Alexandria, VA – The first snowfall of the winter season kicked off the new year with considerable excitement, dropping up to 14 inches in parts of wine country. Picturesque vines covered in sparkling snow crystals against the white peaks of Blue Ridge are about as inviting a winter scene as even painter Rockwell Kent could capture on canvas.
Whether gathered around an outdoor fire on a hot January or February day or seeking shelter from the shivering bones of winter, huddled before a roaring hearth, wine destinations offer refuge from the cold and dark days to come until the return of spring, waking up the vines again.
Z~ Oenology reached out to members of Nancy Bauer’s Virginia Wine Love group to put together a list of 411 wineries specifically offering free fireplaces. Not wanting to exclude some of NOVA’s most popular wineries, those who charge rental fees will be included in the fireside wine tasting options.
Indoor fireplaces make a shorter list. Despite Virginia’s historic wine country landscape, not all wineries offer the luxury of a centuries-old stone fireplace large enough to sit inside. Few things paint a more iconic picture of life among the landed gentry than parking in a comfy chair in front of a crackling fire with a pup lying on the rug nearby, watching you enjoy a glass of your favorite Virginia wine.
Wineries that allow Fido Fireside include Breaux Vineyards in Hillsboro, where dogs are allowed inside to relax in front of the old-fashioned fireplace in the tasting room, and Barrel Oak Winery (affectionately known as BOW for their hospitality canine), where dogs reign supreme, holding court, protecting coveted seats in the hearth.
The new Sunset Pavilion at Cana Winery and Vineyards of Middleburg is a spacious, winter-enclosed outdoor space with a majestic stone fire pit that invites wine-loving pooches to curl up by the fire for pupperoni barkuterie snacks and chafings of the stomach. Come for the spectacular sunsets. Stay for the romance by the fireside and relax sipping a glass of their signature reds: Merlot, Malbec and the most elusive Tempranillo with your best friends, two and four-legged. Or, if a special celebration is on the calendar, uncork a bottle of Unite Reserve 2017 from Melanie Natoli’s award-winning Estate Library collection. The $150 Library Reserve trio pack is now sold out, but single bottles of the 2017 Unit Reserve are available online and at the winery.
If you go for white in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, try the Albariño, similar to the sold-out 2018 and 2019 of Cana’s 50 western neighbors. Their terroir, slope and hilltop south-west exposure have produced outstanding vintages of Albariño in recent years. . Be sure to pick up a squeaky Cana Rosé or Merlot chew toy on sale at the winery to keep your CANAine companion content while you chardonnay all day.
Other NOVA wineries with chimneys include 8 Chains North, 50 West (club house), the Barns at Hamilton Station, Bluemont, Bogati, Casanal, Corcoran, Creek’s Edge, Doukenie, Dry Mill, Fabbioli, Fleetwood Farm, Hidden Brook, Little Washington Winery (at Skyline Vineyard Inn) Lost Creek, Otium, Quattro Goombas, Stone Tower, Walsh Family, Williams Gap, The Wine Reserve and Zephaniah. If Z~Oenology missed a winery, let us know and we’ll add it online as soon as possible!
It wouldn’t be Christmas in wine country without a pilgrimage to Bluemont Vineyards for the lighting of the vines. The snow came late, making its appearance the day after the last night of illumination on January 2. Z~Œnologie has covered the event in the past, lucky to enjoy an incomparable spectacle amid several centimeters of freshly fallen snow. Nothing like igniting the spirit of the season.
Although the balmy temperatures for most of December did not require coats, the mystique and allure of wine tasting by the mountaintop fireside, with views of the entire Loudoun Valley and beyond to Tysons, Ballston and on a clear day even Roslyn and DC, proved irresistible. Add to that a glorious sunset, perfectly drinkable wine and beer (and hot chocolate for the more inclined) followed by a twilight light show, and you’ve got yourself an impromptu event. Reservations for foyers and tables (with wait service) are required on weekends. Fireplaces rent for $75 for two hours.
In the first year of COVID, many wineries began requiring advance reservations with deposits applied to purchases while visiting. However, most wineries that rent fireplaces, whether wood or propane, do not apply rental fees to wine and food shelves. Wineries found that the cost of a constant wood supply and inflated propane costs due to high demand and scarcity were prohibitive to sustain through another winter unless they billed .
Renting a fire pit can be expensive (and no, you can’t bring your own). It’s a luxury most day trippers can’t reconcile, preferring to spend their funds on more wine. But it is more affordable if shared among a group of four to six. Other popular wineries renting homes are 50 West in Middleburg and Sunset Hills in Purcellville. The fee at their smokeless wood burning fireplaces is $75/per two hours for up to six people. Two Twisted Posts in Hillsboro rents out its homes for $10 an hour, available by reservation or walk-in. There is also a new heated enclosure to accommodate more than the maximum of ten people per permitted household.
Nearby Paradise Springs in Clifton offers fire pits by reservation. It costs $90 for a three-hour Boxwood Patio Firepit experience for up to 12 people and their puppies. This includes two covers with the Paradise Springs Winery logo.
Sonoma Cellar, at 207 King Street, is another fireside and wine pairing right here in Old Town. The intimate brick and gravel rear patio features a fire pit, heaters and cozy fleece blankets to relax on while enjoying the extensive selection of California winemakers as well as vintage Virginia fare paired with an eclectic menu appealing to committed carnivores as well as any die-hard vegan, served with a penchant for locavore NoCal cuisine.
Fortunately, most Virginia wineries do not charge guests for using fire pits at this time. Milder temperatures in the fall through December and into the New Year no doubt kept demand relatively low. But winter doesn’t just happen, it’s saved for the duration. We can’t hibernate, and why would we want to with all the great grape experiences waiting for us inside and out? It’s comforting to know that there are entertaining options for warming up for every budget. And don’t forget that it is mulled wine weather.
Here’s the list of Virginia wineries that don’t charge to gather around a warming fire. Don’t forget the s’mores fixings! And #CHEERS for a healthy and happy new year of friendship, camaraderie and kinship among Virginia wine lovers!
Barns in Hamilton
Windward Vineyards in Laurel Grove
ICYMI: Alexandria Virginia’s best food news in the new year, from lobster rolls to Korean rice hot dogs