So many wineries, so little time. For our one day of wine tasting in Loudoun County, known as DC’s Wine Country, it was tough to choose from the 40+ wineries. Three wineries would be the day’s quota because I was there to visit with family after all, and because wineries in this area aren’t clustered together, like they are on Highway 29 in Napa. A lot of driving is involved, sometimes involving long unpaved roads that make you wonder how anything as civilized as a winery could be at the end of it.
Following is the itinerary we came up with. There are other options that will leave you satisfied at the end of the day, and if you’re out of touch with the fact that Virginia wines have been winning awards across the globe, you’ll be pleasantly surprised no matter what.
Our first stop was Tarara Winery. We picked it for its “world class wines” and because they deserve respect for being one of the forerunners of winemaking in the area. Tarara still holds some of the oldest Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc planted in Virginia. Also worth noting is their location by the Potomac River. I just checked online and sure enough, there are outfitters (see River & Trail) that combine paddling down the Potomac with wine tasting and live music at Tarara Winery. What a sweet adventure that would be!
On the country road leading to Tarara, I saw a groundhog pop up and stare us down as we drove by. I also saw fields of sheep and green grass galore. Clearly, this was not California. Once we reached the winery, we were told that the tasting was free that day and consisted of six wines. Yep, Tarara’s wines are world class, especially the final pour —Tranquility 2012 (67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Tannat). This dark crimson wine with massive fruit aromas is one you will want to take home with you.
FIRE WORKS & LEESBURG
A quick word about lunch: we ate on the patio of Fire Works in Leesburg. The Smokey Blue Pizza is AMAZING. If you have the time, wander around this historic town, so full of character.
STUNNING STONE TOWER
The unpaved road leading to Stone Tower Winery was so long that I started to apologize to my companions. I figured we would be the only ones at this remote winery on Hogback Mountain. But just then we came upon a packed parking lot and beautiful building. I literally gasped when we pulled up and saw not just one building but a few, with indoor-outdoor spaces throughout. Kids were running on the stretches of grass, live music was playing, and adults were clustered all over the place. I’ve been to a lot of wineries, but never have I seen one that seemed so much like a park before. One of the tasting areas even welcomed dogs. Everyone looked so comfortable, like they owned the place, gathered around tables of all sizes and settled into high-end leather couches and upholstered chairs, which makes sense since the owners of Stone Tower are also owners of Belfort Furniture.
I was surprised by it all, until my brother reminded me that Loudoun County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. (Wikipedia currently ranks it as the highest-income U.S. county by median household income.)
My apologies to Stone Tower, but we spent so much time walking around, that we never got to taste the wines. We only had an hour left and wanted to see a third winery, one that an enthusiastic couple at Stone Tower had recommended.
Quattro Goomba is about five miles down the road from Stone Tower. I love the “Be Italian” sign in their window. Quattro Goomba is Italian for four close friends, but “goomba” to me is simply a fun word that embodies the unpolished, relaxed nature of the brewery, pizza shop, and winery there. That said, there’s nothing unpolished about the wines. I cannot praise them enough. The Piney River White (made from Vidal Blanc and Viognier), the Vino San Pietro (100% Zinfandel), the peppery Curico (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah) and the Tradizione (Cabernet Savignon, Malbec, and Syrah)—were all fantastic.
Funny, I moved to California partly for the lure of the vineyards, yet here in my home state, a beautiful wine country has surfaced, tempting me back.
For an entire list of Virginia Wineries, see https://www.virginiawine.org/wineries/all