Virginia wine country is attracting wine lovers from around the world. And you should be a part of it! The article below will tell you how to plan the perfect trip to Virginia wine country.
In recent years, Virginia has emerged as a place that can produce world-class wines.
Combine Virginia’s fantastic wines with spectacular scenery and incredible history? Well, you’ve got the makings of a wonderful trip!
Use the tips below to plan the perfect trip to Virginia wine country.
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Determine your wine region
Virginia has over 300 wineries in ten different wine regions that cover the entire state.
That’s a lot of wineries in a very large area!
To make your trip more manageable, I recommend selecting a single wine region you’d like to visit. (Once you fall in love with Virginia’s wine country, you can come back and visit the others!)
For your first trip to Virginia wine country, I recommend either the Northern Virginia wine region or Central wine region. This is because of the volume of wineries in these areas and their proximity to cities. The Northern Virginia wine region is close to Washington, DC. The wineries in the Central wine region largely center around Charlottesville.
Select an initial list of wineries to visit
After you’ve selected your wine region, I recommend pre-selecting the wineries you’d like to visit.
I like to limit my winery visits to 2-3 per day. Any more than that and it’s hard to remember where you’ve visited and which wines you liked. Plus, I like to take time to sit and enjoy the wineries.
To select your wineries, I’ve found that Yelp and Google reviews are fairly reliable sources. I like to look for the higher-rate wineries and then browse through pictures to see which ones interest me the most.
Determine if there’s an age restriction
Some Virginia wineries limit guests to those who are aged 21 and older.
If you’re planning on bringing along kids (who can sometimes enjoy the outdoor environment at wineries), confirm that the winery allows people under the age of 21.
Confirm whether larger groups are allowed
Several Virginia wineries are small, boutique operations.
These wineries can’t support larger groups, and so will turn around vans, buses, and other larger groups.
If you’re traveling with a larger group, confirm that the winery accepts larger parties.
Find out when wineries are open
Many Virginia wineries are only open a few days a week and the opening hours may be limited.
Check the opening times of the wineries you’d like to visit to make sure they will be open during your trip to Virginia wine country.
Map the location of the wineries
Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of wineries a little bit, plug them into a map to see how far apart they are located.
The Virginia wine regions can be quite large and you don’t want to spend all your time commuting between wineries.
To help reduce your transportation time, group wineries that are closer together so that you can go to ones in the same general area on the same day.
Know the busiest times
Saturday afternoons tend to be the busiest time at Virginia wineries. Add nice weather? Well, you’ve got a whole lot of people descending on the wineries!
If Saturday works best for your schedule, then I recommend going to the top winery on your list as soon as it opens that day. Crowds increase as the day goes on, so getting there first will help you to skip some of the crowds that will come later in the day.
If possible, I recommend going to wineries on Friday or Sunday. For these days, I still recommend arriving at the winery as soon as it opens.
Make advance reservations
Due to the limited staff at some Virginia wineries, advance reservations may be required for tastings or even going to the winery.
Check each of the wineries you want to visit to see if they require advance reservations.
Even if advance reservations aren’t required, I’d still try to make advance reservations just to secure your spot in line.
Many of Virginia’s wineries are within an hour’s drive of a decent-sized city. However, that doesn’t mean that Uber or Lyft will be readily available at the wineries. And there is absolutely no public transportation by these wineries.
I recommend pre-arranging your transportation so that you don’t end up stranded. Some transportation options include:
- If you’re staying at a hotel, check if the hotel can arrange transportation to and from the wineries.
- Book a wine tour with transportation included. Here are some good tour options for the Central and Northern Virginia wine regions:
- Arrange for your own driver. You can check out “personal driver” and “private driver” reviews on Yelp to find a good driver near the wineries you’d like to visit.
Unless you’re planning on having a designated driver, I do *not* recommend trying to drive through Virginia wine country by yourself. Virginia wine country is full of dirt, gravel, narrow, and winding roads that can be difficult to navigate.
Confirm the food situation
Some Virginia wineries don’t allow outside food or beverage. Some Virginia wineries encourage outside food because they don’t serve any of their own food.
Some wineries might not serve their own food, but will have a food truck on site during the weekends.
If a winery encourages outside food, stop at a local grocery store to stock up on some snack foods. You don’t want hunger to dampen your experience!
Allow time to explore historic areas
Virginia is filled with historic markers dating back to Colonial times, including many important Revolutionary War and Civil War sites.
Once you’ve decided what wineries you want to visit, search the map to determine if there are any nearby historical sites.
A visit to Virginia wine country is a great opportunity to visit historic locations.
Get the Virginia wine pass
Before heading to Virginia wine country, get the Virginia wine pass.
The Virginia wine pass will give you discounts off items like tastings, wines, food, and merchandise at some Virginia wineries.
You can check out participating wineries here.
I hope these tips help you to plan the perfect trip to Virginia wine country. I’ll see you there!