Foliage and Wine

October is peak time for fall foliage in the Shenandoah Valley, and my husband and I were up for a long weekend getaway last month. So, we made plans for a hike and a day of wine tasting. As the weekend approached, so did Hurricane Sandy. We didn’t let the storm push back our plans, and I can say without a doubt that we’re glad we didn’t. While family and friends were readying for the storm and keeping their eyes glued to the weather channel, we were kicking back tasting wine. It worked out to be a great time to take a long weekend and enjoy a slower pace.

During the weekend we went for a hike in Shenandoah National Park. I went through a few maps on the National Park Service website and chose the Overall Run Falls Trail because I was excited to see a waterfall. Unfortunately, we didn’t get out early enough to reach the waterfall before dark, so we had to turn back early. There was still some beautiful scenery.

For two nights we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Front Royal. The Woodward House on Manor Grade got some good reviews online, and they were a more affordable option in the area. Even better was a 24/7 bar with wine and beer on tap. The owners, Joan and Bob are characters in their own right. Every morning while they were serving their “skip lunch” breakfast, they dressed in halloween costumes. One morning Bob spoke with a fake Scottish accent. They definitely enjoy entertaining their guests. Their hospitality and customer service were amazing. The hurricane’s forecast caused some room cancellations, and they upgraded us to a bigger room for free.

Kathleen’s Retreat


Unlimited beer and wine

And of course the wineries! It’s nice to visit vineyard tasting rooms and get the backstory on the wine’s production. There are plenty of wineries to choose from in and around Front Royal. Throughout the weekend we visited six based on their tasting list: Rappahannock Cellars, Fox Meadow Winery, Naked Mountain Vineyard & Winery, Chester Gap Cellars, Glen Manor Vineyards, Desert Rose Ranch & Winery.

If limited on time, I would recommend checking out Rappahannock, Naked Mountain and Fox Meadow. The theme and decor of Desert Rose also makes it a unique winery to visit. Owners Bob and Linda make you feel like you’re stepping into a ranch out west with saddles, leather and horseshoes decorating the walls and tasting bar. The top of the bar is glass encased with currency from all over the world. Prior to retiring and opening the winery, Bob traveled the world working for the CIA. To the left of the bar you’ll also find a pin cushioned map showing all the places the couple have been together. Desert Rose was also where we met Dick, who spends his retirement hanging out at the local wineries. He also turned up at our next stop, Rappahannock Cellars. I thought we made a good choice to stop here if it was a regular stop for a local.

Rappahannock Cellars

Rappahannock Cellars

Naked Mountain Vineyard & Winery

Naked Mountain Vineyard & Winery

Fox Meadow Vineyards

Fox Meadow Vineyards

Desert Rose Ranch & Winery

Desert Rose Ranch & Winery

Stories and people seem to intertwine in the winery community. Kelly, who was doing our tasting at Rappahannock had recently found out she was pregnant, and the regulars were passing  along their congratulations. Kelly and her husband were of course excited to be new parents and the word apparently spreads quickly among neighboring wineries. One of our last stops during the weekend was Chester Gap Cellars. While we were there a man came in and was speaking to the lady pouring. “Congratulations, news travels fast,” she said. My husband then felt compelled to ask, “Does your wife work at Rappahannock?” Yea, that was her. And he actually asked us, “do you know Dick?” Yes, yes we do.

As far as the wine, Rappahannock had some solid wines available for tasting including a Rose, Viognier, Chardonnay, Noblesse Rouge, Merlot (which I liked the most), Meritage and two dessert-style wines. Naked Mountain definitely sells you on their “Drink Naked” motto, but their wines are tasty too. [look at pic of tasting notes]. Fox Meadow paired each of their wines with food, allowing you to explore the complexities of the wine. We sampled their Le Renard Gris, Chardonnay, Blue Mountain Mist, Le Renard Rouge, Cabernet Franc and Freezeland Red. I really enjoyed the 2009 Le Renard Rouge, a blend of cabernet savignion, cabernet franc and merlot. The 2008 vintage won the 2011 Virginia Governor’s Cup. I can also say that was the first time I ever paired a wasabi-encrusted almond with wine (2011 Blue Mountain Mist).

Overall, getting away for the weekend and from the Superstorm Sandy craziness was a great idea. Every once in a while, you just have to slow things down a bit.

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