If you just can’t dedicate an entire Saturday to jaunt to a local winery, these producers have you covered. One is actually in the District, while the other three aren’t too far of a drive into Northern Virginia. Meaning you can make it back in time for dinner (with another glass of wine, of course.)
Think you have to head to far flung rural areas in the DMV to learn about viticulture and viniculture? Au contraire. At this just-opened space in the Navy Yards, you can taste and purchase bottles made with grapes sourced from Washington, California, New York and Virginia. Okay, so technically, not all of the wine is local, (and due to pesky restrictions about interstate commerce, all of their bottles must be labeled “American” rather than the region or appellation from which they originated.) But you can still sample upwards of fifteen varietals and blends, including a bright and crisp unoaked chardonnay, a zesty sauvignon blanc that deftly straddles Old World and New World character, a grenache-based rose, an earthy, food-friendly pinot noir, an eucalyptus- and black currant-filled cabernet sauvignon, and Fortitude, a grippy red zin. All are made by head winemaker Conor McCormack, who boasts a pretty impressive background in urban winemaking including a stint at Brooklyn Winery (owned by the same company.) Select from several tastings including Seasonal ($10), Winemaker’s Choice ($12), or customize you own for $15. On Saturdays and Sundays starting September 9, in-depth tours and tastings includes samples of five wines and a souvenir wine glass. Once you’ve determined your favorite, buy a bottle to enjoy on the sunny patio overlooking the Anacostia, or head to Ana, the restaurant helmed by of executive chef Michael Gordon, chef de cuisine Benjamin Lambert and general manager Sean Alves where you can partake in dishes including beignets with Maryland crab, roasted corn and Indian romesco, and pastrami-spiced monkfish with sesame seed potatoes, charred cabbage and carrot-mustard jus.
With more than 35 years in the industry, owner and vintner Doug Fabbioli knows a thing or two about dry reds. At his winery just outside Leesburg, he crafts some stellar dry ones made from chambourcin, tannat and cabernet franc, as well as his Tre Sorelle (“three sisters”), a Bordeaux-style red blend. But ask his customers for their favorite bottle, the one he is absolutely not allowed to run out of, and hands down it’s the raspberry merlot. Think you don’t like fruity wines with some residual sugar? Think again. This one is a stunner, with tart fruit intensity, firm structure and a balanced sweetness. (Pro tip: a lightly-chilled glass of it is amazing with a chunk of really good dark chocolate.) “My winemaking philosophy is based on fruit first,” Fabbioli declares. “I am a farmer and have learned how to work the plants in our climate to bring out the best from them in whatever condition Mother Nature gives us.” He strives for minimal intervention in the cellar, and uses oak only to augment not overpower the fruit. The tasting experience here is a bit unique, with seven wines partnered up with food bite pairings for $14. Both are changed up monthly, often centered around a theme or vision. You can also purchase plates to nosh on while sitting on the patio or upper level of their new tasting room building. Designated areas for those twenty-one and over are joined by plenty of landscaped grounds for families, and friendly dogs are welcome as long as they are leashed. Feel free to bring your own food, though keep in mind coolers are not permitted. The vineyards, pear trees, hops and berries are open for self-guided tours, but if you have a group of seven or more, a reservation is required to accommodate your needs.
The Clifton Winery took home the Virginia Governor’s Cup in 2009 for both its chardonnay and Meritage (that wine style, a Bordeaux blend, rhymes with “heritage,” by the way). Now, they’ve added PVT to their lineup, a blend of petit verdot and tannat, and staff considers all three to be their signature offerings. “Our winemaking philosophy is simple,” says head winemaker Rob Cox. “We spare no expense in doing what it takes to grow the best grapes in the vineyard, then processing and treating the grapes in the cellar with as little intervention as possible.” Visit and enjoy a flight of seven wines for $15. Their expensive outdoor space means hundreds of thirsty oenophiles can take in the cute town’s scenic nature. Bring a picnic basket, cooler, your kids or your dogs, all are welcome. The historical barn on the property is equipped with restrooms, a kitchenette and chandelier, and can be rented for anything from wedding rehearsals to corporate events. You can even book a private tasting for groups of eight or more. If you are thirsty for more of a hands-on experience, book a tour on Saturday and Sunday for $25 per person, which includes a tour of the historic log cabin, vineyards, production space and barrel room, and ends with a tasting of their juice. On October 20, they’ll be hosting a Junk Food and Wine Pairing, followed by a Harvest and Winner Dinner in November; check their website for the complete list of events.
“My philosophy is to adapt my knowledge and experience to the unique terroir I am presented with,” says winemaker and chief commercial officer Sébastien Marquet. “I am a traditionalist, taking Old World techniques and refining them for the New World palate.” He views making wine as a science, an art, and a lifestyle. The Middleburg winery produces sparkling a Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine with Virginia chardonnay, as well as a blend of Bordeaux varietals dubbed Philosophy. Pop in to their expanded tasting room and do a wine tasting for $14; add on chocolate truffles for $12, or a curated cheese plate for $20 to $28. There is also a farm store on-site where you can purchase honey from their apiaries, Charolais beef from their farm and local farm products and artisan home goods. There is live music just about every weekend, and guests are invited to watch the Greenhill polo team play on Saturdays at Great Meadow in The Plains through September 16.