Fun fact: Virginia is the birthplace of American wines. The history of winemaking here dates back to the early 1600s when Jamestown settlers planted vines in hopes of creating a cash crop in the New World. In 1619, laws were even created requiring colonists to cultivate vines.
But Virginia’s soil and climate had different ideas. Despite numerous attempts—even under the watchful eye of Thomas Jefferson who meticulously documented failure after failure—successful Virginia wines were the exception for nearly 400 years. It began to change somewhat in the late 1800s with Virginia’s native Norton varietal. It wasn’t until the late 1980s when vineyards started cultivating Viognier varieties more frequently, though, that Virginia began to emerge as a wine state and Viognier became the state’s signature varietal.
By 2000, over 70 wineries in Virginia had harvested and bottled their first vintage. In the next decade, that number would triple. Today, the top Virginia varietals are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Vidal Blanc, and Viognier. But you can’t leave a local winery without trying the OG of Virginia wines, the Norton.
Take a tour of Fairfax County’s wineries.
After four centuries of failed attempts, Virginia is now one of the top ten largest producers of wines in the US and draws the admiration of sommeliers around the world. Of the more than 300 wineries in Virginia today, Fairfax County boasts the closest ones to Washington, DC, making this region the Gateway to Virginia’s Wine Country and the purveyor of Northern Virginia’s must-try wines. As a bonus, all three of Fairfax County’s wineries have their own, unique history and American significance.
Paradise Springs Winery
Set in a pastoral location adjacent to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park and the Bull Run River in Clifton, Virginia, Paradise Springs was Fairfax County’s first winery when it opened in 2007. Originally, the property was part of a 1,000-acre land grant from Lord Fairfax (the county’s namesake) in 1716 and has been passed down through the same family ever since.
The winery gets its name from the early 1900s when Clifton was known for its healing waters and a company named Paradise Springs bottled water for commercial sales in clear glass bottles with the word “Paradise” blown into the glass. You can see a few of these bottles displayed at the winery. The property also boasts an early-1800s log cabin that was renovated by a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé in the 1950s.
While this pet-friendly winery has a sister location in Santa Barbara, California, making it the FIRST bi-coastal wine brand in America, Paradise Springs in Clifton uses only Virginia grapes when creating the Viogniers, Cabernet Francs, Petit Mansengs, and Petit Verdot that the winery is known for. In fact, the 2021 Petit Verdot was named one of the top 12 wines in all of Virginia, placing in the 2023 Virginia Governor’s Cup Case.
All-time favorite wines from Paradise Springs include:
- Nana's Rosé. Named in honor of the owner’s living mother, this is the winery’s most popular wine.
- Chardonnay. Paradise Springs is particularly adept at creating this classic—it won the 2010 Governor's Cup.
- PVT. A blend of Petit Verdot and Tannat, this big, bold, complex wine is consistently the highest rated at Paradise Springs and has amassed its own following.
- Cabernet Franc. Grown just across from Paradise Springs’ tasting room, this red boasts bold fruitiness and a smooth finish. It is a signature Virginia wine.
The Winery at Bull Run
Image courtesy The Winery at Bull Run
Located adjacent to Manassas National Battlefield Park and its famous Stone Bridge, The Winery at Bull Run’s Centreville vineyard couldn’t be any more steeped in American history. Civil War soldiers on both sides traversed this land during two major conflicts. And they left behind artifacts and oddities that were found when building the winery. Today, they are all on display in a mini museum on site and highlighted during unique History Wine Tours of the museum and property. Historical markers throughout the property indicate where encampments and movements occurred during the Civil War.
With over eight acres of vines on a 21-acre property overlooking 5,000 acres of National Park, The Winery at Bull Run transports you to another era and another place. (Which is surprising, given how close the winery entrance is to a major DC interstate!) Everywhere you look, there’s history and the echoes of times gone by. This creates the perfect setting to enjoy their most popular wines.
Signature favorite wines at The Winery at Bull Run include:
- Delaney. This popular wine was named for the owner’s oldest daughter and features hints of citrus blossoms, lemon drops, and sweet, sunshiny days. This is easy-drinking porch wine at its finest!
- Reconciliation. This multi-award-winning Bordeaux evokes the hearty flavors of blackberries and the aromas of leather and smoke.
- Resilience Viognier. Another big award winner, this pleasing white is the epitome of a Virginia summer with its floral nose of lilies, honeysuckle, and citrus blossoms.
- Stonebridge Sparkling. This delicious, dry sparkling wine has notes of tropical fruit, pineapple, guava, and papaya with a dash of raisin bread.
Woodlawn Press Winery
Image courtesy Woodlawn Press Winery
Woodlawn Press is an “urban microwinery” found along Richmond Highway. (A microwinery makes its own wines but does not grow its own grapes.) Woodlawn Press sources its grapes from top vineyards and is not dependent on the types of grapes that are able to grow within a particular region.
This family- and veteran-owned winery represents a long line of wine-making ancestors reaching back to the days of bootlegging. In fact, it’s been the family business for at least 100 years. Located in the midst of Potomac Banks’ historic attractions, it makes the perfect respite after a day at Mount Vernon or Gunston Hall.
Here are their most highly recommended (and entirely unique) bottles:
- Bourbon Barrel Aged Malbec. With fruit-forward flavors and bourbon barrel aging, this bold red is one of Woodlawn Press’ signature wines.
- PB&J Mead. Made with wildflower honey, this semi-sweet blueberry mead is packed with aromas of peanut butter and sweet smooth berry notes.
- Fall'n for Apples. This seasonal wine is a fall favorite with the aromas of apple and mulling spices. Enjoy it chilled or warmed with cinnamon and orange slices.
- Grazia’s Steel Blend. Named for the family’s famous bootlegger, this aromatic white combines Viognier and Pinot Grigio grapes.
Pair your Virginia wines with food worthy of the experience.
Image courtesy Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurants
Maybe you’d like to enjoy your glass of local wine alongside a nice, seared salmon or pasta Bolognese. From waterfront restaurants and hidden gems to the most exclusive destination restaurants, Fairfax County’s restaurants are a great way to try local and regional wines, along with your favorites.
One guaranteed way to find a healthy wine list is to visit any steak house, like Flemings Prime Steak House and Wine Bar. Or go for European fare at Dolce Vita Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar and Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant. For those who are looking for a bistro experience with pretty plates of food, Bazin’s on Church and River Bend Bistro and Wine Bar are good choices. Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant features upscale dining combined with their custom selection of wines from around the world available for tasting or by the bottle. And if you want your wine with a view, Lake Anne Coffee House and Wine Bar delivers with scenic ambiance.
Buy a bottle to bring back to your hotel or home.
Image courtesy The Wine House
The best places to buy a bottle of Fairfax County wines are at the vineyards themselves. But if you want to browse multiple vintages at once, you won’t have to go out of your way in Virginia. Our liquor laws enable every grocery store and 7-11 to sell wine, seven days a week.
But if you’re not looking for just any wine, then you’re in for a treat. Independent wine shops like Unwined in the Belle View neighborhood have hundreds of bottles to choose from. (And Revel Craft Wine and Beer Bar is right next door!) Wine Junction Shop and Bar in McLean features over 350 curated wines – plus a menu of small plates curated by Pepe Moncayo, the renowned Chef behind Michelin-starred Cranes restaurant in Washington, DC and Jiwa Singapura in Tysons. The Wine House in Fairfax is home to 500 handpicked wines. Classic Wines in Great Falls features 900 wines from around the world. The Wine Cabinet in Reston boasts 1,900 beers and wines. The Wine Outlet in McLean offers wines of every stripe—at big box prices. And finally, the biggest box of them all is Total Wine & More with 8,000 different vintages and multiple locations across Fairfax County. All feature wines from across Virginia, as well as from around the world.
Have an adventure while you sip Fairfax County wines.
Image courtesy George Washington's Mount Vernon
While most local wine festivals happen in the fall, there are events year-round. Check our events calendar to see what’s going on while you’re in town. But be on the lookout for signature annual events like these:
- Mount Vernon Wine Festival and Sunset Tour—each fall and spring
- Haunted Wine Tours—each October at The Winery at Bull Run
- Recurring Events—all three local wineries hold regular events with painting, candle making, movie nights, tours, and more
Visiting our wineries (and also our breweries and distilleries) makes your Fairfax County getaway that much more enjoyable. You learn about the grapes, see the vines, and have brushes with history – all while getting to taste the vintages Virginians persisted for four centuries to create. All are near attractions you already want to visit, so work a winery into your itinerary (or make wine your entire itinerary!) ... and, of course, don’t forget to bring a few bottles home.