If Skyline Drive is closed, pair fall foliage with a winery

With the government shutdown potentially putting the kibosh on leisurely leaf-peeping jaunts along the federally managed Skyline Drive, you're going to want to have a Plan B for seeing the fall colors.

The next few weekends are an excellent time to visit one of the area's wineries, which, thanks to their acres of cleared hill-covered land, are a fine place to see what will be a fiery countryside by mid-month. (Tip: A few are even very close to the national parks that are closed during the shutdown.) Here are a few you should put on your must-see list for fall foliage.


Trump Winery, with its established estate and stellar views, might make your list.  (2010 photo, Trump Winery)

Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville
If you want to stay close to home, consider a trip to this two-story tasting room that's a favorite for wedding parties, thanks to its gorgeous 1870s barn renovated by Amish craftsmen from Pennsylvania.  Grab a class of wine and some Amish cheese and head for the deck, which offers an excellent view of the little pond on the estate. Bonus: It's close to several other wineries, including the newer Barns at Hamilton Station and 8 Chains North, a fine place to head for heartier snacks than the standard cheese and bread.

Bluemont Vineyard in Bluemont
At the top of a 951-foot summit lays Bluemont, which, in addition to a nice collection of wines representative of Virginia's strengths, has perhaps the best view of them all, stretching all the way to the Washington skyline (or so the winery's tasting staff might tell you) when the sky is cloudless.  Bring binoculars and a little extra cash for sundries: At the bottom of the big hill is Great Country Farms, where you can pick up a pumpkin and some farm goodies and take a stab at the corn maze.

Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville
Order a glass of wine and walk the grounds of this sprawling vineyard so close to the shuttered Harpers Ferry you won't feel like you missed a thing. Nearby, make reservations (outdoors, if the weather's cooperating) at the stunning, tasty Grandale Farm restaurant, and make time to pop in at the new Maggie Mallick Wine Caves tasting room, which is shaped like, well, a wine cave and features wine from a veteran Virginia winemaker.


A look at Breaux's estate, pretty even on a cloudy day. (Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt. Airy
The Shenandoah has a way of stealing the thunder from Maryland's hilly vistas. The curving country roads to Mt. Airy's Black Ankle will put you in a pastoral state of mind, while the winery's daily tours and high-minded wines will please any oenophile.

Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg
With its rolling hills and picturesque white fences in the heart of Virginia hunt country, Chrysalis is one of the most good-looking estates around in the fall. The winery -- which admittedly gets very crowded -- specializes in wines made from the American-bred Norton grape.  Afterward, visit the nearby Boxwood Winery or the Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, which opened on the vast, lovely Swedenburg Winery estate this year with a new winemaker and renovated tasting room. Or make a reservation and take a spa day at the brand new Salamander Resort and Spa, also in Middleburg.

Farther afield

If you're looking to be a little closer to Shenandoah, consider a trek down to the Charlottesville and Afton areas, where it's boomtime for breweries and cidermakers, too.

Trump Winery in Charlottesville
Yes, it's Donald Trump and his family who own the estate of the longstanding, well-respected Kluge Estate winery now, but the views and carefully cultivated grapes still stand.

Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton

You won't be able to go into Shenandoah National Park, but Blue Mountain Brewery sits just close enough that you can get the experience without the hefty park fee and traffic. Take in the rocky mountain from the large, trellis-covered patio and let the winding hop vines that circle the property provide the shade.

Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton
This winery is on a hilltop that affords stunning views of the hills. Bonus: It's just up the road from Blue Mountain Brewery, so you can make a day of it.


Blue Mountain Brewery. (Photo by Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)
Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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Margaret Ely · October 8, 2013