Where: Crozet, Va.

Why: Mares, mountains and merlot.

How Far: About 130 miles, or about 21/2 hours from the District.

If polo brings to mind fancy dresses and huge hats, think again. In the Virginia countryside the sport is more down-home than debonair. Proving polo is for the people, King Family Vineyards hosts free matches at its Crozet estate at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. "This is not Palm Beach or Windsor park," says David King, who founded the vineyard with his wife, Ellen, in 1999. It's horse folks "riding around a green piece of grass. You don't have to buy a hat before you come. It's a tailgating thing."

The Kings have a decades-old love affair with the sport and purchased their property in 1996 because it had a flat stretch. The field went in last year, just a short stroll from the winery, and Roseland Polo Club christened it with a benefit match in June. Since then, the 18-person club -- including David King -- has played on Sunday afternoons (field conditions permitting).

If you don't know that a hooter is a bell that sounds at the end of a chukka (or period), check out the list of polo terms on the winery's Web site, www.kingfamilyvineyards.com. Plan to arrive early for the 1:30 p.m. start and pack a picnic. Spectators park their cars along the 300-yard length of the field -- and it fills up. In true tailgating fashion, tents, chairs and blankets are par for the course. Pass the time before the main event with a complimentary wine tasting. Matches last about two hours, with a halftime break for "treading-in" -- replacing the divots on the field is the spectators' duty.

The trip to Crozet provides plenty of ways to spend a day in the great outdoors. In Remington, take a trail ride at Kelly's Ford Equestrian Center, part of a 500-acre property along the Rappahannock River. Continue communing with nature at Culpeper's Mountain Run Lake Park, where bird watchers can go to town looking for the ruddy duck and pied-billed grebe. Crozet's Beaver Creek Lake is stocked with sunfish, catfish and largemouth bass. The fresh air and pastoral views will get you in the mood for sipping wine al fresco and watching polo at your final destination.

Megan Lisagor

King Family Vineyards, 6550 Roseland Farm, Crozet, Va., 434-823-7800, www.kingfamilyvineyards.com. Open daily, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Polo matches Sundays at 1:30 p.m. through Sept. 25.