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Blogger Favorites for Virginia Wine Week

Virginia Wine Week It's spring, and that means bud break, wineries shaking out the mothballs of winter, and Virginia Wine Week. With more than 190 Virginia wineries to choose from this year (and counting), the wine bloggers of Virginia thought you might benefit from a little focusing. Want to winery with your dog? Bring a date? Listen to some great music?  Here's our list of favorites, and links to the other bloggers' favs as well. The Virginia Wine in My Pocket travel guide App (for iPhone and iPad) shares our picks to help you find your way down the Virginia wine road. And don't miss our Tour Story for a recap of my and Rick's "150 Virginia Wineries in 150 Days" tour last year as we "researched" the App. Virginia Wine in My Pocket's Blogger Favs for Virginia Wine Week 2011 Most dog-friendly – So right out of the box, I have to break the two-wineries-per category rule we agreed to. Dogs are king at many Virginia wineries, but this one’s a three-way tie: Keswick Vineyards with their Sunday Yappy Hours, Barrel Oak Winery (BOW, get it?), and the granddaddy of winedoggery love: Chateau Morrisette, (website: www.TheDogs.com, wine club called the Kennel Club…need we say more?)  See our App for a complete list of who accepts pets. Most family-friendly – Virginia wineries are, for the most part, on farms, so there can be lots to see and do for kids. Two of the best for families are the famous (and sometimes outrageous) Peaks of Otter Winery in Bedford, with their acres of fruit orchards, along with goats and pigs and roosters and llamas and a “bring your kids” attitude, and DeVault Family Vineyards near Appomattox, with a  swimming pool, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and a stocked fish pond. Honorable mention to Belle Mount Vineyards on the Northern Neck, which also offers a swimming pool and outdoor activities, along with on-site camping. See our App for a complete list of who welcomes kids. Best winery to take a date – For relaxed conversation, a romantic setting with lots of comfy furniture and greenery, and wine that gives you something to talk about, we’re going with Vintage Ridge, and the conservatory at Glass House Winery. Best winery to hear musicNotaviva Vineyards (whose motto is “Wine paired with music. Pour. Listen. Believe.”), and Tarara Winery with their famous summer concert series. Best winery to bump into owner/winemaker – This is a hard one. Not hard as in “all you ever see in Virginia is tasting room staff.” Just the opposite. We probably met the owner/winemaker in 50% of the wineries we visited last year. They’re everywhere! You can’t get away from them!  ;-) We hung with Steve and Cynthia at The Hague Winery, Sue and Moussa at Wisteria, Al and Cheryl at Gray Ghost, Mike at Vino Curioso, Stephane and Andrea at Hume, Bob at Abingdon, Calvin and Janet at Lexington Valley, and many others. (Our “small and intimate” listing in the App includes most of the wineries where you’re likely to run into the owner/winemaker.) But the bloggers agreed we’d limit our lists to two per category…so our favs for this have to be Dean Gruenburg at Castle Gruen, Norman LeoGrande at LeoGrande Winery, and Clyde Bodie at Bodie Vineyards. And yes, that IS three. So sue us; we loved those guys! Best winery for someone new to Virginia wine – This one is tricky. We’d want to show off some really great Virginia wine, but also make sure the overall winery experience worked. Many meet both criteria, but we’re going with Jefferson Vineyards (Rick likes ALL their wines, and the venue is pretty and intimate, plus there’s that whole Jefferson connection) and Hillsborough Vineyards (one of the most beautiful wineries in the state, plus the relaxed seated tasting on weekends). Best views – We have 30 wineries in this category in our App, so picking two is nearly impossible. And it depends on what kind of “view” you’re going for...long and expansive, like King Family Vineyards outside Charlottesville?  Or framed-up and interesting, like Linden Vineyards, or Vincent’s Vineyard in Lebanon?  We’ll go with a little of both and pick Wolf Gap Vineyard in the Shenandoah Mountains, and Delaplane Cellars (while acknowledging that Stone Mountain and Valhalla certainly take the prize for distance). Best place to visit with a big group – This is a handy category to pay attention to, because more and more wineries are barring large groups. Rain plays a part here, too. If it rains, you’ll want to head to someplace with lots of indoor seating, like Sweely in Madison,  or Narmada in Amissville, or Bluemont. But if the sun shines, we’ve got to go with Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, with their rolling lawn and dozens of picnic tables, and the always-jumping Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane, with acres  of space for kite flying, bocce balling, sipping at tables among the vines or on the shaded patio, and the most opulent porta potties you’ve ever seen. Best je ne sais quoi/indefinable quality that makes it special – We have a “something different” category in the App to capture just these special wineries. There’s the surprisingly humble little particle board tasting table at the renowned Virginia Wineworks tasting room near Charlottesville, the cideries and meaderies, the custom crush operation Vint Hill (which had some of the best Cabernets we tasted), and the white lights strung through the tree branches and the ginger wine in the tiny tasting room at Sans Soucy in southern Virginia. But we have to pick two, so we’ll stop hedging, and go, first, with the  new and charismatic The Homeplace Vineyards in southern Virginia’s Chatham, with its family-built log cabin tasting room and wrap-around screened porch. Our second pick is Aspen Dale in Delaplane, which calls to you to take a seat the minute you walk into the charming ancient barn of a tasting room. Best winery to laze away the afternoon - This is another sunny or rainy question. Rainy, definitely one of the upstairs parlor rooms at Winery at La Grange in Haymarket, or the upstairs lounge and club chairs and couches at Gray Ghost. If it’s sunny, you’ll want to try out the patio with the million dollar views at Veramar Vineyard or a glass of outstanding Chardonnay on the lawn at Veritas near Charlottesville. But our two picks?  It has to be two of the very few places we actually sat and relaxed during our 150 Wineries Tour: Abingdon Winery, where kind strangers shared their bottle of Chambourcin, and Barren Ridge, where owners Shelby and John sat down with us on the patio, watching the windswept vines along the ridge, talking about life and inquiring as to whether we could stay for a little dinner. We love Virginia’s wineries. Check out the other bloggers’ picks at DrinkWhatYouLike.com, SwirlSipSnark.com, CellarBlog.com, VirginiaWineTime.com, http://wineaboutvirginia.blogspot.com/2011/03/blogger-favorites-for-virginia-wine.html.

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