After planning and executing my dream wedding, I imagined that whatever followed would pale in comparison, but I’m so glad to say I was wrong. My five-day honeymoon across Virginia wine country at the height of the fall season was the most incredible way my new husband and I could have capped our wedding celebration.
Jake and I took off on our adventure on Sunday afternoon. First stop: Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, halfway between Lexington and our next destination, Harrisonburg. Fortunately, we arrived at a very quiet time and were some of the only tasters during our visit. We tasted a wonderful selection of wines before taking our favorite, the Red Barren, up to the second-floor terrace to enjoy. We sipped happily on the semi-sweet blend of chambourcin, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot as we took in the gorgeous vineyard view.
Before moving on to Harrisonburg for the evening, we stopped for lunch in nearby Staunton. It was a treat wandering around downtown, poking our heads into antique shops and local jewelry stores, before finding a local lunch spot. We decided on The Pampered Palate Café, a cute little two-story lunch restaurant with delicious, fresh options and prices that make a newlywed couple breathe a sigh of relief.
By late afternoon, it was time to head off to our next destination. We arrived at the Stonewall Jackson Inn and were warmly greeted by friendly staff, then shown to our room. We had booked the premiere suite, the Stonewall Jackson Suite, located on the second floor of the restored mansion. After a nice dinner and some craft beers at Capital Ale House down the road, we came back to the room for a relaxing couple’s massage. Needless to say, we had a miraculous night’s sleep. In the morning, we had breakfast outside on the porch, and the staff was kind enough to put up with our dietary preferences and made us a special gluten-free breakfast on request.
After spending a little longer relaxing at the inn, we made our way to Stephens City, where we would be staying our next night at the Inn at Vaucluse Spring. It was drizzling a bit as we approached the inn, but we were still utterly blown away by the beauty of the place. Several lodgings speckled the estate, alongside dozens of huge, colorful trees, all surrounding a limestone spring. Right away we met Neil Myers, our accommodating innkeeper, at the lovely historical Vaucluse Manor House, where we would be having the special Dinner with the Chef that evening. Our night would be spent in the Gallery, a separate cottage at the end of the estate, where the inn’s former resident, artist John Chumley, showcased his exquisite realist paintings. We had no problem settling into the Gallery, a cozy, two-story cottage with a lovely view of the adjacent countryside, a big, comfortable bedroom and the most inviting bathroom of our stay so far.
Dinner with the chef was exquisite. We had a five-course meal in the intimate dinner room with one other couple. The chef was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, offering perfect wine pairings with his delectable dishes and explaining the ingredients and strategy behind each course. Jake and I both consider this lovely evening to be one of the most memorable highlights of the trip.
Our final destination was Middleburg—horse country. After a peaceful drive past dozens of extravagant estates and bright green pastures, we made our first stop Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, where we encountered my favorite wine of the trip. We tasted several wonderful, creative wines, but the 2013 Superstition won me over. The wine is a blend of 80 percent Mourvedre and 20 percent Tannat and is aged for nine months in French oak barrels. Smoky and aromatic, graced with the sweet flavors of cherries and blackberries, it’s a truly exquisite red wine.
After purchasing a bottle of Superstition, we were off to see our accommodations. We headed into Downtown Middleburg, a quaint little town full of shops, cafes and restaurants. Our bed and breakfast, the Middleburg Country Inn, was situated toward the end of the downtown strip. Our friendly innkeeper, Jo Ann Hazard, greeted us and showed us to our room, the Mount Vernon. Located on the top floor, the elegant room boasted a gorgeous four-poster bed, a reading space with a chandelier, a fireplace and a kitchenette. We capped off our evening exploring downtown Middleburg and had a pleasant dinner at the Red Horse Tavern, which was probably the most populated place we encountered while in quiet Middleburg.
In the morning, we indulged in yet another wonderful breakfast, home-cooked by Mrs. Hazard. Prying ourselves away from such a lovely place seemed criminal, but it was the last day of our journey, and we had one winery left. It was a bright and sunny afternoon when we arrived at Chrysalis Vineyards. After a fun tasting with a lively presenter, we selected the 2012 Viognier, a delightfully dry yet fruity and aromatic wine that is fermented sur lie and aged in French oak.
If we were going to make it home at a decent time, we had to say farewell to Middleburg and be on our way. We made one last stop in Fredericksburg for a late lunch at The Bavarian Chef, where we filled up on delicious German fare and reflected on our first few days of marriage.
As our first anniversary approaches, we’re more than ready to make our way back to Shenandoah wine country. With the warmth and hospitality we received everywhere we went, I imagine it’ll feel a lot like visiting old friends.