Winemaking along the Virginia peninsula dates back to the early 1600s. Throughout the ensuing four centuries, experimentation with different grapes and growing techniques led to a blossoming of unique Williamsburg wineries and several award-winning vintners in the surrounding area near our Historic Williamsburg Bed & Breakfast Inn. None other than Thomas Jefferson was an early proponent of winemaking during his lifetime, investing funds in getting the iconic Vitis Vinifera grape established on local Virginia farms.
In the 1800s, specific hybrid grapes that were especially suitable to the peninsula’s coastal climate took hold. By the early 20th century, Virginia produced half a million gallons of wine annually. With its subtropical climate, ocean breezes, and unique soil composition, a 50-mile stretch of the Virginia Peninsula was recently designated as an American Viticultural Area.
Several Williamsburg wineries have continued the wine-producing tradition in recent decades, establishing Williamsburg and the state of Virginia as one of the country’s premier destinations for wine lovers.
Williamsburg Winery should be your first stop as you sip and explore the region’s impressive wine offerings. Since planting their first grapes in 1985 and winning their first of several awards soon after in 1990, the team led by founder Patrick Duffeler – who has a fascinating backstory, having discovered his love of wine in Burgandy while working in advertising in Europe – produces wine of every style imaginable, from classic reds and oak-aged chardonnays to rare dessert blends. Recently, one of their reserve red wines won a top award, the Governor’s Cup, adding to their list of accolades. Be sure to try their Viognier, a wonderfully nuanced grape that was once popular, then forgotten and rediscovered. Its hints of melon, peach, and floral accents make it a perfect choice for the warm spring and summer days ahead.
In addition to their mouth-watering selection of wines, the winery’s 400-acre property (which is only 4 miles away from the Fife and Drum Inn) also has live music on Fridays from 4-7 pm and Sundays from 2-5 pm. After your wine tasting, plan for a meal at their on-site restaurant, Gabriel Archer Tavern – along with a brunch menu, dinner features dishes like salmon fish tacos, sweet tea brined pork chops, and key lime creme brulee.
If you’d rather walk to your wine tasting than drive, the satellite Williamsburg Winery bar is conveniently located just a block from our downtown Williamsburg location. Plan to browse the shops at Merchants Square before or after you sit down for an affordable $14 flight of wines in their cozy outdoor shaded garden and patio. Check for special events, like their wine and sip series, when you can try wines and nibble on desserts while creating a painting together.
Although Williamsburg Winery will satisfy even the most developed wine palates, drive a little further along the peninsula to two other local wineries, each with equally beautiful locales and delicious wines.
Upper Shirley Vineyards is located 36 miles away on the banks of the James River, with a quaint 22-acre spread on a historic plantation. Snack on charcuterie plates and crab cakes on their “vineyard porch” overlooking the river while sipping their petit verdot, with its hints of black cherry and dark chocolate, aged for nearly two years. Make it a night out by visiting when they have live music on the deck.
Just 19 miles away from Fife and Drum Inn on the other side of the peninsula, near the York River, Gauthier Vineyard has been growing wine grapes on their sprawling property for just over a decade. Once a Civil War encampment, today it’s a family-run operation in the vineyard rows and at their equestrian center, encompassing several acres. They offer tastings and tours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, along with wood-fired pizza and special Cajun meals on Sunday afternoons. Their flight of four wines is affordable at only $14, and their Woodmont ‘18 – a blend of three different red varietals – is an especially notable representation of their winemaking expertise.
Stay with us, sip with us, and you’ll fall in love with the wines of Williamsburg!