Fauquier County: Canter your way through wine country

Ami Neiberger-Miller

At Barrel Oak Winery, you can enjoy the wine with a cuddle from your dog.

Wine aficionados, as well as people looking to shed the stress of high-tech living, will enjoy a relaxing day trip to Fauquier County, Va. The county offers 27 wineries, outdoor activities galore, and quaint towns for shopping, as well as world-class equestrian events. Area wineries offer a wealth of options for families and wine lovers alike.

Barrel Oak Winery is both family- and dog-friendly, reflecting the desires of its owners, Brian and Sharon Roeder, who set out to build a winery with a community at its heart. They have surely succeeded. When we visited there on a Saturday afternoon, we found the outdoor patio packed with families soaking up the last few rays of sunshine, accompanied by their well-behaved and leashed pooches.

At Barrel Oak Winery, you can enjoy the wine with a cuddle from your dog.
At Barrel Oak Winery, you can enjoy the wine with a cuddle from your dog.

But don’t let its welcoming atmosphere fool you. This is a serious winery that offers tours of its underground facilities for wine lovers who want to learn more. The estate-grown varieties include traminette, seyval blanc, merlot, chambourcin, vidal blanc, petit verdot, and petit manseng.

On the weekend, Barrel Oak also offers a farmers market and artisanal craft fair at the historic John Marshall Mansion. You can find not only fruits and veggies to take home, but also pony rides ($10 per child), a petting zoo filled with farm animals, home décor, jewelry, and free wine tastings. The friendly staff will gladly give your canine a dog biscuit, offer you a free wine tasting, and even explain how to play corn hole outside by the picnic tables.

If you want to intimately experience winemaking, the state-of-
the-art Boxwood Estate Winery
gives visitors a unique bird’s eye view. This sleekly modern facility lets you enjoy a wine tasting with friends in the fermentation room, at the beautiful circular bar which overlooks the wine barrels in the aging room, or in the lovely outdoor courtyard.

Boxwood produces red wine in three styles in the Bordeaux tradition. Grapes are harvested by hand, de-stemmed, and hand-sorted. Whole fruit is transferred by a gravity system to custom stainless-steel fermentation tanks ranging from 575 gallons to 1,750 gallons.

Bucolic setting

If you prefer a bucolic setting where you can lounge in front of giant picture windows with a glass of wine and chat amiably with friends, try Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery. Founded by the Zissios family, which draws inspiration from their Greek heritage for their winemaking, the winery offers gorgeous 360-degree views of beautiful vistas and produces wines with its 17,000 vines.

Fauquier County’s wineries are quite varied — and there are many others to choose from. Molon Lave Vineyards is the first and only Virginia winery to make kosher wines. Cobbler Mountain Cellars produces a line of hard ciders, and Vint Hill Craft Winery offers the opportunity to “make your own wine.”

A fun way to see the wineries is to use the Fauquier Wine Trail Passport program, which encourages you to visit eight wineries in the county. Mail in your completed passport and you can qualify to win special prizes. Twenty of the county’s wineries participate in the program.

Insider tip: The second annual Fauquier County Wine Tasting and Competition will take place Feb. 27, 2016. The event sold out last year so make plans to get tickets early.

Great Meadow offers more than just Gold Cup

Great Meadow in The Plains is well known for hosting the legendary International Gold Cup, a premier event in steeplechasing being held Oct. 24.

The world-class equestrian event is loads of fun, even for those who know little about horse racing, and fashion watchers know it attracts nearly as many delightful hats as the Kentucky Derby. But many people do not realize Great Meadow offers other activities on its 250 acres.

You can enjoy twilight polo, the Virginia Scottish Games, or the Virginia Wine Festival at Great Meadow. The facility hosted the World Equestrian Preparatory Trials last year, attracting top riders from throughout the world. Great Meadow is in the process of constructing a new international level competition ring and course. The expansion bodes well for equestrian lovers and spectators.

Learn more:

Fauquier Co. Tourism: visitfauquier.com

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