Virginia is the fifth largest producer of wine in the United States—behind California, Washington, Oregon and New York—and the wines in this region won’t disappoint. From large wineries with chateaus to smaller ones on family farms, each location offers a taste of the region and the hospitality of the people.
At Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchard the eagle has landed—really. This mountain destination is so enticing, a bald eagle has taken to dropping by on a regular basis, and one will see why when one visits this whimsical farm winery. Located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains at the foot of the Peaks of Otter (three exceptional peaks), the enterprise is a love affair for the Johnson family which has been here for generations. Creative flavors incorporate pears, peaches, blackberries and even crabapples to produce more than 25 inventive wines including Strawberry Shortcake (light apple and strawberry) and Cinfulicious (apple and cinnamon). Farm grown fruits, cider and jams are also deliciously tempting.
A 15-foot statue of Johnny Appleseed sets the tone as one tastes wines or enjoys a picnic in the pavilion. Plenty of trails in the orchard are perfect for hiking and walking with breathtaking views.
Chateau Morrisette Winery stands regal along the mountainside, elegant yet accessible with friendly staff both in the tasting room and the dining room. Coming here seems like an event—it’s not unusual to find many diners in celebratory moods. The winery is located at mile post 171.5 along the Blue Ridge Parkway and has wonderful vistas of the New River Valley and Buffalo Mountain. Known for specialty wines such as Our Dog Blue and The Black Dog, Chateau Morrisette currently offers 20 varieties of dry, off-dry, sweet and fruit wines. The restaurant provides great views and tasty dishes such as: Chateau filet mignon, pan-seared catfish and shrimp and grits. Several menu options incorporate wines with delicious results. One may even catch a glimpse of the owner’s black labrador retriever bounding around the property and other dogs as well because the winery is dog friendly and one is welcome to bring his or her canine buddy. So popular is wine, that Virginia Mountain Vineyards is taking it to the next step by offering wine making classes in 2014. Owner David Gibbs said, “The wine school concept is a hands-on educational experience where participants actively become involved in harvesting and processing the grapes. We will cover the topics of sorting the fruit, crushing, pressing, juice analysis, addition of fermentation aids, yeast strain selection, etc. Further into the course, we cover barrel aging, wine stabilization and bottling. The participants are actively involved in each stage and come to the winery approximately four to five times during the school.”
Surrounded by the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, Virginia Mountain Vineyards features Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Traminette and Petit Verdot among the wines it produces. There’s also a full menu of fun events, including stargazing with the Roanoke Astronomy Club, complete with chili, chocolate and, of course, wine.
To learn more about these and other regional wineries and visiting the Roanoke, Va. area, head to visitroanokeva.com.
• Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchard Open all year. 2122 Sheep Creek Road, Bedford, Va. 540.586.3707 • peaksofotterwinery.com
• Chateau Morrisette Winery Open all year. 287 Winery Road SW, Floyd, Va. 540.593.2865 • thedogs.com
• Virginia Mountain Vineyards Open seasonally. 4204 Old Fincastle Road, Fincastle, Va. 540.473.2979 • vmvines.com