Road Trippin’ to 3 Northern Virginia Vineyards You Can Do in a Day

A grape escape for wine tastings, plus striking architecture, live music and even a little yoga

The slogan “D.C.’s Wine Country” might startle visitors to the capital area, but that’s how vineyard owners in Virginia’s nearby Loudoun and Fauquier counties identify their territory. Truth to tell: in less than 45 (non-rush hour) minutes from Capitol Hill, oenophiles turn onto country lanes and discover wineries, many in clusters across the state that Wine Enthusiast named a top ten wine travel destination.

Consider three stops made recently in good company on a smooth day trip from the city. Bruce Shutte, the all-in-one driver-guide-wine man of Wine Pro Tours, led an excursion from front-door pickup into the countryside and safely back. Shutte knows the history and landscapes, the entrepreneurs and tasting rooms, and he promises some surprises for his clients, especially the folks he describes as “Napa-ed out.”

Boxwood Estate Winery

Boxwood Estate Winery

Moving Spirits: Owners John Kent Cooke and daughter Rachel Martin, with winemaker Josh Gerard, consultant Stephane Derenoncourt and viticulturist Lucie Morton

Philosophy: Quality over quantity—respect for sustainable farming practices, only certified plant materials and clones grafted to rootstocks, VSP trellises and cane pruning

Mission: Adapt contemporary technology for Bordeaux tradition with GPS monitoring of conditions, plus rows and vines spaced by laser, two meters by one meter

Terroir: Purcellville silt loam with bedrock of gneiss, schist and granite, three above-sea-level blocks sloping from well drained, rocky soil to increasing clay content, on 200 acres within the Middleburg American Viticultural Area and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains

Production: Gravity system taking hand-sorted berries to custom steel tanks monitored by TankNet; aging for up to a year in French oak barrels; red wine in three Bordeaux styles from five grapes: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, ultimately 5,000 cases a year

Tasting Room: Circular bar and outdoor courtyard with umbrella tables

Vintage Picks: Boxwood, a Medoc-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot; and Topiary, an elegant balance of Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Special: Architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen’s dramatic stone-and-glass facility including a wine cave and bottling room; a wine club membership with benefits per shipments, first releases and events

Boxwood Estate Winery, 2042 Burrland Lane, Middleburg, Virginia, 540.687.8778

Delaplane Cellars in Delaplane, Virginia

Delaplane Cellars 

Moving Spirits: Betsy and Jim Dolphin, who bought a piece of Lost Mountain in 2007 and bottled their own first harvests here in 2010; viticulturist Rumaldo Chavez overseeing 10.5 acres with 16,000 vines

Philosophy: Less is more. (Traditional winemaking, slow metabolizing and “green” practices require less intervention yet yield more flavor.)

Mission: Artisan wines that reflect the unique terroirs of this property and those of their dedicated fellow growers, all planting 100 percent vinifera fruit

Terroir: Slopes that drain properly and allow warm air to rise; rocky, granite-fed acreage for reds like the Left Bank Cabernet Sauvignon; clay-rich southern soil for the Right Bank Merlot

Production: Fermenting room with two- and three-ton tanks, the smaller for micro harvests, all yielding richer wines thanks to multiple punch-downs of the cap

Tasting Room: Spacious counter and café tables with panoramic view of house, fields and Cobbler Mountains, 98 percent of yield sold here and through Vintner’s Case Club

Vintage Picks: The 2013 Mélange Rouge, a Bordeaux-style blend with notes of currant, dark berries, cocoa and tobacco leaf to pair with game and wintry stews; the 2013 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay with notes of apple and oak to pair with veal, white fish and mild cheeses

Special: Live music Fridays and Saturdays

Delaplane Cellars, 2187 Winchester Rd, Delaplane, Virginia, 540.592.7210

Stone Tower Winery, Leesburg, Virgina

Stone Tower Winery

Moving Spirits: The Huber family (Mike and Kristi, on-site daughter Lacey) and winemaker Tim Crowe with global credentials

Philosophy: Put “Joy in Every Bottle,” the motto on each cork

Mission: To produce world-class wines and enlighten wine enthusiasts with tours by savvy staff, tastings and great views

Terroir: Well-drained soils with greenstone schist, most soils Catoctin channery silt loam and Meyersville-Cactoctin complex; breezes wicking humidity from the rolling hillsides

Production: 1,800 cases in 2014, 55 acres now under vine, in laser-straight furrows and GPS-guided rows seven feet apart, premium French ENTAV-certified vinifera for red and white varietals, aged in French cooperage and some in a futuristic concrete “egg” tank

Tasting Room: A new space with vast bar and beamed ceiling opening to a terrace; à la carte snacks like cheeses, charcuterie and chocolate paired with tastings of four current vintages or six reserve wines.

Vintage Picks: With Estate labels, the Viogniers and Chardonnays; with Wild Boar labels (other growers), the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc with notes of citrus and minerality or the 2013 Malbec with bouquet of fruits and citrus blended with a little Cab; all at the Harvest Barn wine shop

Special: Dogs on leashes and children welcome; tables by a large pond; 400-year-old doors from a Chinese fortress; an expansive wing for weddings and other events; plus Vinyasa yoga sessions, the fees going to charity

Stone Tower Winery, 19925 Hogback Mountain Road, Leesburg, Virginia 703.777.2797 

Getting There

Wine Pro Tours, 703.209.7139 

Reston Limousine, weekend public tours (two vineyards) or customized group tours, 703.478.0500, 800.546.6141

Chariots for Hire, a fleet of sedans, limos, limo buses, SUV limos and vans, tour packages with lunch, wine stops and tastings scheduled by clients, 703.790.5466

Jean Lawlor Cohen
About the author