The Appalachian Trail (Known as the AT) is world famous, and some of the best trail views can be found in Virginia. Hikers have an opportunity at Thornton Gap to gaze down on an entirely different trail – The Skyline Wine Trail. This trail includes ice-cold craft beverages, chef-inspired meals, and comfy beds. A beautiful trail that I bet that many hikers would love to walk if they had the time.
But the AT hiker’s loss is a significant win for the 1.5 million motorists who annually head to the Shenandoah National Park via Route 211. The four-lane highway runs in an almost straight line from Warrenton, Virginia to Skyline Drive. You can’t get lost.
Delayed perhaps but not lost.
And why is the new Skyline Wine Trail, along Route 211, already gaining in popularity? Consider the numbers: Along the trail, there are nine wineries, two breweries, one distillery, eight restaurants, 13 lodging establishments, and 14 shops and galleries scattered like diamonds on a rolling landscape of verdant fields and dense forests all backdropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Virginia is one of the most scenic states in the nation, and the Skyline Wine Trail encompasses one of the loveliest regions in the Old Dominion.
There is so much to see and do along the Skyline Wine Trail that many find reaching the Skyline Drive by day’s end a challenge. But, that’s OK. Remember, there is lodging along the way. DW&S suggests making a weekend adventure of traveling along this new wine trail.
Birth of the Skyline Wine Trail
This Summer launches the trail’s first big tourist season. Only Founded in early 2018, the trail’s reputation grows each month. As upcoming Summer and Fall unfolds, the Skyline Wine Trail visitorship will increase and word of this unique day and weekend destination spot will continue to grow.
The trail’s birth is supported by all of its member businesses, but Carl Henrickson conceived its vision. Henrickson and his wife Donna are proprietors of the Little Washington Winery located in the heart of the trail.
I contacted Carl and asked about the history of both the Little Washington Winery and the new Skyline Wine Trail.
“When Donna and I were looking for a location for our winery we searched much of Virginia and didn’t connect with any given location as nice as they were. Then our real estate agent asked if we’d ever been to Rappahannock County. We had not,” Henrickson recalls.
A few weeks later they drove west on Route 211 and were mesmerized as one picturesque scene after another unfolded. They had found their special place.
“You can reach Skyline Drive by traveling out I-66 and entering the Shenandoah National Park in Front Royal. But the much more scenic route is passing through Warrenton and heading out 211,” Henrickson said.
He goes on to say, “For weekend travelers the choice can be to go to the beach in heavy traffic and sweltering temperatures or drive to the mountains through beautiful, traffic-free countryside. When you reach Skyline Drive, it will offer shady walks and 10 degrees cooler temperatures. It’s a nice alternative getaway.”
The Crown Jewels of The Skyline Wine Trail
Let’s take a quick tour of the trail and visit the 11 family-owned purveyors of quality social lubricants.
Glenn and Tina Marchione were working professionals in Northern Virginia when they opened their winery five years ago. They embody the premise that if you love wine enough, producing it for others becomes a draw and passion. “We like the social aspect; sharing our passion, sharing our stories and sharing good wine,” says Tina Marchione. http://www.magnoliavineyards.com/
Grey Ghost Vineyards
Located in Amissville 11 miles west of Warrenton, Al and Cheryl Kellert opened their business two decades ago. Al was a home winemaker for years before turning professional. Over the years they have earned hundreds of medals for their quality wines as evidenced by their crowded parking lot on most weekends. https://www.grayghostvineyards.com/
The late Pandit Pantil and his still active wife Sudah created a stunning venue in which to taste wine while enjoying the views of their rolling Piedmont estate. Sudah is a retired endodontist who parlayed her background in chemistry into creating numerous gold medal wines, including a 2017 Virginia’s Governor’s Cup winner. http://narmadawinery.com
It’s likely when you meet Bill and Aleta Gadino they will be smiling and laughing. The joy of their Italian hospitality is often a reflection in both their personalities and acclaimed wines. Don’t feel bashful in taking your glass of wine outside for a game of bocce ball. https://gadinocellars.com/
Wine Loves Chocolate, Little Washington Winery, Skyline Vineyard Inn
Carl and Donna Hendrickson own the next three establishments. Ahhh…you remembered. They’re the couple behind the vision for the trail itself. The duo involvement in the Virginia wine industry spans years. The views of Old Rag Mountain from their winery will assure you’ll be back for a second visit.
John Quievremont flew jets for the Marine Corps during his career but breaking the sound barrier is not something you’ll hear at his peaceful and beautifully appointed tasting room. The winery is the newest member of the trail and located on historical Gid Brown Hollow Road. https://quievremont.com/
Pen Druid Brewery
This unique brewery focuses on wild fermentation and barrel aging of its beers. The owners are the Carney brothers previously known as the psych-rock band Pontiak. After a decade of enjoying exotic beers while traveling the globe, the trio chose Rappahannock County as the home for their eclectic brand of beer. Oh lucky us. http://www.pendruid.com/
Copper Fox Distillery
Located directly across the lane from Pen Druid, this internationally recognized distillery awaits the discerning whiskey lover. Its whiskey is hand-crafted and aged with a progressive series of new and used applewood and oak chips inside used
bourbon barrels. Owner and master distiller Rick Wasmund spent years perfecting the technique while earning accolades from the spirits industry and consumers alike. http://www.copperfox.biz/
Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works
Kevin Kraditor and Sherri Fickel operate the historic Hopkins Ordinary in Sperryville. A few years ago Kraditor launched a
brewery in the cellar of the historic building. Small batch craft beer is made using apple, and cherry wood smoked barley from Cooper Fox distillery and seasonally available local ingredients such as hops, honey, fruit, and herbs. http://www.hopkinsordinary.com\
Skyline Wine Trail Lodging
In addition to the variety of wine, beer and whiskey establishments on the Skyline Wine Trail a host of overnight accommodations and shopping opportunities abound. For additional information in planning your day or weekend getaway visit http://www.skylinewinetrail.com/