Did you know Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s first oenophiles (a fancy word for wine lovers)? Back in the day, he attempted to make wine in Virginia but wasn’t very successful.
Many others have tried and eventually started succeeding in the 1970s. Now there are more than 300 wineries and 4,000 acres of grapes!
If you haven’t tried delicious Virginia wines yet, you are missing out. They can be hard to get outside of Virginia wine country so the best way to experience them is to visit. But with dozens of wineries to choose from, how do you know which are the best vineyards to visit?
Read on for my recommendations for the best Northern Virginia wineries. These wineries near Washington DC make a great day trip. And being located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll get to enjoy an incredibly scenic drive.
Or if you prefer not to drive to these top Virginia wineries, there are wine tours that will take you there from the DC area.
BTW, if you haven’t yet, make sure to grab my free Wine Tasting Planner. It has 20+ wine night theme ideas, including the exact ones I’ve used for my wine tastings. Plus, a timeline, food pairings, games, free printables, worksheets, and more. Get your copy here.
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While I’m sharing my picks for the best wineries in Northern Virginia, I have to say Linden makes some of the best wines in Virginia and possibly the whole East Coast. If you have the chance to go, this is on my do-not-miss list.
The owner, Jim Law, opened Linden Vineyards in 1985 as the first winery in Northern Virginia. He has also consulted for many others in the area.
His focus is on making his award-winning wines in a style that expresses the terroir from three vineyard sites — Hardscrabble, Avenius, and Bissau. In other words, the wines taste different because of the variations in soil types, climate, and elevation. And the flavors are not a result of intervention in the wine production process.
I briefly met Jim and, as the tasting room host put it, he is truly a humble man., He loves what he does and has been successful at making gold medal worthy wines in a challenging region.
I also had the opportunity to meet Shari Avenius (the namesake of their Avenius Vineyard), who was delightful and gracious, answering a number of my wine-dork questions.
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The Wine Tasting
When I visited, Linden had a fun comparison tasting with pairs of Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, and Clarets. It was amazing to see how different vintages or terroir influence the aromas and flavors in a wine.
The Sauvignon Blanc from the Avenius Vineyard was my favorite white wine. It was riper and more complex than the Hardscrabble version.
Between the two Clarets, I preferred the lighter, more elegant flavors of the 2016. But the 2019 was still excellent and will likely improve with age.
Side note: If you haven’t heard the term, Claret was used by the English to describe a Bordeaux blend. In the U.S., it’s no longer allowed on labels except for a select few, like Linden, who are grandfathered in.
- Reservations are required but they have an easy online system to book and prepay.
- Groups are limited to 4.
- Only wine club members can stay after their tasting for a glass or bottle. But I was there on a weekday and they did offer to let us enjoy their outdoor seating area since it wasn’t that busy.
- The address is 3708 Harrels Corner Road, Linden Virginia.
- Visit https://www.lindenvineyards.com/ for more details and reservations.
Glen Manor Vineyards
This family-owned winery was founded by Jeff White and it sits on what used to be his ancestors’ farm.
Jeff started out working at Linden Vineyards, where he was able to learn from Jim Law and take that knowledge to start Glen Manor Vineyards. Like Jim, Jeff produces wines with a sense of place, with plantings on grades as steep as 35%.
While there, I learned from the tasting room host that Jeff’s niece, Ashleigh Rae, recently joined the team after traveling and studying winemaking abroad. They’re hoping she’ll carry on the family business and bring new techniques from her travels.
The winery property is one of my favorite picnic spots, with plenty of Adirondack chairs, tables, and umbrellas. Their large lawn area has the best views and it’s the perfect place to lay out your spread.
Or you can sit at one of the larger tables on the crush pad. After your tasting, just grab a glass of your favorite wine pairing to have with your food.
The Wine Tasting
Our visit began in their cozy indoor tasting room. We tried the Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Hodder Hill (one of the older vintages of their Bordeaux-style blend), and Petit Manseng.
We chose the crisp and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc to go with our lunch on a hot day. But I took home the Cabernet Franc and Hodder Hill.
The Petit Manseng, one of the top Virginia grapes, was also a delicious wine and something I hadn’t tried before. It can be dry, off-dry, or you may see it made into dessert wines.
They also mentioned there’s a Nebbiolo in the works so maybe you’ll get lucky and be one of the first to try it!
- At the time I went, reservations were recommended. But they have moved to a first-come, first-served basis except for club members. Make sure to check their website for the latest.
- Groups are limited to 4.
- The address is 2244 Browntown Road, Front Royal, VA. Note that the GPS sent us past the entrance and we had to turn around so keep an eye out for the winery sign when you get close.
- Visit https://glenmanorvineyards.com/ for the latest details.
Slater Run Vineyards
The tasting room host at Glen Manor recommended Slater Run as an addition to our must-visit list.
Slater Run is a newer winery in the area. The winemaker, Katell Griaud, was raised at her family’s vineyards and winery in France and has winemaking degrees from Bordeaux University. Because of this, they specialize in making wines in a dry French style.
This is another winery that has one of the best picnic areas. There are plenty of Adirondack chairs and picnic tables to sit at outside with a beautiful view of the grape vines.
They also offer other food options for purchase in their large tasting room, like meats and cheeses.
Keep an eye on their website for special events like lessons on wine chemistry, vertical tastings, live music, and food trucks. You can also rent their tasting room and club room for private events.
The Wine Tasting
Slater Run has several different options for tastings if you want to try more reds, whites, or a mix. You can also order a wide variety of wines by the glass.
I enjoyed the mixed tasting, but the star of the show was their Pet Nat rosé. Short for pétillant naturel, it’s a naturally sparkling wine that’s bottled while still fermenting. Technically it was in the club-members-only section of the menu, but I asked if I could try it and they allowed me to purchase a glass.
This fizzy wine is a blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot, with little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The notes of strawberry and watermelon were a light and refreshing end to the day.
- Reservations are suggested but not required and you can make them online through their website. They are open year-round.
- Guests must be 21+ and no pets are allowed. They do accommodate larger groups if you contact them directly.
- The address is 1500 Crenshaw Rd., Upperville, VA.
- Visit https://www.slaterrun.com/ for more details.
Where to Stay for Wine Tasting in Northern Virginia
If you’re looking to visit Washington, D.C. on your trip, Arlington, VA is a great area to stay in with easy access to the city via public transportation. Or you could book a boutique hotel in charming Old Town Alexandria.
For nature lovers looking to explore Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal is a great place to stay because it’s very close to the wineries and one of the entrances to the park.
For hotel reservations, I like to use Booking.com. Just enter the city name and select your dates below to see available options.
Have you visited any of these wineries? What are some of your favorite wineries in Virginia?