In 2010, Rick Collier and Nancy Bauer visited 150 wineries in as many days while researching “Virginia Wine in My Pocket.” Today, more than 8,000 people have purchased the smartphone app (available for iPhone and Android), which provides information about and directions to 215 Old Dominion wineries that are open to the public. Their companion Web site, www.vawineinmypocket.com, launched last year. Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre talked with the Reston couple about their experiences traveling through Virginia wine country. Edited excerpts:
What questions about Virginia wine country do first-time visitors ask you most frequently?
Nancy: It’s really about the wine, which surprises me. For me, it’s the whole experience — where we can meet the winemaker, whether you get to drive the back roads to get there. We’re sick of the Beltway. But people are more knowledgeable and sophisticated about wine than they were 10 or 20 years ago, and that’s what they ask about.
Rick: A friend from France who is a real wine snob visited us recently and asked all about the wines. He was interested in trying something different.
What would be your perfect wine-focused weekend in Virginia?
Nancy: We’d take off Friday morning and head to Floyd, in southwest Virginia, along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’d stop at Villa Appalaccia for a glass of aglianico and some antipasti, then stay at the Hotel Floyd after dinner at Chateau Morrisette’s dining room. On Saturday we’d visit Foggy Ridge Cider for a tasting, then enjoy the views at AmRhein Cellars and Valhalla in Roanoke before staying at Fincastle Vineyard’s B&B. On Sunday we’d visit Ox-Eye Vineyards in Staunton on our way home.
Rick: One thing I love about Virginia is that you have so many things to do other than visit wineries. When you visit Napa, Sonoma or the Willamette Valley, you’re there for the wine. In Virginia, there’s so much history, from the founding of our country through the Civil War, plus Washington and Richmond. So I’d plan on visiting a battlefield along the way, and budget some time for a hike.
Do you prefer to wander and trust in serendipity, or do you map out a schedule for your trips and stick to it?
Rick: To a certain extent, you need to plan ahead, especially if you get outside Northern Virginia. Some of these wineries are in places without cellphone reception, so if you’re relying on the Internet for information or directions, you may be out of luck. And you can’t always trust your GPS device. We followed ours to the Stone Mountain winery recently, and it takes you along Brokenback Mountain Road, which is a single-lane dirt path. If it has rained recently, it’s a gully. The winery’s Web site gives directions that follow paved roads.
Nancy: I prefer to wing it. If we’re talking to a winemaker and enjoying ourselves, I don’t want to be stuck to a rigid schedule and have to leave. And getting there is half the fun. Head out to MountainRose vineyard, which is just a few miles from Kentucky, and you’ve never seen so many little white churches. It’s so different from Reston.
You’ve visited so many wineries in your research, you must have seen some questionable behavior by other customers.
Rick: Especially in Northern Virginia, we see a lot of younger customers who are only interested in getting drunk.
Nancy: Winemakers call these people “shooters.” They knock back a sample and plunk the glass down, expecting the next taste to be poured immediately. They don’t ask questions or show any interest in learning about the wine or the winery.
And some people seem to think of wineries as public parks. They bring their own beer and grills and plan to stay all day.
Rick: Some wineries do encourage picnicking, but they have a reasonable expectation that you’ll be purchasing and drinking their wine.
Nancy: People should remember that a winery is often someone’s home as well. And then there’s bachelorette parties. A large group arrives in a limo, gets drunk and rowdy, then leaves without paying for their tastings. Wineries hate that!
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