Did you ever think that if Grant and Lee could have sat down and shared a nice bottle of Cabernet Franc by a roaring fire that the Civil War might have wrapped much sooner? Okay, maybe not. They would’ve enjoyed that wine, though. Yet it’s a nice alternate reality to play out–especially if you use the Winery at Bull Run as the backdrop. One of the closest wineries to downtown Washington–only 28 miles from the White House!–you can experience a piece of history and cap it (or cork it) with a tasting at one of the finest, award-winning wineries in Virginia.
Love (of wine) is a battlefield . . .
Ask any Civil War buff about the Battles of Bull Run (there were two) or the Manassas Battlefield and you will likely get a dissertation on war strategy. And along with Gettysburg and Antietam, Manassas is rich with history. The Winery at Bull Run stands adjacent to this preserved battlefield. Literally, if you stand at the entrance to the winery, you will see the sign above. If you rotate 180 degrees, you will see the sign below.
Much like a visit to Barboursville Vineyards, you can take your friends and family on a day rich with learning, then have a picnic and wine tasting as a capstone. Where else in the United States can you do both in one trip? The Winery at Bull Run is so close to the action that it is not uncommon to see Civil War re-enactors in full costume enjoying a glass before departing!
The lay of the (historical) land . . .
As you turn up the tree-lined gravel lane, you’ll experience the 18th century vibe right down to the towering trees and split-rail fencing. At the top of a gentle incline is the winery, barn, and historical ruins preserved with care.
Parking is plentiful. Worth pointing out due to their notable wines and proximity to DC. On the weekends, it is not unusual to see the parking lot close to capacity.
The Winery . . .
The tasting room facility itself is not a historical building, yet painstakingly designed to reflect the look and feel of the period. From distressed wood floors to exposed beams, the details are impressive.
The Wines . . .
With Chris Pearmund and Ashton Lough of Pearmund Cellars and Vint Hill Craft Winery at the helm for winemaking, I knew I could set the bar pretty high. And yet with having only opened in 2012, they are already producing 15,000 cases per year.
The $14 tasting included nine wines as well as a commemorative tasting glass.
The tasting covered the following wines:
Whites: 2014 Stainless Steel Chardonnay, 2014 Barrel Aged Chardonnay, 2015 Delaney (50% Riesling, 25% Vidal, 15% Traminette, 5% Petit Manseng, 5% Viognier);
Reds: 2015 Cabernet Franc, 2015 Malbec, 2014 Merlot, 2014 Meritage (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc), Fort (port-style dessert wine of 100% Chambourcin), 2014 Reconciliation (50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot).
The price per bottle ranges from $29 to $42, with an average price of about $32 per bottle. (Members receive a 20% discount.)
The Tasting . . .
Our wine educator, Grace, was outstanding. Armed with a full knowledge of Bull Run’s wines as well as history of the winery, I kept her busy with my never-ending curiosity. When I am fortunate enough to visit a winery with award winners from one end of the tasting menu to the other, there is usually much to discuss.
From the whites, I love the 2014 Stainless Steel Chardonnay. Unique and incredibly crisp for a chardonnay, with burnt popcorn on the nose and apricot and melon on the palate with a nice honey finish. Certainly warranted a bottle to go.
Also making the ride home was the Delaney. Winning Double Gold and Best in Show at the 2015 International Women’s Wine Competition, it had a delightful honey nose, apricot palate, and ginger finish. Just lovely, and will be saved for that perfect warmer-than-usual spring day.
Over to the reds. The 2015 Malbec caught my attention. I am usually a tougher sell on malbecs but the creamy cherry and raisin notes of this wine, alongside herbs and tobacco, really made it a standout. As well, did the 2014 Merlot. Loaded with oak, cherries and blackberries, this wine was dry yet velvety, and delicious to boot.
Grace confirmed that Bull Run’s wines are composed of 100% Virginia grapes. They grow 10 acres of Norton grapes on site adjacent to the winery, with another 34 acres in other areas of Virginia for the remaining varietals.
Oh, and if you happen to have a million dollars sitting around gathering dust, a local builder will be constructing manses on five acre lots that bump up to the perimeter of the vineyard. Being able to walk to the Winery at Bull Run sounds like a selling point to me.
The Tasting Room (and museum?) . . .
If ever there was a place to grab a glass and roam around! Owner Jon Hickox has done something special here. The tasting room is part gathering area and part museum. Along with the preserved remains of the Hillwood Mansion out front, the interior of the building includes cases of artifacts, items found directly on the land where the winery was built. Even your non-wine drinking friends (and kids) will love visiting!
For those of you more interested in wine than history, fear not! You’ll find tons of space to mill about. An extensive tasting bar, oodles of tables for hanging out with friends, and a cozy lounge where you can relax by a toasty fire (which is where you will always find me.)
For members, there is a deck on the second floor that offers not only views of the grounds and vineyard, but sunsets to leave you gasping. Below the tasting room is the cellar and barrel room, with additional seating. Note the “skylights” that let you look up to main floor (or down to cellar if you are in the tasting room). Of course, keep in mind where you might be standing, ladies! Just sayin’.
In addition to the indoor tasting area, they have a climate-controlled covered porch section providing outdoor(ish) seating for getting a step closer to nature while remaining covered.
The Grounds . . .
For those moments when Virginia is not at her most extreme, walking these grounds is great way to enjoy a bottle. Not only can you explore the historical remains, you can stroll down the lane and enjoy the split-rail fence-lined vines.
And don’t worry about crowds. In addition to the general/open areas of the land and facility, Bull Run also has designated areas for 21+ and families, respectively. So you won’t have to worry about a toddler running through your bachelorette party, and equally families can bring their kids and let them explore with their peers!
The Winery at Bull Run Experience . . .
Close to the city, award-winning wines, oodles of space and fresh air to breathe. There is something here for everyone. Bring you friends, your kids, your Civil War buffs! But most of all, bring a vehicle with plenty of room in the back for bottles of wine. Can’t say I didn’t warn ya!
Visit The Winery at Bull Run, located at 15950 Lee Highway, Centreville, Virginia.
Looking for another Virginia winery rich with history? Check out the Winery at La Grange just a short drive away in Haymarket. Or if you are looking to stay close to the city, visit Paradise Springs Winery, also located in Fairfax County in the hamlet of Clifton.
Want to tour another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!