How To Drive In Wine Country: The Virginia Edition

Food & Drink

As a wine tourism destination, Tuscany is hard to beat. Whether you’re driving through the landscape, wandering the streets of Florence or Siena, or soaking in the region’s epic architecture and art, there are multitudes of sensory pleasures to complement your wine experience.

Sometimes, though, a wine destination closer to home is the right fit at the right time. For wine enthusiasts on the East Coast, Virginia wine country could very well be the right choice. Here are some suggestions not only for driving IN wine country, but also for driving TO wine country in the “Virginia Is For Lovers” state.

Proximity

You might fly into one of the local airports or you might take the train to Charlottesville at the heart of wine country, and rent a car from there. Or, if you happen to be one of the millions of people living in the metropolitan areas that are within driving distance, you might simply drive yourself.

Either way, driving TO wine country is where the trip — and the vistas — actually start. Virginia’s geography is diverse and unique, ranging from the Blue Ridge’s picturesque rolling hills to three distinct wine regions on the coast (Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads) to the rugged mountains and gushing rivers of the “Heart of Appalachia” in the southwestern part of the state.

The most populous wine region in terms of tasting rooms is along the Monticello Wine Trail near Charlottesville, although wineries throughout the state have invested human and financial capital into welcoming guests and wine lovers. Your experience of driving IN wine country is naturally and diversely impacted by your choice of ten different Virginia regions to drive TO for the beginning of your visit. Each landscape is distinct, which supports and helps to determine the diverse range of experiences that are programmed, and of course the grapes that are grown.

Scale and Speed

“Big farms. Small roads.” That’s one juxtaposition of size that you’ll notice in Virginia wine country. The built environment of wineries has space to breathe, and you’ll often notice gathering or event spaces planned into the architecture of an estate. The summers are hot but the winters are mild, and winery owners appreciate the value of year-round programming for visitors.

The route to the wineries is very likely to be along small roads that are not quickly or very easily navigated — similar to every wine region since they’re by definition located in agricultural areas that are less commercially developed. In Virginia specifically, however, it feels more like the “back road view” of farms. You’ll notice that some grow apples and melons, for example, in addition to grapes. You’ll come upon roadside farm stands, and cider in addition to wine. You’ll also find local craft breweries nearly as often as you’ll see small-scale wineries.

You’ll take it in, at first, by looking out the window of your car. You probably won’t be driving very fast, given the long curves and occasional sharp-angle bends in the road. But you’ll want to slow down anyway, to give yourself enough of a cushion to pull over when something interesting catches your eye. That’s when you step into the landscape, put the phone away, and recalibrate to the slower cadence of wine country in Virginia.

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