Virginia Wine is exploding! Additionally, many are taking it to the next level. Don’t know where to visit? Fear not, here are our Best Northern Virginia Wineries for 2018. Our list takes into account more than the wine. It’s about the facility, people, setting, events, value, and uniqueness. Simply put, it’s about the experience. Sit back, relax, open a nice bottle, and enjoy.
- Stone Tower Winery
- Delaplane Cellars
- RdV Vineyards
- Greenhill Vineyards
- Glen Manor Vineyards
- The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards
- Slater Run Vineyards
- Otium Cellars
- Tarara Winery
- Boxwood Winery
Stone Tower Winery
Stone Tower has something for everyone, and that’s why it tops our list as the Best Winery in Northern Virginia for 2018. This easily-accessible destination is just minutes off the Dulles Greenway in Leesburg. There are two distinct areas to enjoy yourself, each with their own charm and character. The Harvest Barn welcomes guests of all ages, and you can bring your furry beast as well…inside and out. The Tower View tasting room welcomes guests 21 and older, but dogs are not permitted inside. Outside the Tower View Tasting Room is ample patio space where dogs are free to hang out with their families. Views afar, with rolling hills, ponds, flowers, wooded areas, and of course vines that extend to the horizon. There’s a reason why Stone Tower is a favorite place to host a wedding.
Stone Tower’s wine comes in two labels. The Estate and the Wild Boar. The Estate wines are their premier wines. All grapes are grown on the property and only the best used. The Wild Boar label is for wines where the grapes are sourced from outside the estate. It could be Virginia, but it could also be Washington, California, and even France. The Estate wines are superior but cost more. Their flagship wine, Hogback Mountain, is a Left-Bank Bordeaux-style red and will surely please even the pickiest of wine connoisseurs. It is Kelly’s favorite wine PERIOD. For me, it’s a Virginia Top 5. Don’t sleep on their Wind Swept Hills or Estate Petit Verdot. If you are able to get a bottle, take advantage, as they don’t last on their shelves long.
Staff is ever-present to greet you, pour you a glass, give you a taste, and answer your questions. Often the pourers will let you try something, not on the tasting menu that you might like. The management staff are welcoming and approachable and go out of their way to make your visit something to remember.
Stone Tower always has events on their calendar. Their Somminar (Sommelier crossed with Seminar) Series are some of the most fun and educational wine events we have attended. A theme is usually selected, and Stone Tower puts their wine up against many well-known and respected wines. If you hear people say Stone Tower has, “Great Virginia Wine,” this will help you realize that their wine stands up against great wines from Virginia, California, and across the world. They also host a Spring and Harvest Dinner, which are fun-filled evenings with great food and drink. Being a Tower Cru wine club member earns you discounts on everything and opens the doors for additional events.
Stone Tower’s popularity leads to an area of improvement. On a busy day, it’s PACKED. Many wineries have club member sections where you can escape and relax, but since Stone Tower has approximately 5000 members the last I heard, often you have just as difficult of time to find a nice seat there than in their regular seating areas.
Delaplane Cellars is well-known amongst Virginia Wine Enthusiasts but often overlooked by others. It sits atop a Lost Mountain in Delaplane, VA with views that extend miles into the Blue Ridge. There’s nothing flashy about Delaplane. Their wine is terrific and a top bang-for-the-buck when compared to others in their price-range and even much more expensive. Their facility is quaint, warm, and welcoming. Their staff friendly and educated. One thing worth noting, children are not permitted and dogs only in one small section up a hill and away from the tasting room, so it’s best to leave them at home, which is something that may turn some away.
As you approach Delaplane Cellars, you drive up a dirt road and loop around to the back of the tasting room. Large, heavy, wood doors welcome you, and as you enter, you immediately feel at ease. The tasting room is not huge, but there’s plenty of space along a long L-shaped bar to jump in and start your session. Additionally, tables are provided throughout if you wish to sit, have a bottle, order some charcuterie, and relax. I have to mention the wall color inside as my wife continually tells me that we need to incorporate it into our house somewhere. The walls are decorated by a local artist Linda Anderson, who just happens to be one of their pourers…and our go-to. Upstairs is their wine club section, and it’s quaint, comfortable, and relaxing. Rarely must you compete with others for a place to sit.
The owners fully embrace Virginia Wine and over the past 11 years have built a premier destination for a wine tour, but please don’t arrive in limos or buses as they are not permitted. Learning from other prominent winemakers of the area, Jim Dolphin has made a big splash with his wine. If you have the chance, try their Left-Bank red. Big, bold, complex, and balanced. Great now, but let it sit a few years, and you’ll have a gem. They have many others worth mentioning like Williams Gap, Rusticity, and their Cinqs. Regardless of what they are pouring that day, you will be pleased. Their whites don’t disappoint either. A recent tasting of their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc was a highlight.
Some may wish that Delaplane hosted more events, but for us, it’s not why we love or frequent it. The simplicity of their operation means that they excel at everything else they do. 4 trips there in 2018 yielded no disappointment.
RdV Vineyards is a must-visit for any wine enthusiast. Located a few minutes up the road from Delaplane Cellars and Ashby Inn, you have a perfect day of wine and food. RdV more or less makes only two wines (I’ll explain the others shortly). Lost Mountain and Rendezvous. Lost Mountain is a Left-Bank Bordeaux-style wine that is big, bold, complex, and delicious. Rendezvous is a Right-Bank Bordeaux-style that is approachable, complex, and delicious. Depending on the vintage, you may prefer one over the other. For example, I typically prefer leftover right-bank, but the 2010 Rendezvous is one of my top 5 wines I have tasted in Virginia. RdV makes a wine called Friends and Family, which is only available to their Ambassadors (their wine club) and its no slouch on its own as it tastes better than many flagship wines from other vineyards in Virginia.
Additionally, they usually release a single varietal each year. Last year (2017) was the 2015 Outlier, which was 100% Petit Verdot. For 2018, they have released 2016 Seven Silos, which is 100% Cabernet Franc.
RdV is not a place you can drive up, walk in, and taste. It requires a reservation. Expect to take about 2 hours from start to finish. You’ll be welcomed with a glass of sparkling, rosé, or something else while they get ready for the group tour with other visitors. The tour takes you through the tasting room, cellar, tank room, and more. It’s entertaining and educational. You’ll finish the tasting with a flight of their wines. It’ll usually be 3 vintages of their Rendezvous and a tasting of the most recent Lost Mountain. Accompanying it will be a delicious charcuterie board with local meats and cheeses.
RdV is so popular because of its wine. It’s received international attention from top wine publications and reviewers…and rightfully so, but some things turn people off. The price, reservations, and no pets or kids. Lost Mountain is $150/bottle. Rendezvous is $75. A tour/tasting is $65. This makes RdV a destination outside many budgets. For those that prefer white wine, you’ll find none of that here. Sorry.
I recently posted a blog article on A Few Visits to RdV. Check it out.
Greenhill Vineyards is an accessible destination for most of the DMV area. It’s tucked between downtown Aldie and Middleburg right off Route 50. The Greenhill name is somewhat new, but the vineyard is not. David Greenhill purchased this vineyard from the Swedenburg Winery. For those that do not know, The Swedenburg family was integral in making Virginia wine what it is today…lobbying the government to allow direct-to-consumer sales on the property. If you look at the Virginia wine scene, it’s dominated by visiting vineyards/wineries, tasting, buy bottles, etc. You can thank the Swedenburg’s for this!
It’s not this history that makes Greenhill a must-visit destination. Their wine is delicious, and their wine tasting experience is one of the best in the area. There’s no standing around a crowded bar trying to get the attention of the pourer to indicate you’re ready for your next sample. At Greenhill, your tasting is seated. A pourer walks around, introduces you to the wine, and allows you to sit, sip, relax, and taste at your face. Reservations are not required but highly encouraged during peak hours.
Greenhill always has a balance of enjoyable white and red wines, but there’s always some sparkling and rosé floating around. The tasting menu is highlighted by Philosophy, Mythology, and Petit Verdot. A left-bank, right-bank, and single varietal respectively. Others to look out for… Ontology (Chambourcin), Superstition (Syrah-based blend), and their Cabernet Franc.
Another thing that sets Greenhill apart is what they provide their club members. There’re three different clubs you can join. The regular wine club with either a quarterly or bi-monthly allotment (which is a nice twist), La Cave (providing you with private cellar seating, storage locker, unique experiences and events, and personalize tastings, and finally Barrel Club (where you commit to a large allotment of wine with some additional perks). On top of the private club areas in the main building, just a quarter mile further into the property is an old house for only club members. Many unique rooms are there for your choice or on pleasant days, sit on the patio, lawn, or down by the pond.
Glen Manor Vineyards
Glen Manor is a must-visit vineyard, but plan on a long drive if you live in and around DC as it sits out in Front Royal. Glen Manor to me is similar to that of Delaplane Cellars in that there’s nothing fancy about it. A quaint tasting room, some grounds to relax outside, spectacular views, and of course, great wine. If it weren’t for the drive, they would be rated higher on this list.
Glen Manor wine is highlighted by Hodder Hill, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petit Manseng. Upon our visit, we were warmly greeted by one of their pourers and also provided a bowl full of focaccia made fresh by the owners. On top of that, they gave us the recipe, which we plan to use often! It has been said to me by various staff at other vineyards that Glen Manor makes some of the most excellent wine in Virginia and their Sauvignon Blanc the tops. All of this made for high expectations on our first visit…and I’m glad to report, the expectations were met. We got to try the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, and it was phenomenal as was everything else. Kelly felt their Cab Franc was one of her favorites of this varietal she’s had in Virginia. Ultimately, we left with a case of wine, which automatically gains us access into their club…appropriately names Case Club. This opens the door to many events throughout the year, special tastings, and offers from their library. Again, if it were not for the distance to them, we’d attend more of these events.
For those that enjoy bringing their furry beast with them, Glen Manor welcomes them on their grounds, but not inside, but on a beautiful day, there are fantastic views to be had outside from their welcoming seating area.
The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards
Many Virginia wine enthusiasts are aware of the name Michael Shaps. If this blog article were discussing the top wineries of all of Virginia, you’d be sure to see his label, Michael Shaps Wineworks, on the list. Regardless, Michael Shaps makes his mark as a winemaker in Northern Virginia through The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards in Hamilton…just west of Leesburg. The Barns is a family owned and operated winery with one of the most unique tasting rooms around. A 106-year-old stone and wood bank barn. If you are looking for interesting, rustic, and comfortable… The Barns is it. Just be careful ladies…do not wear heels as this barn definitely has cracks and gaps in the floor ready to trip you up. To share a little more…The Barns made Kelly and my final list of potential venues for our wedding years back.
Although the wine is made by Michael Shaps, their grapes are grown between their property in Northern Virginia and Charlottesville. Additionally, the Barns is no stranger to honors in the Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition with some recent highlights in the Governor’s Case being the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2015 Petit Verdot. I do have some opinions on the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition, but I’ll save that for another article. Regardless, The Barns wines are delicious, and vineyard is deserving of a Top 10 in NOVA. I do feel their reds outshine their whites, but don’t sleep on their Viognier as it always pleases.
Like all wineries, The Barns has a club, but they give you a better discount than most. 10%-15% is the typical club discount, but The Barns offers 20%. Additionally, they have some events through the year and often live music within the tasting room on the weekends.
Slater Run Vineyards
Slater Run in Upperville is a newcomer when compared to many other names on this list as they are less than 10 years old. They offer two locations to sample their wine. A tasting room right on Route 50 and next door to Hunter’s Head Tavern, a must-go place to eat and was written about in a past blog article called, Wine Adventures in Middleburg & Upperville. The other location is their Winery, also in Upperville, but off the beaten path a bit. Both have their charm, but if you get a chance, go to the winery during the warmer months as it’s a quiet, relaxing, and beautiful setting.
Upon our first visit, we got to meet their owner, Kiernan. Extremely welcoming, knowledgeable, pleasant, and fun. She was pouring us our tasting at their winery location. Their wine selection is highlighted by their Roots and First Bridge labels. Like many Virginia wineries, they are a Left and Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend. They also recently introduced Pit Jumper, an 80% dominant Cab Sav with 20% Petit Verdot so you can expect some bold and robust flavors with the jammy fruits you’d come to expect from PV. SRV uses the same wine consultant that Stone Tower does, which I feel is a great move as we can already see those results.
An active wine club with a lot of fun events is available for those that choose to join. Additionally, SRV hosts other events open to the public like wine dinners, dinner theater, and more. What really draws us to SRV is their hospitality and the down-to-earth-ness of their owners as they are actively involved in their activities and always available to guests. SRV is not as crowded and busy as some others, but they are one to keep an eye on because as they get some more age to those vines and their wine becomes more known, expect more massive crowds.
Otium Cellars is tucked away in Purcellville and worth a visit. They offer a more unique selection of varietals that many in Virginia do not. Their owner, Max Bauer wanted to bring the flavors of Austrian and German wines to Virginia. Sure, you’ll find Malbec, Cab Sav, and Chardonnay, but you’ll also find varietals like Grüner Veltliner, Grauburgunder (German Pinot Gris), Blaufränkisch, Dornfelder, Zweigelt, and more. I added all those links to help you learn about them if they are unfamiliar to you. Also, keep an eye out on our Tasting Notes page as I plan to add our newest addition to it… Otium’s 2014 Blaufränkisch Reserve. I’ll give you a quick hint. It was awesome!
Otium sits adjacent to a horse farm. It’s quite entertaining actually. As you drive up to the tasting room, you’ll see horses running around, being escorted, or ridden…so drive slowly! If you are not at the tasting table, it’s quite fun to enjoy watching the operations in and around from their outside covered patio. That patio is fantastic. Comfortable couches, doors (if needed) can be wide open for fresh air and breeze… or kept closed during the colder months. One of our favorite places to relax with a bottle. Back to the tasting room… there are a couple of places to grab a taste inside but look to the back hallway as it opens up to a large room filled with tables where you can enjoy time with your friends and some wine. It amazing actually, because that back room is simple to miss.
Otium does some events throughout the year, and you can often find live music. Being that they are in Purcellville, you’ll be able to get some great food in and around that area at places like Magnolias at the Mill or Petite Loulou Crêperie. If distilled spirits tickle your fancy, you also have Catoctin Creek Distillery to tour and taste.
Tarara makes this list for something no other winery provides. A Summer Concert Series. Yah, I know it’s December right now, and an outside summer concert seems so distant but put it in the back of your mind so that when it kicks back up, you’ll be ready. Kelly and I attended the Legwarmers concert there back in 2017 and had a blast. Kelly did a short write-up on The Legwarmers & Wine back then if you want to take a gander.
Summer Concert Series aside, Tarara has established itself as a producer of good wine with some different blends and single varietals. Their tasting room can get a bit crowded during peak season, so get there early if you plan to visit. It’s a bit of a production and less personal than other wineries that make this list, but their outdoor patio in the woods is a pleasant environment to relax to the sounds of nature.
Bang for the buck. That’s what Boxwood Winery is all about. I’ll be 100% honest…the first time I visited Boxwood, I didn’t like it. I was thrown off by a pourer that ruined the experience. Also, they poured their first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc, and I didn’t like it at all. Fast forward a few months…we attended the Aldie Harvest Food & Wine Festival in 2017 that we wrote about and Boxwood was there doing tastings. What a difference it made when we got to drink the wine in a different setting with a great pourer. Some of our good friends are members there, and we have gone back a few more times.
The tasting room is small, there’s not a lot of space to hang out, but the wine is good, and the price is excellent. We are talking $19.00 for a great Rosé, and a Sauvignon Blanc leaps and bounds better than their first vintage. Trellis and Topiary are two of their red blends, and both are under $30. You don’t find this price much more in local wineries, and if you do, it’s usually not worth drinking. Boxwood is that exception. Like I said, Bang for the Buck is what Boxwood is all about.