The thing I miss most after moving to North Carolina is visiting wineries in the Finger Lakes. We had gone there so many years, and I introduced countless friends to the fun of wine tasting. So for my 50th birthday, my thoughtful husband planned a trip with a group of friends to visit some wineries in Virginia. He found a VRBO rental on a “compound” in Madison Heights, Virginia, that had space for us and 15 friends. This truly unique property included a four-bedroom house, a church with two bedrooms and a large dining area, a pavilion with outdoor tables, a fire pit, and four quaint cabins. I wasn’t sure how the accommodations would go over because the one-bedroom cabins did not have bathrooms, so guests had to walk outside to a pavilion with separate men’s and women’s bathrooms with showers. But everyone enjoyed their weekend of what I referred to as “glamping.”
Our fun began on Friday when 10 members of our group stopped at DeVault Family Vineyards. The owner, Sharon, treated us to a traditional wine tasting of all her wines, so we could begin to discover what type of wines our friends preferred. Most of our group liked drier wines, but one sweet wine drinker loved the Old Time Watermelon Wine, described as a “simply sweet treat.” Sharon said it’s the best seller. I enjoyed the Virginia Niagara, which was a nice dry white wine. I was disappointed they were out of the famous sangria, but that just gives us an excuse to go back next year!
Next, we arrived at Lazy Days Winery, another small, family-run winery — my favorite type to visit. While we were there, our group of 10 grew to 12 when my sister and her husband arrived from Pennsylvania for a fun birthday surprise. We had another great wine tasting, selecting the driest of the available wines. We went home with a bottle of its Chardonnay 2013. I was entertained by the fact they have a wine called “Capuchin White,” named because the owners used to have a capuchin monkey guests could interact with. Everyone knows how much I love animals, and I was a little sad I couldn’t pet a monkey. Maybe some other winery would have animals for me to pet.
Then we squeezed in one more winery, Rebec Vineyards. Since it was almost closing, we didn’t have time for a complete tasting, so we all opted to purchase glasses of wine. Since we had already stopped at two wineries, our friends had a good idea of what type of wine they would like. I enjoyed the Landmark White, a blend of Reisling and Vidal Blanc.
On Saturday, since our group of friends was large — including 17 of my amazing friends — and we wanted everyone to be able to have fun wine tasting, my husband hired transportation. Legacy Transport of Virginia showed up at 11 a.m. with a shuttle bus and an XL Yukon to allow us all to safely visit the wineries. Our drivers were amazing at navigating the windy mountain roads and knowledgeable about the best wineries to visit.
Our first stop was Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery. This was quite a contrast to the small wineries we visited the day before. This sprawling vineyard offered sweeping views of the Virginia mountains that, even though we missed peak season, still has some nice fall color. They had flights of wine or beer and a menu that boasted a huge Bavarian pretzel (a fan favorite), pizzas and flatbreads, along with a selection of sandwiches and salads. We took advantage of the beautiful views and got a nice group photo. We could have spent more time there, but we had more wineries to hit.
We also visited Flying Fox Vineyard, which had a nice Pinot Gris and an interesting blend called Trio 2019, a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. And Valley Road Vineyard also had a lovely blend — its 2021 Destana — a white blend of Viognier, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay.
After a stop at Silverback Distillery, for the bourbon-loving men, we were off to our last stop. By then, I had my fill of wine, and I knew it was all fruit wines, so I was hesitant to stop. But our driver assured us we must check out Hill Top Winery & Meadery, and I’m glad we did. Why? Because they had goats and geese! I finally got to pet and feed animals. Oh, and they had some interesting wines, too. In addition to wines made from blackberries, cherries, apples, pears, peaches and cranberries, they also had the craziest selection of honey mead I have ever seen, including Jolly Dragon, a unique, handcrafted mead made from hickory-smoked hot peppers, honey and blackberries. Definitely worth a visit!
— Tracey Cullen, art director
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