Trail of Cheers

By Posted on Jul 29 2018 | By

Navigating the prettiest wine trail in Virginia

Each spring some 4,000 enthusiastic hikers hoist packs and begin a 2,190 mile journey along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains.

Known as Appalachian Trail or AT thru-hikers, they lace up at Springer Mountain in GA in April seeking to summit Mount Katahdin in Maine before the snow flies. It’s an arduous walk and a lifetime memory keeper for those who achieve their goal. Only one in four make it.

But as these intrepid hikers trek over Virginia’s 544 miles of the AT they have an opportunity at Thornton Gap to gaze down on an entirely different path: The Skyline Wine Trail. Almost none of them will have time to drop packs and explore the attractions of this singularly beautiful wine trail. ‘Tis a pity.

But their loss is a major win for the 1.5 million motorists who annually head to the Shenandoah National Park via Route 211. The four lane highway runs in an almost straight line from Warrenton to Skyline Drive. You can’t get lost. Delayed perhaps but not lost.

And why? Consider the numbers: Along the trail there are nine wineries, two breweries, one distillery, eight restaurants, 13 lodging establishments, and 14 shops and galleries scattered like diamonds on a rolling landscape of verdant fields and dense forests all backdropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Virginia is one of the most scenic states in the Nation and the Skyline Wine Trail encompasses one of the loveliest regions in the Old Dominion.

There is so much to see and do along the trail that reaching Skyline Drive by days end is a challenge.

Birth of the Trail
If you’ve yet to explore the trail, relax. It was created in early 2018 and its reputation grows each month. As upcoming summer and fall unfolds, trail visitorship will increase and word of this unique day and weekend destination spot will continue to grow.

The trail’s birth is supported by all of its member businesses but its vision was conceived by Carl Henrickson. Henrickson and his wife Donna are proprietors of the Little Washington Winery located in the heart of the trail.

“When Donna and I were looking for a location for our winery we searched much of Virginia and simply didn’t connect with any given location as nice as they were. Then our real estate agent asked if we’d ever been to Rappahannock County. We had not,” Henrickson recalls.

A few weeks later they drove west on Route 211 and were mesmerized as one picturesque scene after another unfolded. They had found their special place.

“You can reach Skyline Drive by traveling out I-66 and entering the Shenandoah National Park in Front Royal. But the much more scenic route is passing through Warrenton and heading out 211,” Henrickson said.

He goes on to say, “For weekend travelers the choice can be to go to the beach in heavy traffic and sweltering temperatures or drive to the mountains through beautiful, traffic-free countryside. When you reach Skyline Drive it will offer shady walks and 10 degree cooler temperatures. It’s a nice alternative getaway.”

The Crown Jewels
Let’s take a quick tour of the trail and visit the 11 family-owned purveyors of quality social lubricants.

Magnolia Vineyards
Glenn and Tina Marchione were working professionals in Northern Virginia when they opened their winery five years ago. They embody the premise that if you love wine enough you can be drawn into producing it for others. “We like the social aspect; sharing our passion, sharing our stories and sharing good wine,” says Tina Marchione.  http://www.magnoliavineyards.com/

Grey Ghost Vineyards
Located in Amissville 11 miles west of Warrenton, Al and Cheryl Kellert opened their business two decades ago. Al was a home winemaker for years before turning professional. Over the years they have earned hundreds of medals for their quality wines as evidenced by their crowded parking lot on most weekends. https://www.grayghostvineyards.com/

Narmada Winery
The late Pandit Pantil and his still active wife Sudah created a stunning venue in which to taste wine while enjoying the views of their rolling Piedmont estate. Sudah is a retired endodontist who parlayed her background in chemistry into creating numerous gold medal wines, including a 2017 Virginia’s Governor’s Cup winner. http://narmadawinery.com/dir/

Gadino Cellars
It’s likely when you meet Bill and Aleta Gadino they will be smiling and laughing. The joy of their Italian hospitality is reflected in both their personalities and acclaimed wines. Don’t feel bashful in taking your glass of wine outside for a game of bocce ball. https://gadinocellars.com/

Wine Loves Chocolate
Little Washington Winery
Skyline Vineyard Inn
The next three establishments are owned by Carl and Donna Hendrickson. Ahhh…you remembered. They’re the couple behind the vision for the trail itself. The duo have been involved in the Virginia wine industry for years. The views of Old Rag Mountain from their winery will assure you’ll be back for a second visit.   http://www.wineloveschocolate.com/  http://www.wineloveschocolate.com/

Quievremont Vineyards
John Quievremont flew jets for the Marine Corps during his career but breaking the sound barrier is not something you’ll hear at his peaceful and beautifully appointed tasting room. The winery is the newest member of the trail and located on historic Gid Brown Hollow Road.  https://quievremont.com/

Pen Druid Brewery
This unique brewery focuses on wild fermentation and barrel aging of its beers. The owners are the Carney brothers previously known as the psych-rock band Pontiak. After a decade of enjoying exotic beers while traveling the globe the trio chose Rappahannock County as home for their eclectic brand of beer. Oh lucky us.  http://www.pendruid.com/

Copper Fox Distillery
Located directly across the lane from Pen Druid, this internationally recognized distillery awaits the discerning whiskey lover. Its whiskey is hand-crafted and aged with a progressive series of new and used applewood and oak chips inside used bourbon barrels. Owner and master distiller Rick Wasmund spent years perfecting the technique while earning accolades from the spirits industry and consumers alike.    http://www.copperfox.biz/

Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works
Kevin Kraditor and Sherri Fickel operate the historic Hopkins Ordinary in Sperryville. A few years ago Kraditor launched a brewery in the cellar of the historic building. Small batch craft beer is made using apple and cherry wood smoked barley from Cooper Fox distillery and seasonally available local ingredients such as hops, honey, fruit and herbs.  http://www.hopkinsordinary.com/about-1/

In addition to the variety of wine, beer and whiskey establishments on the Skyline Wine Trail a host of overnight accommodations and shopping opportunities abound. For additional information in planning your day or weekend getaway visit http://www.skylinewinetrail.com/


Published in the Summer edition of Dine, Wine and Stein magazine.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES