DC Wine Country: It is Closer than You Think

Paradise Springs winery

In recent years, Virginia has grown to be one of the top five producing wine regions in the country, and new vineyards are always popping up. Trailing behind California, Washington, Oregon, and New York, Virginia has started to gain a following and recognition for producing quality wines. The most common wines produced are Viognier (Vee-yon-nyay) and Cabernet Franc, Petite Manseng, Chambourcin, and Norton.

In less than an hour, DC area residents can visit the up and coming Virginia Wine Region. It’s a perfect day trip for this time of year. Pack a picnic with light snacks, grab some friends, and take the scenic route to the rolling hills that are Virginia wine country. Here are a few must-see spots:

First Stop: Paradise Springs Winery

Fairfax County’s only winery, Paradise Springs, is situated in historic Clifton, surrounded by elaborate mansions and a quintessential community. When you first arrive, you’ll see the original log cabin that dates back to the early 1800’s. The large red barn was an original from downtown Fairfax that was reconstructed on site and behind that is the brand-spankin’ new tasting room! Opened just last year, the tasting room is a spacious wooden barn with the tasting bar on the right hand side, wine barrel tables in the middle, and a gorgeous barrel room on the left behind a wall of glass. The barrel room is available to reserve for private tastings. Walk through to the back and there’s a large, covered patio complete with tables, couches, and a wood-burning fireplace. No need to worry if it’s cold and/or rainy!

The only grapes grown on site are Cabernet Franc but they produce multiple whites, reds, a Rose and a sparkling wine. Tastings are just$7 per person and you get to taste all nine wines. The white wines are off-dry to dry, with crisp finishes and citrusy notes. My personal favorite is the Sommet Blanc. A blend of Vidal Blanc, Traminette and Chardonnay, this wine is off-dry with a smooth, clean finish. They also showcase a 100% Petite Manseng, a Chardonnay, and a Viognier.

The reds are not to be missed though. Loving the Old World style reds they produce, my favorite is the Meritage (Bordeaux-style blend) of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot and Malbec. Earthy, full-bodied and prominent red fruit, the Meritage will age well for years to come. Other notable reds are the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and of course their estate-grown Cabernet Franc.

Picnic tables are scattered throughout the property, welcoming visitors to bring a picnic lunch and relax. If your kids are four-legged, no worries! Dogs are welcome as long as they are leashed; however, they are not permitted inside buildings. So bring Fido along for the ride! It’s easy to see this is a favorite for me and the atmosphere is just fun! Live music on Friday nights and Saturdays and also they are open much later than other wineries in the area. Open until 9 p.m. on Fridays for their Friday Evenings in Paradise and 7 p.m. the other days, this makes for a great Friday evening adventure as well!

Second Stop: Pearmund Cellars

Old Vine Chardonnay vines at Pearmund

Approximately 25 miles further on 66, you’ll reach Pearmund Cellars located in Broad Run, VA. Enter the property while winding through the old vine Chardonnay grapes, leading up to the tasting room. There’s a large wrap around wooden bar where all the tastings are held. Tasting fees are just $10 per person and include a tasting of six white wines and ten reds! They also have a patio with scattered tables overlooking the vines. They’ve recently upgraded their patio to include a fire pit and wooden arbors, perfect scenery for a picnic.

There are six white wines to taste including their estate-grown Old Vine Chardonnay. This Chardonnay has hints of butter from the oak but has gone through 100% malolactic fermentation which means the tart-malic acid has converted to a soft-lactic acid. This creates a fuller mouthfeel, very common in Chardonnays.

Ten red wines are quite the lineup, including a Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Ameritage. The red that stands out to me is their Cabernet Franc. Bright red fruits with a floral nose, this wine finishes with a hint of pepper and will pair great with an herbaceous meat dish. Pearmund has been always been on my list of go-to wineries in the Fauquier region, great wines, great experience and gorgeous views.

Philip Carter Winery

Third Stop: Philip Carter Winery

Another 20 miles past Pearmund is Philip Carter Winery located in Hume, VA. The Carter family has been growing grapes since 1759 when Charles Carter started in King George County. Still to this day, the Carter name is steadily producing award winning grapes. The tasting room is welcoming with two tasting bars and plenty of seating inside and out. The patio overlooks the vines, perfect for enjoying a bottle and a picnic.

The tasting list includes three whites, one rose, three reds and two Late Harvests. The 2010 award-winning Chardonnay is not one to miss. With hints of pear and apple, this big white has had 100% malolactic fermentation leaving a big mouthfeel and creamy finish. It was a recent winner in the Indy International and San Francisco Chronicle Competitions.

Philip Carter patio in March before bud break.

Philip Carter also produces an award-winning red, the Cabernet Franc. Winning the Bronze medal in the San Francisco Chronicle Competition, this wine is another great example of Virginia’s popular grape. Bright fruit with a peppery finish, the Cabernet Franc can stand up to any meat dish or strong cheese.

The Winery offers great, informative vineyard tours and I was able to participate in a barrel tasting last year where we got to taste wines straight from the barrel to see how well they are developing. Philip Carter himself was our guide and I must say, it is still one of my favorite winery visits to date.

That’s quite a lineup of award-winning wines, picturesque views, and a perfect weekend afternoon! There are many more fantastic wineries in the region as well. So get in the car and go!


Guest post by new Dining in DC contributor, Jessica Milby.

Jessica has completed the world reknown wine certification, Wine & Spirit Education Trust out of London and is the editor/author of One Classic Wino, a blog about her adventures as a “wino”. Check out Jess’s blog daily for wine pairings, recommendations for the season, and fun recaps of all of her (many) wine adventures!

In addition, she founded Young Winos of DC in August 2010, a group of 20-somethings that convene monthly to share good times and learn about wine.

Wine Blogger at www.OneClassicWino.com; Founder of @YoungWinosofDC and currently working in the wine industry.


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