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A Hint of Napa in Virginia

In recent years, Virginia has earned a burgeoning reputation as one of the nation’s best wine producing states. While the Old Dominion is not considered the equal of California or the Pacific Northwest, it’s held in high regard, and two of the state’s finer vineyards lay just an easy jaunt to the west.

Fifty miles west of Arlington, a leisurely, winding drive along Route 7 sits Bluemont Vineyard. The winery rests on top of the highest hill in the area. At an elevation of 951 feet, their slate outdoor patio has sweeping vistas of the plains and farms below, and on a clear day, visitors can catch planes landing at Dulles Airport.

The place has an almost Colonial feel to it. When arriving, you might find gentlemen engaging in a form of craft-making. Last Saturday, standing to the side of the door was a retired man carving a table leg by hand, the wood flying on a spindle, a smile on his face as he enjoyed a reasonable warm November day.

Inside the feel of the winery is just as charming, with soft yellow walls accenting a grey stone floor. Eccentric wooden benches encircle unique wooden tables, an atmosphere that begets enjoyment. For just five dollars guests can enjoy six tastings, small sips of an array of different wines. Among the pours last week (they rotate depending on the mood of the server) were oaky chardonnays, fruity peach and strawberry wines, and a range of bold and dry reds. After the tasting, be sure to head upstairs, where local farmers bring wares to ply. Last Saturday, a Mennonite man offered samples of homemade cheese. Among his finest was a sharp, white cheddar, aged two years, crumbly yet soft.

A good second winery to visit, just ten miles back toward Leesburg, not far from the beautiful rural town, is Dry Mill Winery, the newest vineyard to hit the growing Virginia scene. But it may be its finest.

Dry Mill resides inside an old, converted barn, and the best place to do tastings there is the second floor banquet hall. The barn remains in the same state from when it was first built, with all the floors, exposed beams and trim still the original wood. Sharp white walls provide a lovely contrast to the dark oak. In the hall are two long tables, which can hold up to twenty people.

While the scenery at Dry Mill is nowhere near as picturesque as Bluemont, they make up for it with superior wines. While all their reds and whites tasted outstanding, their 2007 syrah packed a punch, a vintage and grape capable of holding its own against any syrah from any winery across the United States.

The red is a fantastic way to end an afternoon, a reminder that Virginia has the potential to one day be mentioned in the same breath as California. They already though, have the atmosphere and culture down pat though. While less than 45 minutes outside the Beltway, the wineries feel a country way, a Napa-esque world, right in our own backyard.

– David

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