Random Summer Outings: VA Vineyards (by Robyn)


Robyn last wrote about drinking with pirates.

You know when you order wine at a fancier restaurant and they bring it to you to taste before they pour a glass? Sure I’ll swirl it around, maybe do that slurp thing, but it’s pretty obvious I have no idea what I’m doing. I always choose the one that’s one step up from the least expensive one and hope for the best, and if it tastes like jug wine I probably won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. I personally think that restaurants probably have a box of wine in the back they serve to those that cannot pronounce what wine their ordering.

So a Napa Valley transplant friend of mine suggested we go to the vineyards in Virginia for some wine 101. There are over 37 wineries in Northern Virginia alone, most within an hour’s drive or less from DC. Perfect for a Sideways adventure or just to sip the stuff and hang out in the country. How do you tackle it? Choose couple vineyards from Then, if you’re like me, visit each one, go up to the counter and look like a deer in headlights until they offer you a sample. Nod in agreement when they say that what you are drinking has hints of applewood and oak and pear and its dry (huh?). Try not to eat all their cheese and crackers, order a glass of the one you liked the best, and peruse their property which usually has a gazebo, gnomes, fields of green, lazy cats and in some cases a fly fisherman. Drive to the next one and repeat.

Did I retain enough knowledge to become a sommelier? Probably not. But the next time I order at a restaurant I’ll look for hints of the many terms used nowadays to describe wine (herbaceous, smoky, supple, tannin, toasty), and describe it as such. I still have much love for good old Carlo Rossi though.

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