If you’re headed back to Richmond from destinations east and find yourself struck with a sudden winethirst, fear not!
There’s a reason why The Williamsburg Winery is one of the largest and oldest wineries in Virginia: that place is a well-oiled machine. Upon arrival the staff promptly (but kindly, of course) grouped us up with with five or six others and sat us down to watch a brief introductory film on the winery’s history. From there our tour guide, Dianna, took the reigns and off we went.
Yep. A video and a tour guide. Quite a different experience from the smaller-scaled operations we encountered in the Northern Neck. In no way was it bad, it’s just different. I mean, really, it makes sense. The Williamsburg Winery (a place with a pretty rich history of its own) is in Williamsburg, literally minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg. Did you really think you were going to get away without learning something?
And as far as wine tours go, this is a good one. Their standard tours run every half hour and take you through The Williamsburg Winery’s wine-making process, giving you just enough information to make you feel more knowledgeable than when you arrived, but not so much that you’re yawning and checking your watch.1 I attribute much of that to Dianna. Her love for the winery was clear as she walked us through each phase of the tour, sharing loads of personal anecdotes about her time working there, along with the standard historical tidbits one would expect.
We finished things off with (of course) a tasting of seven of the winery’s offerings. Highlights for me included the Governor’s White 2011, a fruity and semi-dry Riesling, and the Vin Liquoreux de Framboise, a mixture of red wine and raspberry juice that would be amazing with anything dark chocolate-related.
Also don’t worry, guys: even though The Williamsburg Winery is a stone’s throw away from Colonial Williamsburg, there’s nary a tri-cornered hat in sight. Not that there’s anything wrong with tri-cornered hats, if that’s your thing. And it very well might be after you finish your tasting.2
Built as part of the Vinterra Community, about 20 minutes outside of Richmond, New Kent Winery is pristine and picturesque. In fact, our first words when we drove up were, “Wow, this would be a great place for a wedding.” The 17,000 square-foot winery was designed by Williamsburg architect John Hopke and, according to the website, was “modeled to reflect an earlier time when wine-making was common in the New Kent, Virginia region.” Reclaimed wood gives the place a rustic look, while the manicured grounds and state-of-the-art equipment let you know that you definitely aren’t roughing it.
Now I’ll be honest, by the time we got to New Kent Winery, I wasn’t particularly stoked about drinking more wine. It was our last stop on a three-day tour of five wineries and I just wasn’t sure I could listen to anyone else talk about tannins and what makes a white wine taste “oak-y.” I don’t know if our guide could sense my wine-exhaustion or if it’s just his typical M.O., but he kept things light and breezy, offering up a few technical nuggets here and there but gearing the conversation to more practical things like what type of food you’d pair with each wine. What’s more, I (a total wine non-expert) felt perfectly comfortable asking him what I’m sure were really dumb questions. It also didn’t hurt that the wines were delicious. It was pretty warm on the day of our visit, so their clean Vidal Blanc hit the spot. And I wouldn’t require much convincing to pick up a bottle of their 2008 Merlot when the season calls for a giant bowl of pasta covered in marinara sauce.
If you’re looking for wineries that are a bit more off the beaten path, New Kent Winery won’t be your cup of tea. But if you’re in the market for an easy drive followed by a relaxing day spent sipping Virginia wine surrounded by an absolutely gorgeous setting, be sure to add this one to your short list.
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