Rappahannock County may be best known for two of its crown jewels — The Inn at Little Washington and Skyline Drive — but this artsy and crafty area is worth exploring deeper. Many residents are artists whose work is available in shops and galleries throughout the county. Come hungry and thirsty: Rappahannock boasts inviting restaurants, wineries and a distillery.
The Italian spirit is alive in Virginia at Gadino Cellars. Visitors can sip one of 10 wines while playing bocce on full-size courts surrounded by vineyards. On chilly nights, guests will find a warm welcome in the tasting room and a bonfire blazing outside. Try Moonrise, an off-dry rosé made using Gadino's five red grapes. Owner Bill Gadino, whose family hails from Naples and Abruzzo, calls it a "rosé with attitude."
With elegant china, silverware and glassware collections, R.H. Ballard provides the makings for an inspired dinner table. The shop highlights owners Robert and Joanie Ballard's Francophile tastes with goods such as Napoleonic bee glasses and French finishing salt. One facet doesn't stray too far from Virginia, though: The downstairs art gallery features works from local artists.
Most of the time 24 Crows looks like a country shop with crafts, art and toys. But for a few hours on Wednesday through Sunday, it transforms into the area's most-talked-about lunch spot. Grab one of a few tables staggered among displays of local honey, tea kettles and jewelry. Expect plates such as lamb kebab over warm white bean salad with roasted tomatoes, and soups such as silky celery root with herbed focaccia croutons.
The two airy floors of paintings and sculptures at Haley Fine Art could trick you into thinking you're back in the city, but this gallery is uniquely Rappahannock. The eight primary artists whose work is on display have roots in the area. Chris Stephens's paintings feature colorful portrayals of the Shenandoah Valley landscape, and Jeanne Drevas uses natural materials she has gathered from Rappahannock County's forests and fields in her sculptures.
Not only is Copper Fox one of Virginia's few distilleries, it processes its barley from grain to glass. Tours highlight the malting room where barley is sprouted, the grain-toasting kiln that uses fragrant apple and cherry wood smoke, the spirits room where visitors can smell the fermenting grain, the barrel-aging room and the bottling line. Tours end with a tasting.
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