Fall is the perfect time to explore the countryside and enjoy some wine tasting. Virginia now boasts more than 200 wineries, Maryland is home to nearly 60, and newcomers are opening their doors each month. Several new vineyards and tasting rooms came on the scene in 2012 and here are our new favorite destinations for a weekend drive.
Otium Cellars & Winery has kept busy since its opening in April – starting a case club, hosting its first wedding and showing off its six varietals at festivals across the state. The boutique winery is focused on grapes unique to Virginia – including spicy Blaufraenkisch and earthy Dornfelder — but common in the homeland of Otium’s winemaker Gerhard Bauer.
The A-frame tasting room is located past downtown Purcellville, as the landscape returns to farms and unpaved roads. The winery is housed on the grounds of Goose Creek Farms, an equestrian facility that raises Hanoverian horses – a breed that’s also native to Germany. Visitors often them hear whinnying while sitting outside and enjoying a glass of caramel-tinged Chardonnay or blackberry-rich Malbec. The cozy upstairs sitting room would be a perfect spot for a rainy weekend afternoon.
When the Winery at Bull Run opened in June in Centreville – just off I-66 and next to Manassas Battlefield Park – it became the state’s 206th winery and the tasting room located closest to the District.
Owner Jon Hickox is a remodeling professional by trade who purchased the 21-acre property in 2008 as an investment. His goal: to promote the history of Virginia wine, which he does proudly throughout the site.
“Virginia’s real gem is its history, including the history of winemaking in the state,” said Hickox, a Northern Virginia native and graduate of nearby George Mason University.
Two acres of Norton grapes are growing on the property and the first on-site vintage – a Merlot-Norton blend – will be made this fall. The Winery at Bull Run offers nine wines in its tasting room for $12. The wines, four red and four whites, were developed by renowned Virginia winemaker Chris Pearmund and won several awards for the winery before the tasting room even opened. Of note: the 2010 Delaney – a light bodied, semi-dry white blend of Traminette, Vidal Blanc, Viognier and Riesling — that’s floral and easy to sip.
Loudoun County welcomed its 33rd winery when The Barns at Hamilton Station opened in August.
The property outside of Leesburg was originally a dairy farm; the owners removed one the barns with salvaged wood to house their new 4,700-square-foot tasting room, complete with a loft area and deck overlooking the rest of the property.
The spot is designed to host events, and several weddings were booked well before the winery opened its doors this summer. Guests are encouraged to explore the sprawling grounds, complete with apple, apricot and fig trees as well as a pond, and work is planned for many outbuildings, including a milking building that is being transformed into an events kitchen and cigar bar.
Veteran winemaker Michael Shaps, who has consulted on many start-up wineries in Virginia, is overseeing wine production — including leases in Hillsborough and Charlottesville. Two acres of Petit Verdot and Viognier this spring were planted on site, and guests can taste six wines – including two whites, a rose and four reds – for $5.
“In just the short period of time we’ve been involved in the industry, amazing steps have been taken with Virginia wine,” co-owner Craig Garten said, noting that neighboring vineyard owners have passed along their knowledge of the region, helping shape how Garten and his business partners have developed the Barns at Hamilton Station.
In Maryland, two unique wineries opened this year about an hour’s drive from DC: Cascia Vineyards on Kent Island and Detour Winery, north of Frederick.
Cascia began welcoming weekend visitors to its tasting room in June, but has been producing wine since 2005.
By only selling bottles on location and at festivals, the winery has remained “under the radar” explained owner Mark Cascia, who oversees production of 3,000 gallons a year. Guests enjoy a selection of four dry reds and four whites – two dry and two semi-sweet – produced on the secluded waterfront estate.
Cascia makes the most of the unique microclimate on the Eastern Bay, which allows him to hold onto red grapes longer than some other vineyards. He grows 18 different varietals on 12 acres, including Nebbiolo, Semillon and Zinfandel, and this year will harvest his first crop of Norton – which has been discovered growing wild on other Maryland islands.
At Detour Winery, owner-winemaker Dan Tamminga produces more than 30 wines from organic, certified grapes and other fruits. He opened Detour in January as a destination winery, and if he’s not tending to his 34 acres of crops or guiding tastings at local wine shops, you can often find him pouring for visitors and fielding questions in the tasting room.
“Detour is about moving away from the conventional way of thinking. Don’t just make a Chardonnay, don’t just make a Pinot. Don’t make the same as others,” Tamminga said.
He’s developing new profiles by mixing European and American hybrids, and the ability to develop a range of crops if aided by the vineyard’s location east of Catoctin Mountain. This fall, he was set to explore vineyards in Peru and Argentina to see if he could introduce new grapes to the state in 2013.
With a ranging selection of white, fruit, blush, red, and dessert and ice wines on the tasting menu, there are options for every palette.
“I’m just going to keep planting, and if I end up with 100 acres that’s where I’ll be,” Tamminga added.
Otium Cellars: 18050 Tranquility Rd. Purcellville, VA; 540-338-2027; www.otiumcellars.com
Winery at Bull Run: 15950 Lee Hwy. Centreville, VA; 703-815-2233; www.wineryatbullrun.com
Barns at Hamilton Station: 16804 Hamilton Station Rd. Hamilton, VA; 540-338-5309; www. thebarnsathamiltonstation.com
Cascia Vineyards: 1200 Thompson Creek Rd. Stevensville, MD; 410-604-2127
Detour Vineyard & Winery: 7933 Forest and Stream Club Rd. Keymar, MD; 410-775-0220; www.detourwinery.com