It Seems That Virginia Is for Sippers

Posted October 13, 2010 at 4:59pm

For those who are caught up in the hustle and bustle of campaign season, it’s easy to get overworked and stressed out. While there is little time to pack up and get out of town for a week, visiting Virginia wine country on the weekend is one way to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors without traveling more than 90 minutes from the Dome.

In fact, October is Virginia Wine Month, the perfect time to make the trip. Many of the state’s 160 wineries offer a host of specials in celebration of the annual harvest. But don’t be fooled; even without a special deal, a visit to the vineyard is a fun and economical way to spend an afternoon.

• A little more than an hour’s drive away is Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville. Nestled at the base of a large hill, the winery sits on a sprawling piece of property that offers ample picnic space. The vineyard offers sweeping views of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround the property, and a dozen wrought-iron tables are available for picnicking. On the weekends, it’s not unusual to see a musician with a guitar strumming away as visitors sip on glasses of cabernet sauvignon and enjoy the cool autumn breeze.

Founded in 1994 by the Breaux family, the vineyard is one of the most popular wineries in northern Virginia. As a result, it is often plagued by long lines, making the tasting room feel chaotic. But the wine is divine, and the winery grows 18 types of grapes on 400 acres of Virginia countryside.

The Breaux family (no relation to former Louisiana Democratic Sen. John Breaux) hails from Louisiana, and the family’s Cajun heritage is well-represented at the winery. The label of each bottle features a red crawfish, while Cajun music is often playing in the tasting room.

Tastings at Breaux are pricier than other Northern Virginia wineries, but guests can try at least a dozen wines for $10. For a few dollars more, customers can even schedule a private tasting for up to 20 people. For $13 per person, groups can meet a wine educator in a private enclave of the winery.

But be warned: Breaux, like many of the wineries in the area, is suffering from the recent stinkbug infestation. While the bugs don’t sting, they do have a tendency to hover around and occasionally invite themselves to guests’ picnics.

• Hillsborough Vineyards sits atop a hill in Purcellville and offers some of the most stunning views of any winery in Northern Virginia. From this high perch, you can see farms for miles. The vineyard specializes in Italian varietals, offering red, white and rosé wines. Tastings cost $5. If you find one you like, glasses range from $8 to $10, while bottles start at $21.

Hillsborough offers ample picnic space on the lawn, as well as a stone patio equipped with wrought-iron tables and chairs. Your best bet is to pack a lunch, though the winery offers cheese and fruit plates.

• Doukénie Winery, also in Purcellville, makes finding a favorite wine even more economical. Bottles are especially budget-friendly, starting at $17.85, while glasses cost $6 and tastings are $5.

Doukénie, named for an ancestor of the owners, is set far back from the road and housed in a red barn-like structure. The serene landscape, which features a small duck pond, is a perfect escape from the stresses of D.C.

On Oct. 23, Doukénie will host a Harvest Festival, which features wine and barbecue. For $10, customers can partake in barrel tastings, meaning they’ll get to taste a new vintage of wine before it is bottled. Food catered by Smokin’ Willie’s BBQ will be available for $7 to $10.