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By Kathy Van Mullekom

RISMEDIA, Oct. 24, 2008-(MCT)-October marks the 20th anniversary of Virginia Wine Month. When the observance started in 1988, there were 40 Virginia wineries-today there are nearly 140 across the state. Virginia is also known as the fifth in the nation for wine production.

Here are some ideas to help you get the most of Virginia Wine Month:

Spend an evening under the stars. Virginia Mountain Vineyards offers clear skies and an unobstructed view of the constellations, weather permitting, on the evenings of Oct. 17-18. Telescopes are set in the vineyard for stargazing and wine tastings are offered.

Let your spirit soar with the wind. Historic Long Branch plantation features its annual Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival, Oct. 18-19. Seventeen Virginia wineries offer samplings and sales along with food and craft vendors, children’s activities and live music.

Pick a city and enjoy a festival. Some of Virginia’s coolest towns host wine festivals in October. More than 30 Virginia wineries will be present Oct. 18-19 at Norfolk’s Town Point Virginia Wine Festival. The historic town of Orange hosts the Pick of the Piedmont Fall Wine Festival Oct. 25.

Spend the night at a winery. Several of Virginia’s wineries offer overnight accommodations. From the splendid new Wedmore Place boutique hotel at the Williamsburg Winery to Sharp Rock Winery’s bed & breakfast cottages, you’ll find just the right place to snuggle in with a glass of Virginia wine.

Enjoy a perfect meal. Barboursville Winery is home to the outstanding Palladio restaurant, serving fine Italian cuisine. Chateau Morrisette Winery’s restaurant offers not only superb dining but gorgeous views as well. The Gabriel Archer Tavern at Williamsburg Winery has an outdoor terrace where you can dine under a canopy of wisteria. Kluge Estate Winery’s Farm Store is filled with delectable goodies that you can take with you for a picnic.

Walk in Thomas Jefferson’s footsteps: Thomas Jefferson’s dream of a thriving wine industry has taken root in his very own back yard along the Monticello Wine Trail, connecting 19 wineries in the Charlottesville region together.

Enjoy a private moment. Three Fox Vineyards has the cure for the hustle and bustle blues. They’ve placed a single table with chairs atop a high hill at their winery and call it “Table In The Sky.” It’s the best seat in the house and offers lovely views of the Crooked Run Valley.

Go to camp. For the ultimate in fun and learning, enlist in Food and Wine Camp at Lansdowne Resort. Your camp counselor is Mary Watson-Delauder, one of America’s favorite sommeliers. Mary takes a totally new approach to wine appreciation, making wine accessible to all who are interested. She’s even been known to pair wine with Twinkies.

Go spelunking for your favorite wine. Tarara Winery’s 6,000-foot winemakers cave provides the best environment for wine storage. Valhalla Vineyards made their own wine cave 60 feet underground-and found a statue of Buddha in the process.

Add some spice. You name it (almost) and Peaks of Otter Winery makes wine out of it. Apples, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, plums, pineapples, elderberries and strawberries are just some of the edibles fermented and bottled there-and it is rumored that a tomato wine is on the way. For a special kick try “Kiss the Devil,” a wine made from chili peppers!

Say “I do” to Virginia wines. One of Virginia’s newest wineries is Potomac Point, and it has a special feature. Extending upward from the main building is the “Proposal Tower,” a private room at the top of a winding staircase just big enough for two. Rentable for $50 an hour, it’s the perfect place to pop the question-and a cork!

Taste something totally different. One of the legendary wines of ancient Greece is retsina, a wine famous (or infamous) for its pine resin flavor. Louis Papadopoulos of Mediterranean Cellars may be the only winemaker in America making a commercial version of this famous wine, and he’s made his palatable for American tastes.

Hit the trail to wine adventure. Select one of Virginia’s regional wine trails as a road to adventure. Pick a weekend and hit the road.

Shop till you drop. Many of Virginia’s wineries have wonderful gift shops with wine racks, stemware, glass tags and other wine accessories. Many gift shops carry apparel customized with the winery’s logo.

Create your own Virginia winery getaway. Pick a location from which you can visit six or eight wineries in a couple of days, find a romantic bed and breakfast or country inn and just relax.

Customize your private stock. A few Virginia wineries offer a service sure to be the envy of your friends-custom labeling. Order bottles of wine with your own private label on them. You can even have your picture on your label.

Visit them all this month. And remember, you’re going to be tempted to stay at each one of them for longer than you’ll have time for. Could you be the first? Remember, if you are tasting, get a designated driver.

If You Go:

For more Virginia Wine Month adventures and details on the wineries listed, go to or; you can also call 1-800-VISITVA for more information.

Charlottesville Charm

Located near many of Virginia’s wineries, Charlottesville features a charm all its own.

The historic downtown mall has what is considered one of the finest urban parks in the country; more than 120 shops and 30 restaurants are located in the historic buildings on and around old Main Street. You’ll also find some of the best entertainment venues in central Virginia, including the newly opened Charlottesville Pavilion that hosts concerts spring through fall. The Paramount is a renovated historic theater that brings in comedy acts, musical theater and some of the best singers. Live Arts is a community theater with lots of programs. Visit for more details on events, lodging and dining.

Did you know there’s a Virginia Wine of the Month Club? Get details at

© 2008, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.