Thursday, November 5, 2015

History & Wine in Winchester, Virginia

Leaving Maryland in the rear view mirror after our visit to Distillery Lane Ciderworks, we headed toward the Shenandoah Valley. We made a quick stop at Winchester Ciderworks, where the tasting cost $5 and took place outside. The ciders were not to my liking, but my friend picked up a can of the Malice cider, which was also purchased by the case by a local who stopped by, so they do have fans.

As we drove toward Winchester's Old Town, we had to stop at the highly visible Virginia Farm Market - for the pumpkin displays alone. However, the market turned out to be a produce and treat paradise. All of their current apples were available for sampling -- the Cameo was among the sweetest I had tasted, while my friend loved the Nittany, and we bought a few of each for future snacking. Less healthy options such as donuts could also be sample and purchased.
After a picnic lunch in the car, we explored part of Winchester's old town, which contains many historic buildings, most of which have been restored and some of which can be found on the pedestrian mall. It being Sunday, not all the stores were open, but I was glad the cozy bookshop, Winchester Book Gallery, was open for business. I could have browsed for a long time and spent a great deal of money as their selection of books, cards, and gifts was well curated.Yet I managed to limit my purchases to a few cards and one children's book, the absolutely lovely new "Thank You & Good Night" by Patrick McConnell. The shop had fantastic decorations.

The loft area was dedicated to children's books, as well as a cozy reading corner. I could easily spend an hour or two here!

The murals in the children's area were just as wonderful as the murals on the first floor.

Many of Winchester's old buildings were constructed of stone and brick, and looked like they will last another two hundred years.
After strolling around town, we were chilled to the bone and chose to examine a winery recommended by a local. What a perfect suggestion that was! Located a bit south of Winchester, in the small town of Stephens City, Valerie Hill Winery & Vineyard is a true destination winery. The tasting rooms are located in a 200-year old home, which provides a comfortable and rather cozy atmosphere. A couple of rooms had tables that seat four, while the area in which we relaxed had a couch and smaller tables for two.

Although the tasting ($8) was tempting, the moment I saw mulled wine ($5 a glass), the deal was sealed. Many northern European families, mine included, serve mulled wine at Christmas, but it's also the perfect drink on a chilly autumn day. Chili and cornbread were also being offered, and a duo was singing and playing guitar on the heated porch. We arrived close to 4:30pm, which is last call on Sundays, but one could tell that most guests had spent their afternoon enjoying the wine and the atmosphere. The woman at the table next to ours had chosen to do her writing and studying at Valerie Hill instead of a cafe or library. In warmer weather the winery also has outdoor seating on a patio and in the backyard.

Our slightly boozy day of exploring had been fun, but it was time to find a hotel in Winchester and rest up in preparation for the next day of adventures.


  1. This sounds like an ideal weekend - what more could you want out of an autumn New England day? Mulled wine, bookstores, fall farm markets... Looking forward to what I assume will be the next day's lead-peeping post!


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