This year, Virginia wine country offers the chance to do just that. Longtime wineries have expanded their tasting rooms and new ones are offering pairings beyond the standard baguette and cheese. The next few months present a prime time to visit, as a wash of oranges, yellows and reds begins to sweep over the landscape and grape-harvest season gets underway. Vineyards will be bustling with activity, and the weather will allow for long picnics and games of Frisbee in the rolling hills.
Check out three trips, each pointing the way to an established winery and at least one new feature, as well as stops to pick apples, grab a farm-to-table burger or stock up on sundries.
Beer and barbecue
in genteel wine country
At the northern tip of Virginia, spitting distance from the West Virginia border and Harpers Ferry, the area around Purcellville has exploded into one of the state’s most concentrated wine regions in just a handful of years. There are new vineyards and restaurants to experience, as well as a brewery on the grounds of a winery, a Napa-style cycling tour and an organic market that flips “yoga burgers” for hungry urbanites.
The secret is to visit on a Sunday, when the whole town moves at a languid pace and the locals seem to enjoy Purcellville’s newfound popularity with city-dwellers.
Corcoran Brewing Co.
Tasting notes: This fun, informal brewery provides an inspired palate cleanser near wine-soaked Purcellville.
Until recently, Jim Corcoran’s wife, Lori, was the one with the offbeat hobby, aging cabernet franc, viognier and limoncello- infused Petit Manseng on their sunny estate just outside Purcellville. But in 2010, Jim planted hops next to Lori’s grapevines to indulge a passion of his own: beer. Corcoran Brewing Co. opened last year in a rust-colored barn around the bend from the Corcoran Vineyards tasting room, and for now, it is one of Virginia wine country’s best-kept secrets.
A Saturday visit means you might meet Corcoran’s friendly, mustachioed brewer, Kevin Bills. On Sundays, you might find assistant brewer Brian Spak behind the bar chatting up guests about the offerings, including the LoCo, an English-style I.P.A., or the somewhat-sweet Round Hill Root Beer, brewed with wintergreen, vanilla, honey and sarsaparilla. (A favorite, the Padawan Pumpkin, will be available in October. )
The brewery isn’t yet using the more than a dozen hop varieties grown on-site, and production isn’t high enough for wide distribution, so you must visit to taste Corcoran’s beers (though restaurants including Fire Works Pizza and Magnolias at the Mill will soon carry them). In July, the tasting room began serving pints, providing all the more reason to camp out on the patio and sup on superlative brisket sandwiches or pastrami on rye ($8-$10) served by the on-site barbecue stand, Monk’s BBQ. Owner Brian “Monk” Jenkins works the wines and beers into his bevy of rich barbecue sauces (the blackberry whiskey is to die for) and supplements the smoky meats with a handful of tempting sides, including smoked Gouda macaroni and cheese, hush puppy-style fried pickles and slaw.