Wine a Bit in Hampton Roads: Where to Enjoy Quality Reds and Whites

I’ve heard some call Virginia “Napa East” because of the abundance of vineyards throughout the state. If you had a year, you could probably visit all of them, and if you think about Virginia wine you probably associate the central and northern regions with the most bountiful harvests. I can’t argue with you there – over the last five years we have visited a number of wineries in Shenandoah and beyond, and have been disappointed at the paucity of such places along the coast. Lately, however, times have changed.

Some may believe you don’t see as many wineries in Southeastern Virginia because the land isn’t as conducive to grape-growing as other parts of the country. In truth, there are wineries that obtain grapes from other parts of the state, and some along the Carolina coasts that do just fine. Recently, however, the Hampton Roads region of Virginia is showing more on the winery map thanks to two recent openings and an older favorite wine lovers can visit along the way.

Next time you plan a vacation in the Seven Cities – Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and on north to Williamsburg – why not broaden your palate with tastings at these wineries:

Williamsburg Winery: While the land on which the winery sits has been settled since 1607, it wasn’t until about thirty years ago that vines were planted. The Williamsburg Winery is a popular attraction on the Upper Peninsula, with enthusiasts enjoying the regular tours and tastings. Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the vintages sold here. There’s also a restaurant on-site that offers gourmet delights and pairings, and musical events throughout the summer. Tours and tastings come with a fee, and the winery is open daily except for select holidays.

Pungo Ridge Winery: Pungo is a sparsely developed area close to Virginia Beach and the North Carolina border, best known as a great place to pick strawberries and other produce in season. More recently, the Pungo Ridge Winery has opened it doors to sell a variety of wines and meads made with fruit grown on the property. From tart blackberry, sweet pear, and of course strawberry wine, one can find a bottle or two for porch sipping.

Mermaid Winery: Norfolk, Virginia’s first winery is quite unusual in that no grapes are grown on the premises. That’s because Mermaid Winery is strictly urban, located the in heart of the trendy Ghent neighborhood. All wines produced here are made with Virginia grapes, however, and you can taste and pair with a fine selection of cheeses, meats, and chocolate desserts.

No trip to Hampton Roads for the wine enthusiast is complete without a stop at any or all of these wineries. Bring home a bottle or two to remember your stay.

Presidential Sites – Visiting Charlottesville, Virginia and Jefferson’s Monticello

Welcome to another in a series of travelogue articles spotlighting U.S. Presidents historic sites. If there is one state that is most well known for having a wide array of presidents historic sites, it is Virginia. Join us as we visit picturesque Charlottesville, Virginia and the famous home of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson…

Vibrant Charlottesville: Wine, History, And Shopping

Long one of our favorite destinations, Charlottesville, Virginia has a little bit of everything, and then some. This charming university town in the midst of Virginia wine country has been enchanting visitors for over a hundred years. Charlottesville is about two hours from Washington, D.C. but it seems a million miles away. The pace is slower, it is easier to get around, and there’s a noticeable lack of city hustle and bustle. But don’t mistake it for a sleepy little town, because there are dozens of wonderful attractions here for all ages, along with an enticing cultural scene.

The heart of Charlottesville is its historic downtown. It is perfect for walking and poking around in one of the many specialty shops. If your feet get tired, there’s a free trolley which will take a load off and transport you around downtown and points farther afield. There is a youthful vibe here, stemming from the University of Virginia which is located near downtown. The arts play a prominent role in Charlottesville’s cultural scene, and if you’re here on the first Friday of the month, you can participate in a gallery walk. On Saturdays, the City Market offers fresh produce and artisan goods grown locally and sold at the peak of freshness.

Several wineries are located here and offer tastings of some of the finest wine made in America. Try a rich, deep Virginia red wine and see what you’ve been missing! For outdoor enthusiasts, the many lakes and rivers will keep even the most avid adventure seeker satisfied. Charlottesville is awash in history. Two presidents had their homes in the area, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. The visitors center offers a Presidential Pass which provides discounted admission to both homes and other historic attractions.

Visiting Jefferson’s Monticello

Next to Mount Vernon, Monticello is the most visited presidential home in America. Thomas Jefferson, our third president, lived here both before and after his presidency until his death in 1826. His home and plantation grounds are visited by tens of thousands annually. It is largely an outdoor experience, so dress comfortably. Tours of the home are given daily but it is a good idea to get your tickets in advance, because day of visit purchases might not be available. Tours are given on a time entry system, so be sure to be on time.

If you like to stroll, or hike as it were, park your car on the outer grounds and hike the two mile trail to the house. The scenery along the way is spectacular, particularly if you are visiting in autumn. Your admission includes not only a tour of the home, but a walking tour of the garden and grounds and a plantation tour. The gardens are beautiful and the plantation provides not only an overview of life in the early 1800’s but also a perfect vantage point to view the surrounding area.

We recommend allowing between two and three hours to see everything. Weekends tend to be quite busy, so if possible try to visit during weekday mornings or afternoons after 3 p.m. Any season is ideal for visiting Charlottesville, but we have a particular fondness for fall, when the trees are in blazing bloom and the days are warm with cool, comfortable evenings.

Must See Virginia Beach Attractions

Planning a vacation to Virginia will not mean trying to find enough things to do. Instead, planning the trip will mean trying fit as many of the city’s numerous attractions into your short stay as possible. Virginia Beach attractions are so various in style and type that there is sure to be so much to do that you will stay busy for your whole vacation.

What kinds of attractions are available in Virginia? There are truly too many to list here, but below you will find some of the most exciting and popular categories of fun that you will have in the vacation-worthy city.

Of course, there are the beaches. From the laid back and relaxed Chesapeake Bay area to the bustling and exciting resort area, there are beaches that are sure to please any traveler. Whether you just want to soak up the sun or you wish to paddle a kayak, you will have plenty of waterfront options.

Virginia attractions also include museums and historic homes. Since the area is part of the oldest settled in the country, there are plenty of historic attractions that you could enjoy. One of these attractions, which is just a short drive from the city, is the Jamestown settlement, which was the first settled town in the United States.

Do you enjoy the lighthearted fun that can only be found at seasonal festivals? Virginia attractions include numerous festivals throughout the year. If you in town at the right time, you can enjoy one of these events. If you are vacationing on Memorial Day weekend, you may be interested in the Pungo Strawberry Festival.

For something a little different, if you are in the city on the right Saturday in May, you could take part in the Virginia Wine Festival. For a taste of culture, the yearly Latin Fest may peak your interest. There is certainly no shortage of festivals to attend while you are vacationing.

Others of the numerous beach attractions include golf courses, fishing tournaments, nature trails and hiking parks, bowling and gaming, amusement parks, and an aquarium. Between the listed attractions above and the numerous others that can be found in Virginia, there are plenty of options available. There will certainly be attractions to please the whole family and you will find that you are trying to visit as many as possible while on your vacation.

Taste the Fruits of the Vines of Northern Virginia Wineries

Virginia is known as much for its many products and resources as it is for it rich Colonial heritage and history. As early as the 1600s the commonwealth has been a center of production for many goods and luxuries. Historians tell of our forefathers growing tobacco along the cobbled streets of Jamestown, and for nearly a century Suffolk has been regarded one of the peanut capitals of the world. Cotton, ham, and seafood are also popular exports, as is wine. Few people outside the bacchanalian world realize that Virginia is popular wine country, ranking tenth among US states in grape production!

There are over one hundred active wineries in the commonwealth of Virginia, covering nearly 2500 acres of land, and producing as many as three hundred thousands cases a year. On average, over four thousand tons of grapes are produced annually to make Virginia wine. You’ll find nearly every variety of red and white grown in Virginia, from the sweetest Rieslings and tart Chardonnays, to the sharpest Merlots and Cabernets this side of the Mississippi River.

Wine festivals are hosted all over the state, as many as three hundred annually, with many state vineyards taking home national and international awards for their produce. Wine making has been a devoted practice in Virginia since the dawn of the early colonies; it is a tradition well-preserved in the thousands of bottles sold each year to wine enthusiasts. Not only is Virginia the first state to produce US presidents, it is the first to produce wine, and over the centuries the practice has aged as well as the vintages!

In Northern Virginia in particular, one doesn’t need to travel “sideways” to enjoy a pleasant winery tour. From Stafford County to the lip of the DC beltway one can over 30 wineries, many of which offer tours and tasting specials. As the majority of Virginia wineries are small, family-owned enterprises, it is strongly recommended to contact ahead of time for operating and tour hours. On occasion, some wineries may schedule events in conjunction with other local businesses–a quick internet search on Virginia wines and the Virginia Wine Association will lead you to a wealth of information to help you plan a fun wine tour. Once you’re on the road, look for the road signs bearing a purple cluster of grapes that indicate the directions to your destinations. You are more likely to find them off the beaten path, on state and local roads, rather than the interstates.

When you plan your next Virginia wine tour, be sure to take a few detours to the Northern Neck region near Stafford and King George Counties and Washington, DC. Here are a few popular picks which are certain to please the palate:

Hartwood Winery – Fredericksburg

This historic farm has been producing fine wine since ’89! Hartwood Winery hosts many tastings and events throughout the year, allowing visitors to sample their crisp Chardonnays and Clarets.

Lost Creek Winery – Leesburg

Lost Creek offers unusual but delicious blends to savor, from apple and grape wines to late harvest wines made from high-sugar grapes.

Three Fox Vineyards – Delaplane

Three Fox specializes in Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, and Viognier vintages on their fifty-acre farm. Wine aficionados are also invited to subscribe to a special vintner’s circle, where one can “sponsor” vines and be trained in the winemaking process.

Linden Vineyards – Linden

For over twenty-five years, Linden has produced some of the finest Bordeaux wines in the Commonwealth. Tours and seminars on wine making and growing are hosted in the winter and summer, making Linden the perfect spot for an education as well as recreational stop on any Virginia wine tour.

If you enjoy what you taste at these and other Northern Virginia wineries, be sure to take a few bottles home with you, especially if you are out of state. Presently, Virginia wines are mainly available within Virginia, though the state has reciprocity agreements with thirteen states to allow the wine to be sold elsewhere in the country. Salud!

Hampton Roads, Virginia is For Fall Lovers

Here in Hampton Roads, the air is cooling down and the nights are shorter. Yet even though we’re well into October you can still walk the sandy shores of the Chesapeake Bay in your bare feet and enjoy a leisurely or brisk walk around Mt. Trashmore Park. The autumn season displays Southeastern Virginia at its best, and provides the perfect time to shop around for a home if you are new to the area.

Highlights of the Fall Season in Virginia

Whether looking for a place to live in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, or in the Upper Peninsula in Newport News and Williamsburg, you’ll find autumn brings a mix of color and tradition to the region. Living close to the Historic Triangle gives you access to holiday events in Colonial Williamsburg, and a month-long Hall-o-Scream celebration at Busch Gardens.

As October is designated Virginia Wine Month to accommodate the release of new vintages, new residents to Hampton Roads will want to visit the Williamsburg Winery for a guided tour and tasting and take in regularly scheduled musical and dinner events on the property. October also marks the annual Town Point Wine Festival, held in downtown Norfolk. Dozens of wineries from around the state offer samples of their latest red, whites, and dessert wines, all of which pair very well with the beautiful view along the Elizabeth River.

One good thing to remember as the weather cools in Virginia Beach, too, is that traffic in the Oceanfront lets up significantly. While the beach remains a strong tourist destination year round, there aren’t as many visitors in Fall and Winter, so you are able to enjoy the shops and cafes along Atlantic Avenue and take in various holiday and themed events at the small parks near the water. The Holiday Lights at the Beach celebration, which kicks off in the later part of the season, is certainly a sight to see!

For house hunting in Hampton Roads, fall is an excellent time to see the area in full color. Come visit us and experience this exhilarating season.

Exploring Virginia’s Wineries

Did you know that Virginia has some excellent wineries? Whether you’re an avid wine enthusiast or just looking for a fun activity for the day, Virginia has many great wineries to explore. From Blue Ridge Vineyard to Conoran Vineyard, there’s an enjoyable time to be had.

While there are many wineries to explore in Virginia, I will give a few good ones to start your journey. At the end of this article, I’ve put a link to a Web page that has more details about Virginia wine tourism. The two vineyards mentioned in this article are great, but there are plenty more vineyards in Virginia to explore.

Afton Mountain Vineyards

Time helps wine improve as does experience in making it. Afton Mountain Vineyards are more than experience in the art of winemaking. It’s one of the first farm wineries in Virginia.

You’ll find Afton Mountain Vineyards in Central Virginia. Appropriately, it’s located on 234 Vineyard Lane.

Their wines have received recognition both at home and abroad. Afton Mountain Vineyards has won awards at many competitions worldwide. Thankfully, their wine tasting room is open throughout the year. There’s never a bad time to visit and enjoy the fare and the wine. You can even make an appointment. Their hours fluctuate, but 10am – 5pm is the norm. And they’re closed on major holidays.

Farfelu Vineyards and Winery((

Moving right along, we stop at Farfelu Vineyards and Winery. As with Afton Mountain Vineyards, they’ve been at winemaking for quite some time. In fact, Farfelu is Virginia’s first winery.

The vineyard sits on an 86-acre beautiful estate. The tasting room is interesting in itself. They created it from a 1800s dairy barn. How’s that for ambiance? The estate also has an expansive deck that overlooks the vineyard.

Want more than just wine? Farfelu has a lovely picnic area and activities, such as bocce ball (very fun), volleyball, and horseshoes-and a river hiking trail. You might say that they have it all.

Located about 60 miles west of Washington, D.C., Farfelu can be found on 13058 Crest Hill Road. Plan to spend a little time here.

Farfelu produces lovely wines, including an award-winning Chardonnay (who says Chardonnay is best in California?), Cabernet Franc, Viogner and Muse, which a Bordeaux-styled red wine.

They are open year round, which is a plus. If you fancy a tour of the vineyard, get there early and on the weekend, because tours are only given at noon on Saturday and Sunday. Might as well go all out and enjoy yourself!

Many More Vineyards

Virginia has many more vineyards worth visiting. These two are great, but no wine tourism tour would be complete without visiting at least a couple more.

One thing you’ll find at Virginia vineyards is hospitality. Expect to have fun and enjoy great wines. It’s a great overall experience. Below I’ve put a link to a Web page on Virginia wine tourism. Take a minute and check it out. Whether you live in Virginia or are just visiting, exploring these vineyards is time well spent.

Northern Virginia Wineries

Virginia is well regarded for its rich colonial heritage and pivotal importance in American revolutionary history. The agriculture of the commonwealth has been centered on the growth and distribution of tobacco and peanuts, as well as a leading exporter of cotton, ham and seafood. However, many people outside of the area do not realize that Virginia is currently ranked tenth among US states in grape production, and the home to some of the nation’s best and most popular wineries.

There are well over one hundred wineries in Virginia, producing up to three hundred thousand cases a year. Every variety of wine is produced in the commonwealth, including Rieslings, Merlots, Chardonnays, Cabernets and Pinot Noirs.

Wine making has been practiced in Virginia since the earliest days of the colonial era. It is a tradition that is still celebrated today with the many wine festivals and tastings held throughout the state that highlight the diverse vineyards and winemaking techniques. Virginia wineries have garnered national and international acclaim and have received numerous awards at these festivals.

Northern Virginia offers a wide array of wineries to tour from Washington, D.C. down to the Fredericksburg region. Here are a few great suggestions for your next winery tour in the northern part of the commonwealth:

Lost Creek Winery in Leesburg offers unique and different wines for tasting, from apple to grape wines. A special late harvest wine is also bottled here, which is made from sweet, high-sugar grapes.

Hartwood Winery in the scenic countryside of Fredericksburg hosts many events and tastings all year round. They are most noted for their Clarets and Chardonnays and offer light snacks and tours of the vineyards.

Linden Vinyards in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Linden is the producer of some of the finest Bordeaux wines in Virginia. Seminars on wine making are offered here, as well as winter and summer tours.

Three Fox Vineyards in Delaplane is a 50-acre farm that pride themselves on resembling the vineyards of Northern-Central Italy. They produce grapes for a whole host of vintages, including Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Guests are invited to join a vintner’s club, where they can sponsor vines and learn the intricate process of how wine is made.

Potomac Point Winery is a Mediterranean-style estate located north of Fredericksburg. Specialties include award-winning citrusy white wines and velvety reds. You can create your own label for a personalized touch on the winery’s medium bodied custom blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The winery offers private and classic wine tastings for groups by appointment.

If you like what you taste while touring Northern Virginia Wineries, don’t forget to bring a few bottles home with you and support the local farmers and winemakers. The Northern Virginia region is home to some of the finest wineries in the Commonwealth, and a tour or tasting is a great way to spend a relaxing day.

Summers in Central Virginia

Central Virginia has such an abundance of indoor and outdoor activities, summer vacations and day trips can easily be spent here. In our tough economy, many families are seeking relaxation close to home, and in Virginia, such opportunities are found right outside your door. With outdoor recreation and indoor adventures plentiful, there is no need to plan a long-distance trip and pay high costs on airfare. Whether you want to hike portions of the Appalachian Trail, take in scenic views on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or expand your knowledge of Virginia’s history, there is something for everyone. More Virginians are realizing they can vacation in their home state.

The 35 state parks in Virginia offer outdoor enthusiasts a plethora of opportunity. Surrounding beautiful lakes and hiking trails, our state parks are a wonder. Most campgrounds and cabins are open from March 1st through the first week of December, and several offer more developed sites with modern conveniences such as cooking and grilling equipment, bathhouses, electric and water hook-ups. If a tent’s night sleep doesn’t suit you, there are cabins and cottages for rent to make your vacation in the woods more comfortable. With the typical 14 day camping allotment, families and adventurers can plan an extended vacation at a Virginia state park.

Richmond offers a great deal of historic culture and charm, well-suited for a day or weekend trip. Named the City of Monuments, Richmond provides visitors knowledge of history, and it is found by walking along Monument Avenue. This monumental street memorializes Virginia native Civil War Confederates, as well as Arthur Ashe, an international tennis star, and Richmond native. The James River is also a main highlight of the area. Here, thrill seekers can tube and raft down the rambling water, or hop rocks from one side of the river to another.

The historical significance and lush landscapes of Virginia continues north to Charlottesville. Providing a nice mix of history, architecture, and small city sophistication, the Charlottesville area attracts millions of visitors each year. Home to Thomas Jefferson and his legacies-a university and his home, Monticello, Charlottesville is a beautiful place for any visitor to explore. Whether you want to spend the day hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, enjoy the best Virginia wines on a multi-vineyard tour or walk the campus of one of Virginia’s most prestigious universities, Charlottesville offers it all.

Named the Historic Triangle of Virginia, Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, provides visitors with exciting and enriching ways to spend their summer days. Those who are historically inclined can spend time learning the history of the state dating back to American Revolution. The College of William and Mary is a popular tourist destination in that it is the second oldest educational institution in the country. In addition to historical sites, the area offers enjoyment with its outlet malls and amusement parks. With such a vast range of activities, it is no wonder the area is one of the most popular visitor sites in the state.

No matter where in Virginia you decide to spend your summer, there are indoor and outdoor adventures for people of all ages. For more information on fun outings in Virginia, visit a local travel agency, or check out one of the region’s newspapers or websites. A vast amount of excitement awaits you in the towns of Central Virginia!

Dining in Atlanta’s Historic Virginia Highland Neighborhood

Atlanta’s historic Virginia Highland neighborhood is a popular destination for dining, shopping, and nightlife. Located five minutes northeast of downtown Atlanta, this vibrant and trendy area is filled with sidewalk cafes and an eclectic mix of retail shops. The heart of Virginia Highland is the intersection of Virginia and Highland Avenues. Many homes and commercial buildings in the neighborhood date to the early 20th century when a trolley line served the area. Here are some popular restaurants to try in Virginia Highland.

Located in the heart of Virginia Highland at 997 Virginia Avenue NE, Murphy’s has been an Atlanta favorite for more than 30 years. The menu features contemporary American cuisine that focuses on fresh local ingredients. Some of executive chef Ian Winslade’s popular offerings include braised beef brisket, pork shank, shrimp and grits, and Murphy’s burger. Brunch is served on weekends from 8am-4pm. Murphy’s Bakery features decadent cookies, cakes, and pies created by their in house pastry chef. Murphy’s has an award winning wine list, and their retail wine shop offers weekly wine tastings on Tuesdays at 6:30pm.

Enjoy small plates, tapas, and margaritas at Noche Tequila & Tapas Bar, located at 1000 Virginia Avenue. Noche favorites include carne asada, seafood paella, and grilled chicken quesadillas. Every Monday the tacos are $2 each. The shrimp taco and the crispy fish taco are excellent choices.

For authentic Italian cuisine, try La Tavola Trattoria at 992 Virginia Avenue NE. This is a cozy eatery with exposed brick walls, wood floors, and an open kitchen. Pasta favorites are black linguine with calamari and baked manicotti stuffed with beef, pork, and spinach. Seafood lovers may want to try zuppa di pesce, a dish with clams, shrimp, lobster, and calamari. Enjoy Italian gelato or sorbetto for dessert. La Tavola Trattoria is open daily for dinner, and brunch is served on Sunday from 11am-3pm.

Osteria 832 is another Italian restaurant in Virginia Highland. Entrée favorites include chicken Marsala and eggplant parmigiana. Another tasty option is one of their thin crust wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant is located at 832 N. Highland Avenue, and patio seating is available. Creative Loafing magazine named Osteria 832 the best restaurant to bring the kids in 2011.

Fontaine’s Oyster House is located at 1026-1/2 N. Highland Avenue. The menu includes fresh oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp, crab legs, Po’Boys, and crab cake Remoulade. Free nightly valet parking is available at the rear entrance.

Atkins Park Restaurant and Bar, at 794 N. Highland Avenue, is Atlanta’s oldest continuously licensed tavern. They do offer family dining, and popular entrees include Southern fried chicken and cornbread crusted North Georgia trout. They also serve burgers and sandwiches. Food is served until 2:30am.

Enjoy the Best Hampton Roads Wine Festivals

We’ve heard more than one vintner in Virginia call the state “Napa East,” thanks to the growth of wine production in the Commonwealth. If you have traveled the state, you’ll find that there are more than a hundred wineries that offer a wide selection of fragrant vintages. From the popular Viognier to the earthy reds like Merlot and Cabernet Franc, there’s something to suit every palate. In the Hampton Roads area, we now have three wineries for you to visit (Williamsburg Winery, Mermaid Winery, and Pungo Ridge Winery), but that doesn’t mean you have to leave town to taste what more Virginia has to offer.

Wine festivals are popular in Hampton Roads. Each year representatives from wineries across the state and sometimes beyond converge on our region to share their latest vintages. These events typically attract thousands of wine enthusiasts a year, and you’ll find more than the sweetness of the vine when you visit. Live music, great food, and arts and crafts vendors are also hand to make the days extra special. So why not slip that sleeve of crackers in your bag and head over to some of our favorite Hampton Roads wine events.

Town Point Wine Festival: (May and October) One of the city’s favorite traditions is the wine festival held at Town Point Park in Norfolk, held in the Spring and Autumn. Here you can sample the best of the state’s vintages along with gourmet snacks provided by local restaurants. We’ve been lucky to be blessed with beautiful weather every time the Town Point festival happens, plus you’re walking distance from downtown Norfolk and the many great new restaurants that have opened.

Chesapeake Wine Festival: (October) This fall event is one of the most anticipated in the city of Chesapeake. The wine festival benefits many local charities and to date has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help various community interests. Virginia and international wines are represented here, and thoroughly enjoyed.

Neptune Festival: (September) The big Virginia Beach fall festival usually features a space for regional and international wines. Here you can savor the tastes of Virginia and enjoy various beach-related activities, from the professional sand sculpting displays to the big surfing competition.

Yorktown Wine Festival: (October) Enjoy a sip of your favorite red or white as you stroll waterside through Yorktown. You’ll enjoy many local and area vendors and live entertainment, with options for a multi-course wine-paired dinner.

Take note that all festivals will check for ID. Festival fees usually include a souvenir glass, and food is extra. You should be able to buy bottles of the vintages you liked most at the festival, too.

If you love wine, Hampton Roads is the place to be during festival time. Salud!