours and seminars on wine making and growing are hosted in the winter and summer, making Linden the perfect spot for an education as well as recreational stop on any Virginia wine tour. If you enjoy what you taste at these and other Northern Virginia wineries, be sure to take a few bottles home with you, especially if you are out of state. Presently, Virginia wines are mainly available within Virginia, though the state has reciprocity agreements with thirteen states to allow the wine to be sold elsewhere in the country. Salud!.
Kathryn Lively writes for the Stafford County Dept. of Economic Development.