The Northern Neck, the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail and the American Viticultural Area (AVA) are situated on the most northern Virginia peninsula (or neck) on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay bounded by the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers and Middle Peninsula. Virginia’s Northern Neck has been the site of significant historical activity since Captain John Smith was taken up the Rappahannock River as a prisoner of the Powhatans in 1607. Additionally, the region gave birth to many prominent historical figures, including George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, and Robert E. Lee.
As with a lot of early colonial regions, economic development thrived near the easily navigable waters of the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. Combined with the fertile growing soils of the area, the Northern Neck was one of the wealthiest regions in Virginia for tobacco, mixed vegetables, and grain farming.
Today, seafood, beaches, mixed farming, and agri-tourism bring Virginians from all over the state to breath the deep salt air, eat the famous blue crabs and oysters, visit a significant number of historical sites, and run-up and down the Chesapeake Wine Trail.
Wine cultivation along the Chesapeake Wine Trail on the Northern Neck began in 1980 at Ingleside Vineyards – one of Virginia’s largest and oldest wineries. The AVA, founded in 1987, has grown in the past thirty years to over seven award-winning wineries stretching from north of Tappahannock down to Irvington and run the gamut from a small farm to large venue wineries…so there is a flavor for everyone from the “Wine Geek” to the “Just driving by.” According to R.D. Thompson, President of the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail and owner of the trail’s newest winery Caret Cellars, a few more wineries are coming online soon!
Each winery on the trail offers its own tasting experience and can be completed in one weekend. I took a more relaxed approach. By slowing down, you can spend time chatting, catch some great music or visit one of the many historical homes like Pope’s Creek Plantation or Stratford Hall. If you go to the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail website, you can find an excellent set of recommended itineraries to help you plan the perfect visit. Transport is offered by many providers including Bay Transit, and Tours of the Northern Neck.
Tasting on the trail is a relaxed affair and can be reached by car, tour, or boat. A boat, you say? Jacey Vineyards is one of the few wineries in the country that visitors can arrive in a boat and dock in a private cove. You say you have a taste for a Virginia bi-valve? Irvington’s Dog & Oyster Vineyard offers “Slurp and Sip” specials guaranteed to satisfy your salt and wine tasting pairing.
Lodging is plentiful and is available at some wineries – General’s Ridge Vineyard, Ingleside Vineyards, and The Dog and Oyster.
Next time you have a desire for something salty, think about taking a day and trying a little Sip and Salt on the Chesapeake Bay Wine Tour.
Caret Cellars – http://caretcellars.com/
Good Luck Cellars – https://www.goodluckcellars.com
Jacey Vineyards – https://jaceyvineyard.com
Vault Field Vineyards – http://vaultfield.com/
General’s Ridge Vineyard – http://www.generalsridgevineyard.com