Our January meeting for the Virginia Wine and Book Club was held at the Winery at Bull Run in Centreville, Virginia. I have been waiting to visit this winery for a while (it was on my 10 to visit in 2015 list) but was not able to get around to the visit until now. This winery is surrounded by history and does a nice job embracing this both on their property and in their tasting room.
To begin with our visit, the winery is right next to a parking lot of the Manassas National Battlefield Park. To be so close to a nice walk through history is always exciting to me, especially in an area filled with history from the Civil War and earlier. The Winery at Bull Run is located only a few miles down route 29 from Fairfax, Virginia (fairly close to Washington, DC as well). We went on a Saturday in the winter, and parking was easy and convenient to the main tasting room entrance.
Around the site, there were A LOT of benches for sipping on wine and having a picnic outside. This was greatly appreciated, and I am sure is especially popular in the summer time. They had some games set up, such as cornhole, for visitors to play. They also had a fenced-off family area for parents with kids to enjoy their visit in. Next to this space, there was an outdoor wine tasting bar… it was too cold to open this when we were there, but I loved the space and view of the field around!
Also on property for the history lover was the Hillwood Mansion, which was believed to have been a field hospital for troops during the battle of Manassas in 1861. The house, after passing between family and owners, burnt down in 1990. However, the winery owners have done a nice job preserving the original foundations of the house for visitors to explore. They now use this space for events, including weddings.
Going inside, the tasting room was a unique space with old wooden beams above head when first entering. After asking one of the employees about the wood, she mentioned this barn space was reconstructed using pieces of wood from other Civil War era barns. We found our seats in the tasting room and began to explore the Civil War artifacts on the walls. Some of these were uncovered on property of the winery, and others were discovered nearby in the surrounding battlefield lands. These artifact displays allow visitors to pass the time and take in the history of the property while waiting for a tasting, or while enjoying a glass of wine. We also walked downstairs to check out the space here, which was a little darker in the cellar, but included more space for groups. The downstairs also had a couple of TVs on the sports games for those looking for an escape with friends without having to miss the game. (that is me!)
The tasting itself was informative, and the wines were a hit with the group across the board. We sampled ten wines, including one Chardonnay from Hume vineyards who now distribute their wine exclusively at Bull Run. The tasting started with a Viognier (only appropriate since it is the state grape of Virginia) and continued through whites, fruits, and reds, with the last wine being the Norton (the native grape to Virginia). During the tasting, we learned they grow the Norton grape there on property for their wines. The other grapes are grown in Little Washington, Virginia for their wines. My personal favorites I took home from the tasting included the peach, Cabernet Franc and Norton wines. The peach wine was sweet and delicious by itself. Our taster said she sometimes mixes this with champagne to cut back on the sweetness… I tried this, and it was a new twist and good! I recommend a ratio of three parts wine to one part champagne. This was my preferred balance. Michelle (who has posted at vawineuncorked.com before HERE) usually does not prefer Norton’s, however, she enjoyed the Norton here more than others! It was earthy, had a bite, but was also smoother than other Norton wines, making it more popular with the group. The price of the wines is similar to those of surrounding wineries. ($32 for the Norton, $36 for the Cab Franc, $19 for the Peach which came in a smaller bottle than others). The tasting was $12 a person ($15 usually for a private group tasting) and included a free winery glass.
The venue is beautiful and the staff was informative and kind. However, there were a couple of drawbacks for me. The first is the winery does not allow pets. This limits my ability to visit the winery because the weekends belong to my dogs. After being at work in DC every day during the week, the weekends are for spending time with the dogs and bringing them out hiking and along with us to wineries. (This is why we also have a wine club membership at Paradise Springs since we can bring the dogs along) Another drawback was the waiting period for the tasting for our group. We were a group of eight who all got there by 12:15 on a Saturday, the same time another group was pulling in with a party bus. We did not get to the tasting until after 1:30. Fortunately, we had our book club book to discuss, but by the end we were all getting impatient waiting on this one group to finish. What could have helped to accommodate the groups better would have been to offer their tasting at the side table as they did, but then to slide the first group down towards the end of the table (or set up a third table next to the group tasting area) and conduct all transactions here for bottles, glasses, and the tasting costs for the group. The group in front of us was in no hurry to end their tasting, which is at no fault of the winery, but it caused us to be frustrated since they would not leave after their tasting was complete and were still being helped for their individual sales despite the line behind them. Fortunately, the staff was very kind to us and the tasting was a nice experience.
The winery was in a beautiful location, and the property was well-kept and the history preserved and embraced nicely. I recommend looping in a trip to this winery with a visit to the battlefields, making a day of the trip on Civil War History.