Cover photo by Susan Turnier, courtesy of Ingleside Vineyards
October is Virginia Wine Month, a perfect excuse to embark on a Virginia #WanderLove Wine Roadtrip for a girls’ getaway, couples retreat, wine weekend, or Sunday funday!
Autumn is an exciting time to visit vineyards. Virginia wine country explodes in a brilliant splash of fall foliage color. Oysters are in season, plucked from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers and incorporated into the wine tasting experience. It’s harvest time at the vineyards, when plump, juicy wine grapes are picked from the vine, cleaned, crushed and left to barrel-age.
The combination of inexpensive land, increased rural and agriculture economic development, and the state’s terroir and merroir (Terroir is the unique flavor derived from a vineyard’s terrain, soil, sunlight, water quality, microclimate, and other factors. Merroir is the individual oyster’s taste impacted by the body of water in which it grew, the algae it fed on, currents and tides, mineral content, and weather conditions.) have all contributed to making the Virginia wine industry a $1.4 billion industry. With Virginia now home to more than 300 wineries (from fewer than fifty just 25 years ago), you can start your roadtrip in nearly any part of the state. (Note: wineries’ policies and operations may be affected due to COVID-19. Contact the wineries you are interested in visiting for their current guidelines.)
Northern Neck/Chesapeake Bay Wine Roadtrip
This 200-mile itinerary takes you through Chesapeake Bay wine region. The area’s temperate climate, mix of sandy loam soil, and coastal waters make its location and conditions prime for growing high-quality wine grapes and producing wine that reflects this unique environment. Begin your trip in Town of Colonial Beach bordering the Potomac River and make your way through the Northern Neck, down to Town of Irvington along the Rappahannock River and back up along the Chesapeake Bay.
Monroe Bay Winery
Monroe Bay Winery is Town of Colonial Beach’s very own. Owner Kiki Apple never set out to be a wine maker. While working in London she fell in love with the South of France and bought (sight unseen) her first home: a 6 bedroom, 3 bath, stone watermill along a vast river, in a country whose language she barely spoke. As Kiki describes it, “It’s hard to fall in love with France and not love wine.”
It was here that Kiki perfected the craft of wine making. When she returned to the states, Virginia was just beginning to fully enter the winery industry. Purchasing a variety of grapes from local wineries, she continued her hobby, making homemade wine in her garage. Twelve years ago, she purchased land with dreams of planting a vineyard. She and boyfriend Walter Lamore began selling their wine at farmers markets and a small tasting room in Town, Monroe Market. Construction of a unique straw bale barn at their vineyard, was recently completed and is the main tasting room at the vineyard and used for winery events, including live music and arts and craft shows, as well as available to rent for banquets, weddings and other occasions.
UPDATE: Ingleside Vineyards has released its first-ever, limited-production Bourbon Barrel Aged Chardonnay, made from 100% Chardonnay and aged in bourbon barrels from the A. Smith Bowman Distillery, Virginia’s oldest.
Located just outside Colonial Beach, Ingleside Vineyards is one of Virginia’s oldest and largest wineries, producing over 18 types of award-winning, handcrafted wine from its estate-grown grapes. The historic 1834 property is a designated Virginia Century Farm, honoring over 100 consecutive years of farm operation. It had previously been utilized as a dairy farm, garden nursery, boys’ school, garrison for Union troops and courthouse.
Today, the winery makes its own wine from its more than 50 acres of vineyards, which are available for touring, weddings and other special events. An outdoor European courtyard complete with a fountain and Grecian statues serves as the main tasting area. A cozy wine cellar is reserved for barrel tastings and more intimate events. Ingleside’s Museum features antique wine bottles, Native American artifacts and Chesapeake waterfowl decoys; and its large Gift Shop sells everything from wine accessories, decorative gift items, and Ingleside logo apparel to books, gourmet food items and even furnishings! Food is available for purchase onsite and special events, including live music, painting parties and 5ks, are held throughout the year. Overnight accommodations are available in two waterfront vacation homes.
Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail
Ingleside Vineyards is one of nine members of Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, voted the one of the top wine trails in Virginia by the readers of Savor Virginia Magazine and Virginia Living. The Trail hosts several signature events throughout the year and each member offers a unique tasting experience.
- Caret Cellars, Caret: veteran family-owned and operated, known for its White Merlot, a very rare, totally white, slightly off-dry wine;
- Ditchley Cider Works & Farm, Kilmarnock: veteran-owned and operated creator of unique hard ciders and charcuterie on its historic 162-acre farm;
- General’s Ridge Vineyard, Hague: veteran, family-owned 100-acre vineyard and 1800s Manor House and Carriage House for overnight stays;
- Good Luck Cellars, Kilmarnock: home to rescue winery dogs and community-based vineyard producing handcrafted, estate-grown wines on a former mining site;
- Ingleside Vineyards, Oak Grove: see above;
- Jacey Vineyards, Wicomico Church: Picturesque boutique vineyard accessible by land or boat with 150 acres of wooded forests and waterfront views;
- Rivah Vineyards at the Grove, Kinsale: family farm since 1799, owned by the youngest vineyard/winery owner on the East Coast and second youngest in the U.S.;
- The Dog & Oyster Vineyard, Irvington: known for giant corkscrews at the entrance, named for the rescue dogs that protect the vineyard and its SLURP oyster bar, where “Where the terroir of the grape matches the merroir of the oyster”;
- Vault Field, Kinsale: award-winning estate wines resulting from the marriage between an exceptional terroir and the latest techniques in viticulture.
UPDATED: Backporch Vineyard is now a member of Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail. (See above.)
One of Virginia’s newest wineries, King George’s Backporch Vineyards is a welcoming farm vineyard featuring a locally-sourced, neighborhood-built Amish tasting barn and porch, and special events such as live music, yoga and food from local restaurants and food trucks.
Look forward to seeing you during Virginia Wine Month for exceptional, award-winning wines, breathtaking autumn views, and fun and laughter with family, friends and even pets! To find upcoming events at our local wineries, visit our Events calendar.