1 of 4
2 of 4
Clockwise from top left: Third-generation winemaker Luca Paschina stands in between rows of grapevines at Barboursville Vineyards; Barboursville’s Piemonte Arcades with flowers; panko-crusted mahi-mahi over organic grits at Toliver House and Lounge; the Barboursville ruins
3 of 4
Clockwise from top center: Sculptures in front of Prince Michel; wine tasting at Prince Michel; italian cuisine offered at Lucio on Culpeper’s Main Street; Library of Congress’s theater; Thyme Inn on Davis Street in downtown Culpeper
4 of 4
Clockwise from top left: Ingleside’s barrel room; catch the Captain Thomas in Tappahannock; The Art of Coffee owner Holly Harman and barista Deanna Lavery; cupcake at The Art of Coffee; Ingleside’s patio; Coaching Weekend will be held May 7 and 8 at Stratford Hall.
Though grapes are picked much later in the year, barrel tastings and plantings fill the spring at many Virginia wineries, and there are still plenty of good old-fashioned tastings, too. Hit the road for one to two hours and then spend a weekend feeling as though you're a million miles away from home. Go back in time at historic sites that include the birthplaces of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, and live for every savory moment at It's About Thyme and the nationally recognized Palladio at Barboursville Winery
An Insider's Look at Ingleside
Waterfowl, bald eagles and river views plentiful
Located between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, the Northern Neck of Virginia offers scenic views of the waterfront. On a clear day, bald eagles and other waterfowl can be seen on the water, while deer and other wildlife roam freely on land. Deep in this rustic region of Westmoreland County is Oak Grove — a tiny town with a bank, gas stop and school surrounding an intersection. Sounds quaint enough. It also happens to be the home of Ingleside Vineyards, one of the largest wineries in the state, with some of the friendliest winemakers you'll meet. Established in 1980, Ingleside Vineyards ( 804-224-8687 or inglesidevineyards.com ) has won both state and international awards for its wines, 18 varieties produced from its own grapes. Near the vineyard are several historic sites, the 1834 Ingleside Plantation, as well as the birthplaces of George Washington, Robert E. Lee and James Monroe. So there's enough to do for a weekend as well as a day trip.
Ingleside offers three levels of wine tasting — basic, premium and full. All of them include a complimentary Ingleside wineglass. The basic $5 tasting features the Pinot Grigio, Blue Crab series, Chesapeake series, Rosato di Sangiovese and the vineyard's Sweet Virginia Rose. The premium tasting ($7) includes the Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and a delectable dessert wine, October Harvest. For $10 you get a full tasting, a combination of the basic and premium. With such a diversity of wines, there is something for everyone. Robust, fruity, peppery, buttery — all are there for your taking. A guided tour of the vineyard and wine cellars is free and provides an insider's look at the winemaking process. Mark your calendars: On April 16, Ingleside Vineyards will host its spring barrel tasting.
For those looking to indulge in a weekend getaway, sipping a glass of wine on a secluded waterfront property overlooking the Rappahannock River might sound inviting. Enjoy your Ingleside wine at The Pointe at Liberty Farm, located down the road from the vineyard. The Pointe is a two-story river house with contemporary design offering views of the wildlife estuary. It features a loft, bedroom and a spacious deck on which to appreciate sunsets. The Pointe is also within driving distance of three other wineries should you run out of vintage. Located on the premises of Ingleside Estate, Summerton at Roxbury Pond is a more convenient destination in terms of mileage — Ingleside Winery is within walking distance. The charming A-frame cabin offers views of Roxbury Estate Pond and includes a bedroom, loft and a full bath ( for reservations at both spots, call 804-224-8687 ). In Westmoreland County, you're bound to encounter history, and sleeping quarters are no exception. Drive 20 minutes north to Colonial Beach and stay at the Bell House Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian home Alexander Graham Bell once called his summer residence ( 804-224-7000 or thebellhouse.com ). Listed as a Virginia historic landmark, the house retains its character with original hardwood flooring and stained-glass windows. Wine and cheese is available as is a scrumptious breakfast on the house. Or to go further back in history check out Stratford Lodging on Stratford Hall, Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthplace ( 804-493-8038 or stratfordhall.org ).
Wine and history might be a great pairing, but coffee and art make a fine alternative. The Art of Coffee ( 804-493-9651 or theartofcoffee.biz ) offers the best of both worlds for coffee lovers with an aesthetic sense. The coffeehouse and café offers breakfast and lunch daily. An art gallery supporting local artists is on the premises. You also can expect good seafood when you're surrounded by water. Wilkerson's Seafood Restaurant ( 804-224-7117 or wilkersonsseafoodrestaurant.com ) is open daily from 11:30 a.m. and serves its food in a family-friendly environment. The weekend seafood buffet includes the usual fare with shrimp and an assortment of fried seafood — oysters, clams, crab cakes and fish. Also on the menu are snow-crab legs and nonseafood dishes. Its proximity to the Potomac River means you can walk off your meal along the shore.
Be sure to drive along the "Historic Corridor" of Route 3 to explore the birthplace of significant American figures. Washington's birthplace ( 804-224-1732 ext. 227 or nps.gov/gewa/index.htm ) is less than 10 miles from Ingleside. There is a miniature replica of the Washington Monument and a visitor's center with a nature path leading to his birth site. Nearby are designated picnic spots, ideal for opening that first bottle of wine purchased at the winery.
If cruising the waterways is your thing, hop aboard the Captain Thomas in Tappahannock and ride to Ingleside Winery. Cruises run May through October. —Gloria Oh
Breathe in Barboursville
Then head to Gordonsville for more restaurants, B&Bs and shops
Nestled among the foothills of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Barboursville lies just 15 miles outside of Charlottesville in the county of Orange. This is Virginia's wine country. Home to some of the state's best vineyards, the region has crisp, cool mountain air that is ideal for wine-making. Here you can discover part of Virginia's rich history, as well as local wines at the Barboursville Vineyards ( 540-832-3824 or barboursvillewine.com ). The winery is about 90 minutes by car from Richmond, and there's enough to do to fill a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. For $5, you can try 16 different wines, and get your souvenir wine glass with the Barboursville logo. On Saturday and Sunday you can take a walking tour of the winery, the buildings in which the wines are created.
Tranquil luxury is the atmosphere cultivated by the winery's The 1804 Inn ( 540-832-5384 ) and its cottages. The inn holds no more than three couples at a time, and the cottages, renovated servants' quarters, house up to one couple each. The inn's interiors are decorated in the style of rural but elegant England, with 11-foot ceilings, hand-hewn floors, antique furnishings and European and Virginian art. Arguably the best aspect of a stay is the breathtaking mountain view — rolling hills in the foreground and, miles away, slate-blue mountainsides. Rates range from $300 to $500 a night for suites in the inn and from $240 to $260 a night for one of the cottages.
Barboursville, and its next-door neighbor, the village of Gordonsville, are home to several quaint bed-and-breakfast spots. Sleepy Hollow Farm Bed Breakfast ( 540-832-5555, 800-215-4804 or sleepyhollowfarmbnb.com/index2.html ) in Gordonsville offers both rooms and cottage. Depending on which room or cottage you take, you can enjoy a whirlpool tub, a fireplace, or a patio, as well as a country breakfast that could include any combination of eggs, sausage, hot cakes, cereal, fried apples or a signature sausage-herb-cheese pie. Rates range from $85 to $175 a night, depending on the size and type of accommodations.
Another option is Wolftrap Farm Bed and Breakfast ( 540-832-1803 or thewolftrapfarm.com/lodging.htm ), which is located on a 584-acre hilltop horse and cattle farm. Here you can rent a single room, a suite or the entire Manor House or the smaller Pond House. The views are excellent, and you can hike several trails through stunning countryside before returning to the B&B to soak up its slow-paced, rustic style. Rates vary depending on the type of accommodations and whether you're there on a week day or weekend.
What's good wine without great food? Palladio ( 540-832-7848 ), the Northern Italian-style restaurant that's part of the Barboursville Vineyards, uses seasonal ingredients — including herbs grown in a garden within sight of the restaurant — designed to complement the vineyard's wines. Although the menu changes, head chef Melissa Close Hart always offers risotto and pasta. While you're there, you might want to try Barboursville's signature Octagon wine, a deep-red Merlot, blended with Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. A four-course meal is $75 or $100 with wine pairing.
Gordonsville's Toliver House and Lounge ( 540-832-0000 or toliverhouse.com ) is an upscale restaurant that serves Southern-style cuisine — Cajun fettuccine ($9.50) and cornbread, as well as more traditional fried green tomatoes($6.50) and beer-braised beef brisket ($17). The wait staff is friendly and attentive, the décor is simple, and there several menus — brunch, lunch, pub and dinner. The house dates to 1787, when Nathaniel Gordon founded the Gordon Tavern. Famous guests have included James Madison, James Monroe and Robert E. Lee.
Across the street, the Barbecue Exchange ( 540-832-0227 or bbqex.com ) offers authentic Southern barbecue from a wood-fueled pit smoker. A favorite among locals, the restaurant is a sure bet for a casual, dining experience. You can enjoy tangy pulled pork ($7 for a platter) on bench seating inside or, when the weather permits, outside. The side dishes are typical Southern favorites — hush puppies ($2), fried pickles ($2.50) and fried green tomatoes ($4.50).
If antiquing fits your fancy, you are in the right place. Gordonsville's Main Street boasts some of the region's best shops — here you can find anything from old banana-seat bicycles to fine china, all in mint condition. Try the Odd Chest ( 540-832-9050 ) or Homespun Antiques ( 540-832-5537 ), both off Route 33 in Gordonsville. Gordonsville Antique and Flea Market ( 540-832-7376 ) is another antiquing haven, an entire warehouse filled to the ceiling, open Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Before leaving, be sure to check out the ruins. Adjacent to Barboursville's tasting room, separating the vineyard from The 1804 Inn, you'll find the hollowed-out remains of the home of Virginia's 11th governor, James Barbour. Destroyed by a fire on Christmas day in 1884, the mansion was originally designed by Barbour's close friend, Thomas Jefferson, and records indicate that the mansion was the most elaborate and expensive residence in the area — more expansive, even, than James Madison's Montpelier. —Taryn Kelly
Sweet Surprises at Prince Michel
Culpeper and Blue Ridge Parkway are nearby stops with cinematic views
If you drive northwest from Richmond along the rolling hills of Route 29, you'll see cows and horses grazing amid scenery reminiscent of more tranquil times. If you drive farther along that road, you'll come upon Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery ( 540-547-3707 or princemichel.com ). In the heart of Piedmont wine country, Prince Michel is easy to find, since its on Route 29 and its winery buildings, located in front of the vineyards, are visible from the country highway.
Prince Michel offers a range of more than 20 dry and sweet wines, as well as a new series of peach, blackberry and raspberry wines. For $5 you can taste 15 wines, paired, usually, with something sweet to eat — chocolate or a piece of Prince Michel's wine cake. Tastings are free if you sample less than three wines. Afterward, you can take a self-guided tour of the winery, which is designed like an exhibit. Panels explain the winemaking process, from harvesting various types of grapes to crushing, fermenting, aging and bottling.
Although the vineyard is some two hours from Richmond, it's worth the trip, especially since the scenery along the way is stunning. If you go on April 30, you can experience Prince Michel's fourth annual car show, which is free and scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. All models and makes are eligible, and a trophy will be awarded for "best in show."
About 10 miles north of Prince Michel is the town of Culpeper, notable for its history, shopping, and its food. It's About Thyme ( 540-825-4264 or thymeinfo.com ) specializes in European cuisine. Elaborately painted murals and ambient lighting attract families looking for well-prepared comfort food — chicken and dumplings, roast chicken and pot roast as well as more complex fish, steak, and pasta dishes. Thyme's wine list includes Prince Michel offerings, and the kitchen has specials on a daily basis.
If you don't have time to sit down for a meal, you can get take-out next door at the Thyme Market ( 540-825-1011 ). The shop has an extensive lunch menu, including chicken, turkey, lamb and suckling pig roasted on rotisseries. With 15 different salads and seasonal produce, vegetarians or veggie lovers have plenty of choices. In between the restaurant and the market is a charming terrace with tables and sun umbrellas for day and twinkle lights on the brick wall and lattice at night.
For a fine dining experience, try Lucio Restaurant ( 540-829-9788 or luciorestaurant.net ) The restaurant, inspired by Italian and other European cuisines, is ensconced in a Victorian home. Renovated in 2001, the house retains many original features including the flooring and windows. A spacious front porch is a relaxing spot, and the interior is intimate and cozy. Lucio is one of the primary stops on Main Street, just down the road from the Museum of Culpeper History.
If you'd like to turn your wine-country daytrip into a weekend getaway, Prince Michel offers luxurious and comfortable lodgings. Its two cottages, located several hundred feet behind the winery, are designed in French-provincial style. Each features a fireplace, a galley kitchen, a garden patio and a lavish bathroom, as well as views of the vineyard and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Culpeper's first B&B, Fountain Hall ( 540-825-8200, 800-29-VISIT or fountainhall.com ), offers grandeur in an intimate setting. The Colonial-revival building survived the Civil War and went through major renovation in the 1920s that kept intact its 10-foot ceilings and impressive walnut staircase. Breakfast is served daily in the morning room, with fresh croissants, coffee, yogurt and fruit. The Thyme Inn — of the Thyme Market — also
Downtown Culpeper is small enough that you can park your car and explore the town by foot. A trip to the Museum of Culpeper History ( 540-829-1749 or culpepermuseum.com ) will explain the rich history behind the town, from prehistoric times when dinosaurs roamed the land to the Civil War era (several battles took place here). Next door is the Burgandine House ( 540-829-6434 or nps.gov/nr/travel/VAmainstreet/bur.htm ). It's a Main Street landmark constructed circa 1800, making it one of the oldest properties in town. Green Nest ( 540-829-NEST or greennestva.blogspot.com ) offers eco-friendly sustainable gifts including jewelry fashioned out of recycled metal that made the cut as one of Oprah's Favorite Things. It is nestled in between other gift shops and specialty shops including Cameleer ( 540-825-8073 ) and the Frenchman's Corner ( 540-825-8025 ).
Nature lovers can take a spin down Skyline Drive, about 30 miles outside of Culpeper. And movie lovers can enjoy free classics. The Library of Congress shows films from the National Film Registry at the National Audio Visual Conservation Center ( 540-827-1079 ext. 79994 ) in Culpeper on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. —Gloria Oh