Frequent winery travelers are asking more from Virginia. With cupboards full of logo’d wine glasses at home and hundreds of hours of experience logged at tasting bars, serious winos have begun looking beyond the bar for more personal experiences. They want to trade stories with the winemaker, and taste from the barrel. They want a little extra space and some peace and quiet to enjoy the peace and quiet. They want to be a VIP.
And wineries are noticing.
Here are a handful of the types of elevated experiences wineries are offering, ranging from a reserved table and private pourer at Bluemont Vineyards to a small-group seminar at Linden Vineyards with Jim Law, Virginia’s pre-eminent grower.
Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville
Library 1821 Tastings
Through the last three decades, the winery has taken care to reserve leading wines from exemplary vintages. Reserve wines are now offered in Barboursville’s lovely private Library 1821. Signature wines Octagon and Paxxito are always available, along with older distinguished vintages of more limited supply. Bottle purchases available. Starting at $25/person; Friday – Monday; no reservation needed.
Bluemont Vineyard, Bluemont
Five different specialty experiences are offered for groups, including private vineyard and production area tour and tasting ($30/person); pick-your-own fruit at Great Country Farms across the street, followed by sangria-making ($30/person); guided blind-tasting of six wines ($30/person); private, guided seated tasting ($22); and table service, which includes a reserved table and dedicated server ($12/person). By reservation.
Chateau O’Brien, Markham
Library Cellar Wine Tasting
Bi-annual event to taste and purchase past vintages, including Irish cheeses, baguettes and local chocolates. $50, with reservation. Also available by request, on weekends.
DuCard Vineyards, Etlan
Gourmet Food and Wine Program
Small group, upscale wine and food pairing led by Chef Kris Krammes in the barrel room or on the patio. Taste a flight of current wines paired with gourmet light bites from local farm-to-table suppliers, prepared by Chef Kris. Event includes a tasting of a not-yet-released vintage, right from the barrel. $45/person, plus tax and gratuity; by reservation.
Gray Ghost Vineyards, Amissville
Wine Library Tastings
Several times a year, Gray Ghost invites guests to taste how well Virginia’s wines can hold up over years at their Library Wine Tastings, typically featuring a selection of 10+ year-old vintages plus current selections. $25/person; reservation required.
James Charles Winery, Winchester
Vintner’s Table Seated Tasting
Table service for 4-8 guests with charcuterie food pairing, held in the tasting salon with an experienced wine consultant. $30/person; 60 minutes; by reservation, weekends only.
Linden Vineyards, Linden
In the intimate setting of the Linden library, Jim Law will guide participants through his three decades of winegrowing discoveries at Hardscrabble Vineyard. This series of seminars includes tastings and discussions of mature and current Chardonnays, Reds, and Late Harvest wines. $60/person; selected Sundays at 12 and 2:30; by reservation.
Special Cellar Tastings
For those wishing to go deeper into Linden’s Single Vineyard wines, terroir and vintage comparative tastings are offered on Saturdays. These small, intimate, educational tastings are conducted in the cellar by one of Linden’s experienced staff. $28/person; offered at 12, 1, 2 and 3pm; reservations recommended.
Little Washington Winery, Washington
The Vintner’s Table
Guided wine & food pairing, with lunch. $40/person; 90 minutes; 1st Saturday of each month; by reservation.
Paradise Springs Winery, Clifton
The Paradise Springs Experience Tour
Tour lasts 60-90 minutes and includes a visit inside winery’s historic cabin, a walk to the vineyard, a tour of the tank room, production area, & barrel room. A tasting of the current wine list will be poured along the way. $25/person; Saturdays at 2 and 4, Sundays at 3, other times by appointment; no reservation required.
Philip Carter Winery, Hume
Private Wine Education Tour & Picnic
Guided vineyard and winery tour by a certified Philip Carter Wine Educator, including the history of the Carter family wines that date back to 1762. Following the tour is a wine education and appreciation class in the King Carter Suite focusing on the fermentation process and wine terms. Tour concludes with a picnic on the grounds, which includes local Virginia cheese, cured meat, Virginia chutney and chocolates. $85/couple or $160 for 4; weekends at 11; by reservation.
Prince Michel Winery, Leon
Private Barrel Tasting
Winemaker Brad Hansen hosts a tasting right from the barrels, then discusses Prince Michel’s wines and the wine making process. Includes light hors d’oeuvres. $75/person, by reservation.
RdV Vineyards, Delaplane
In-depth winery tour followed by a tasting, paired with a locally-sourced cheese and charcuterie board. $65/person; Thursday through Sunday; by appointment.
The Winery at Bull Run, Centreville
Photo courtesy of The Winery at Bull Run
Historical Tour and Tasting
Walk the historic estate while tasting Virginia wines, and learn about the rich Civil War history behind Bull Run Battlefield, which sits adjacent to the winery. $36.50/person; reserve online.
Winery at La Grange, Haymarket
Vineyard Tour & Tasting
In depth educational tour of the vineyards and cellar, where you’ll learn the viticulture of growing grapes in Virginia and the winery’s fermentation and aging process. Tour includes one glass of red or white wine, and concludes with a select tasting of additional wines. $30/person; by appointment.
More VIP Event Tips, from the experts...
I have had the pleasure of attending the Barboursville Vineyards annual Truffle Dinner twice and it is an event not be missed. Book early!
Christopher Parker, Co-Founder, The Virginia Wine Academy
We always look forward to being treated like VIPs by Bruce and Sylvia Miller at Breaux Vineyards. Breaux produces wines just for club members, who are treated to special release events and expert tastings conducted by Bruce and Sylvia.
Paul Armstrong and Warren Richard, Virginia Wine Time blog
I made reservations at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards in Middleburg for a Mom’s Day Out for me and seven friends. When we discovered there was a mix-up in dates, Wine Club Manager, Isabel, and her team went above and beyond to make sure I could offer a memorable afternoon out. We sat in the barrel room at a beautifully set table with personalized menu card and enjoyed a curated chocolate paired tasting, which included a few barrel tastings. Greenhill and their staff made us all feel special.
Kris & Kelly Featheringham, A Complex Crush blog
Our very favorite last year was the King Family vertical Meritage tasting, which we loved. What is so wonderful about this particular event is that the King brothers are there, mingling with club members and going from table to table during the tasting. Matthieu Finot and Carrington King were the main speakers, each sharing their memories of the details of each vintage year we were tasting (good weather, bad weather, cool nights, hot days, dry, rainy, etc.). This personal touch made a special tasting even more special.
Donna Gough, Handy Guide to Virginia Wineries
The vertical tasting at RdV Vineyards in Delaplane was one of the best wine tasting experiences I’ve had in a long time. We were taken down into their wine cave just below the winery where their estate director, Jarad Slipp, one of the few Master Sommeliers in Virginia, spoke about each wine in depth, adding character and personality to each of them. Following the vertical tasting we were treated to a large spread of gourmet food, an open bar of their wines, and a chance to speak to Jarad and their owner, Rutger de Vink.
Mike Barefoot & Mike Lawler, VinoWine Co-founders
The Best of Virginia program at Early Mountain Vineyards and the cellar tasting at Linden Vineyards are among my favorite tasting experiences.
Frank Morgan, Drink What You Like blog
The Barboursville 1821 library tasting. I feel like a kid in a candy store; how can I possibly only pick a handful of wines for my flight?
Matt Fitzsimmons, Virginia Wine Super Traveler
You have to try the VIP attendance package at the Monticello Wine Festival in Charlottesville – the best!
Jim and Sherry McDonald, Virginia Wine Super Travelers
We always enjoy our barrel tasting at Keswick Vineyards. We own a barrel and once a year have the opportunity to taste the upcoming wines, straight out of the barrel. The winemaker, Stephen Barnard is a wonderful host of this event and we look forward to hearing about these upcoming wines.
Beth and Gerry Yourich, Virginia Wine Super Travelers
This article was originally published in the 2019 edition of the book, Virginia Wine Travel Journal.
Nancy Bauer (Nancy@VAWineInMyPocket.com) writes about Virginia Wine Country travel on the Virginia Wine in My Pocket website and smartphone app, and is the author of the book, Virginia Wine Travel Journal, available at Amazon.com.