Head a couple of hours south of Baltimore and you can get to Rappahannock County, Virginia. Over the past few years, it has attracted both serious foodies and serious purveyors for them to the area. There are hand-crafted and family-farmed drinks for every member of the family, from natural juices to the only fruitwood malted whiskey in the world. I was happy to be able to sample the cream of the crop.
Rappahannock County is home to several vineyards, including Gadino Cellars and Narmada Winery. Both have unique charms that take them out of the standard “grab a stool and take your wines from white to red, then buy something” experience that one often has at wine tastings. With Gadino Cellars, they want your family to feel part of their Italian family. There’s a children’s play area and regulation-sized bocce courts to make a leisurely day of it all. Plus, you can order cheese and local sausage platters to accompany your wines with. You can have your dog on the patio and there’s a fireplace for chilly days. Narmada Winery takes you into an exotic world right in the middle of the country. Many of its wines are crafted to enhance Indian food. Indian food is available to eat with your wine and Indian imports – clothing, toiletries, crafts – are for sale. Live music plays in the background.
The county is dotted with farm market stands selling flash-pasturized apple cider (retaining more of the zippy, sparkling qualities than what’s available in stores) and flavored milks.
Central Coffee Roasters has a relaxing environment where you can hang out, they roast their coffee to a “full city roast”, and can educate you as to the flavors of the beans they have from around the world. They focus on retail of freshly roasted beans. You can taste the varieties of coffee they’ve made that day and get a 12 oz. cup of joe for $1 – which they donate to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. That’s definitely the “steal/deal” of the week!
If you really want to come home with a special souvenir (because we can’t get it sent here in Maryland), head out for a tour at Copper Fox Distillery. Master Distiller Rick Wasmund has been making his own unique American whisky for 5 years – and already winning top awards. He is the only one in the world malting barley with fruitwoods and aging his whisky with fruitwoods. The result is a smooth-smooth-smooth single-malt whisky that’s not bourbon nor peaty like Scotch. Wasmund also crafts a rye whisky using 2/3 Virginia rye and 1/3 Virginia Thoroughbred hand-malted barley. Copper Fox Distillery is the source of what might be the very best gift ever if you have to give a diplomatic gift, a present to the boss, groomsman gifts, etc.: Wasmund’s Barrel Kit™. It’s your own baby barrel to age the liquor spirits to your own personal specifications! Now the “house drink” can truly be one-of-a-kind.