Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to take Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma ham artisan food tours in Northern Italy. At the end of the tour I had lunch at a vineyard whose offerings included the cheese and ham from the farms I visited along with other local favorites. I have not been able to stop talking about the experience. Now back in Virginia I wonder what experiences I might have missed closer to home.
While doing research for another project I discovered that there are approximately 180 vineyards in Virginia offering different levels of tastings. VirginiaWine.org is a one stop for a great deal of information about Virginia wine. A quick "food tours in Virginia" Google search reveals CoastalFoodTours.com, offering tours in the Tidewater area. Further north you'll find DCMetroFoodTours.com offering tours of Old Town Alexandria.
In the Richmond area there is Real Richmond, while VisitLoudoun.org highlights Virginia’s wine country. These are all great options. However, if these are not near your location and you do not want to travel, you can always plan your own tour. You and your friends can make an event of it; call it a field trip.
Contact the director of your local farmers market and ask for a list of their vendors. Call the vendors that interest your group and ask if you and your friend could tour their farm. Choose a few farms and map your route so it ends in a scenic location where the group can enjoy an al fresco meal with the treasures of your tour.
Note: make sure to confirm that the farms you plan to visit sell their wares to the public. It is a bit warm in Virginia right now so maybe your meal would be more enjoyable in the comfort of someone's air-conditioned home. Or maybe this is a trip to be planned for the fall. Carter's Mountain is a lovely fall getaway.
If your group decides to brave the heat, pack a cooler with ice and some essential items you do not think you will be able to purchase on your tour. Make sure to pack seating options, along with plates, flatware and glasses. Enjoy each tour stop; soak in the new information provided by the local artisans. Make sure to purchase samples for your group meal. When your tour stops are completed, proceed to your lunch or dinner destination. Break out your seating and set your “table” then enjoy the samples you collected from your tour. Ask to take pictures at each stop and remember to take lots of group shots. Days like these make for fond memories, and the pictures from such events make great decoration.