Get a taste of Virginia vino with our guide to fall winery events.
Virginia has 192 wineries, nine wine regions and six AVAs. Let's begin with the acronym: AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, a federally recognized wine-producing region possessing features like soil types or elevation that are distinctive to that area. The six Virginia AVAs are Monticello, North Fork of Roanoke, Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace, Rocky Knob, Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Shenandoah Valley. Having one of these labels on your bottle is potentially lucrative for any winery, but it’s no guarantee of quality. AVAs are more about geography and, to some extent, politics.
“In order to be designated an American Viticultural Area you have to have similar soil, climate and aviations,” explains Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Marketing Board, a state funded organization. “But it’s somewhat of a marketing designation, and you really need attorneys, time and money to go through the process with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Not every Virginia winery is in an AVA because not every area has taken the time and energy to apply for a designation.”
There are of course many quality wineries in the Commonwealth, it’s just that not all of them are in an AVA. As an example, there are 50 to 60 wineries in Northern Virginia that share similar terroir, yet there is no Northern Virginia AVA as of yet. So are these designations helping or hurting the Virginia wine industry? “Depends who you ask!” says Boyd wryly. “Wineries that are in an AVA say it helps, especially those in the Monticello AVA because they benefit from the branding associated with Thomas Jefferson. Wineries outside the AVA—like those in Northern Virginia—say not so much.”
Fortunately the Virginia Wine Marketing Board is proactive. Instead of just waiting for potential AVAs like Northern Virginia to get rubber-stamped, the Board has drawn up nine Virginia Wine Regions to encourage wine tourism in the Commonwealth. So you can visit the Central Virginia Wine Region for example, which also includes the geographically smaller Monticello AVA.
The Board has also designated October as Virginia Wine Month, and there’s a wealth of events at Virginia wineries and vineyards this fall. We’ve highlighted a handful below and encourage you to get out there and get a taste of Virginia wine!
36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival
Bull Run Regional Park (Northern Virginia Wine Region)
September 17-18, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
The oldest wine festival on the East Coast, featuring 50 of Virginia’s best wineries, more than 300 Virginia wines plus seminars on tasting, pairing and winemaking.
$25; 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreveille, 20121; VirginiaWineFest.com, 888-823-3787,
Chesapeake Bay Wine Festival
Stratford Hall (Chesapeake Bay Wine Region)
September 24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., September 25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Grape stomp, live music, wine tasting seminar, free tastings, food vendors, petting zoo, free tours.
$20 advance, $25 at gate; 483 Great House Road, Stratford, 22558; ChesapeakeBayWineFestival.com, 804-493-8038
11th Annual Norton Wine & Bluegrass Festival
Chrysalis Vineyards (Northern Virginia Wine Region)
October 1-2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
Listen to bluegrass pickings from Jackass Flats, The In Crowd and A Good Natured Riot while enjoying a 9-wine tasting and food paring at Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg.
$15 advance, $20 at gate; 23876 Champe Ford Road, Middleburg, 20117; ChrysalisWine.com, 540-687-8222
19th Annual Harvest Festival
Rockbridge Vineyard (Shenandoah Valley Wine Region)
October 1, 12 noon-5 p.m.
Grape stomping, hay rides, vineyard tours, wine tasting and live acoustic music.
$5 tasters, $3 non-tasters, free for members; 35 Hill View Lane, Raphine, 24472; RockBridgeVineyard.com, 540-377-6204
Virginia Wine and Garlic Festival
Rebec Vineyards (Central Virginia Wine Region)
October 8-9, 10 a.m.-5p.m. daily
Five stages of live music, wine tastings and plenty of garlic cooking. Garlic King, Queen and Jr. Queen will be crowned.
Wine tasting/general admission $18/$14 advance, $25/$20 gate, children $5; 2229 North Amherst Highway, Amherst, 24521; RebecWinery.com, 434-946-5168
Fall Harvest and Leaf Peep Festival
DuCard Vineyards (Shenandoah Valley Wine Region)
October 14-16, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
Watch the leaves fall and change color as while enjoying wine tasting and gourmet foods on the eastern edge of Shenandoah National Parks.
No entry fee, but regular wine tasting fees apply; 40 Gibson Hollow Lane, Etlan, 22719; DuCardVineyards.com, 540-923-4206
32nd Harvest Celebration
Ingleside Vineyards (Chesapeake Bay Region)
October 22, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Winemaking demonstrations, tastings, a tour of the vineyards and winery, artwork, crafts and food.
$10 advance, $15 at gate; 5872 Leedstown Road, Oak Grove, 22443; InglesideVineyards.com, 804-224-8687
Wine & Opera: A Masked Ball
Philip Carter Winery (Northern Virginia Wine Region)
October 29, 7 p.m.-11 p.m.
Festive, masked ball and evening of fine music and wine. Drawing from the rich operatic repertory, take a journey through music and wine in a special tasting followed by a three course tasting dinner. Enjoy performances by operatic soloists throughout the evening. Black tie/festive dress.
$95 per person; 4366 Stillhouse Road, Hume, 22639; PCWinery.com, 540-364-1203
For a complete listing of winery events—which you can search by region—visit VirginiaWine.org/Events