Who doesn’t love the smell of grapes growing on the vine? Sharing a glass of wine at a country picnic? Sampling a variety of wines at a local festival? Using wine as an excuse to travel to interesting places? The Mid-Atlantic region, home to a plethora of wineries, vineyards and designated wine trails, offers plenty of opportunities to sample wine at its best. But where does one begin the journey?
For historical reasons, why not start at Monticello near Charlottesville, the home of President Thomas Jefferson, who developed a love for wine while living abroad in France? Dreaming that American wines would one day equal the quality and taste of the world’s finest wines, he convinced Italian viticulturist Filippo Mazzei to plant a vineyard near Monticello and to form a wine company, which included George Washington among its shareholders. In 1776, Mazzei produced two barrels of wine from six varieties of grapes with the conclusion that “the best wine in the world will be made here.” Sadly, the vineyard was destroyed during the American Revolution and two more centuries passed before Mazzei’s predictions came true. That’s when the Monticello Viticultural Area (AVA) was created. In 1981, Stanley Woodard planted a vineyard on land that had belonged to Jefferson and called it Simeon Vineyards. Later renamed Jefferson Winery, it is today one of 30 wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail and one of 300 wineries located across the commonwealth.
Other designated trails in Virginia are the Artisanal Wineries of Rappahannock in Rappahannock County, an hour from the D.C. beltway; Bedford Wine Trail near the National D-Day Memorial; the Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop, which cuts through the north end of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the north end of Shenandoah National Park; Chesapeake Bay Wine Country, including Virginia’s Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula and known for its spring and fall oyster crawls and free passport program; the Fauquier Wine Trail through Virginia’s equestrian country; the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail around the state capital of Richmond, offering a ticketed passport program; Loudoun: D.C.’s Wine Trail; Mountain Road Wine Experiences (including Chateau Morrisette Winery) near the Blue Ridge Parkway; Nelson 151 Trail offering wineries, cideries, distilleries and breweries; Shenandoah County Wine Trail; Shenandoah Valley Valley Trail which cuts through the Shenandoah Valley; and the SOVA Trail in Southwest Virginia, where growers are using organic grapes. Williamsburg Winery, founded on the Wessex Hundred in 1985 by Patrick Duffeler, is on the Colonial Wine Trail and also a part of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail, along with breweries, distilleries and a meadery.
When traveling around Virginia, know that some excellent wineries and vineyards may not be included on any official trail. Such is the case with Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek in Machipongo on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, owned and operated by Jon Wehner and his family on land that has been farmed for over four centuries. He is a second-generation winegrower who learned the art of wine-making from his parents, owners of Great Falls Vineyard in Great Falls, Va., for 30 years (virginia.org/wine).
There are many other designated wine trails to explore in the Mid-Atlantic. The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail is located in scenic Chester County, Pa., Two Bridges Wine Trail along the Delaware River, Chesapeake Wine Trail on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Pineland Reserve Wine Trail in the heart of South Jersey, Cape May Wine Trail on the South Jersey Shore and the Delaware Beer Wine & Spirits Trail, featuring 17 wineries, breweries, and distilleries in Delaware.
The Yadkin Valley Viticultural Area in North Carolina, located south of the Virginia state line and home to more than 38 wineries, continues to add new wineries and new wines in the eight-county area that once grew golden leaf tobacco. One of five AVA areas in the state, it extends southward from the Virginia state line to Lexington, a town that’s known for barbecue. The Yadkin Valley Wine Festival takes place every May. A designated trail runs through the AVA (yadkinvalleywinecountry.com).
More than 12,000 people attended the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Among the honored guests were 90 survivors of the Allied Forces (a total of 156,000 American, English and Canadian men) who landed on the heavily fortified Normandy coast of France on June 6, 1944. What happened that day remains the largest military invasion in history. The celebration at the memorial was punctuated with speeches, music, films, a flyover of vintage planes from the World War II era and tributes to the 20 Bedford boys who were killed during the invasion. “It is my great honor to be here today in the presence of men that fought on D-Day 75 years ago,” said Vice President Mike Pence, keynote speaker. “It was not just a continent you took back from tyranny; you delivered a world into freedom. You are among the greatest Americans that have ever lived. You are the pride of this country . . .”
Dedicated by President George W. Bush in 2001, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford creates a solemn atmosphere for veterans and visitors to gain insight into the events that shaped our nation’s and our world’s history. It is open daily except Mondays from December-February, and major holidays. A combination ticket includes Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. (540-587-5681 or dday.org.)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Virginia Tourism Corporation’s “Virginia Is for Lovers” campaign. To commemorate the occasion, a 50-day celebration kicked off on June 21 and will continue through Aug. 10, with special activities around the state. Named by Forbes.com as one of the top ten advertising campaigns of all time, the slogan was inducted into the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame in 2009 (virginia.org).
Worth a Read
If you are considering a trip to select U.S. cities, these well-researched travel guides, published in 2018 by Reedy Press, may come in handy: “100 Things to Do in Charleston Before You Die” by Lynn and Cele Seldon; “100 Things to Do in Nashville Before you Die” by Tom Adkinson; and “100 Things to Do in Fort Myers & Sanibel Island” by Nancy Hamilton. Another travel guide that’s getting attention is “Secret Columbus: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” in Ohio’s capital city by Anietra Hamper (Three Word Press, 2018). What do these four authors have in common? All are members of the Society of American Travel Writers, and they are passionate about travel!
Correction for Travel Line, June 2018: Groveland (not Groveville) is the home of the Iron Door Saloon, established in 1852.
Upcoming Wine Events in Virginia
- Sundays through Oct. 27 — Sounds at Chateau Morrisette Winery, Blue Ridge Parkway
- Aug. 6 — The Black Dog Beach Music Festival, Floyd, Va.
- Aug. 30 — Summer Night at Veritas Winery, Afton, Va.
- Sept. 14-15 — 23rd Annual Fall Wine Festival, Neptune’s Park, Virginia Beach, Va.
- Sept. 28 — Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival, Moneta, Va.
- Oct. 5 — Yorktown Wine Festival, Yorktown, Va.
- Oct. 12 — Chesapeake Wine Festival, Chesapeake, Va.
- Oct. 19-20 — Virginia Wine Festival 2019, Ashburn, Va.