For the past three summers, my girlfriends and I have enjoyed a weekend trip to the mountains of southern Virginia to a rustic retreat known as Mountain Lake Lodge. The place is very dog-friendly and my dachshund Greta always makes the journey with us. It’s about a 4.5-5 hour drive (depending on traffic) from the Washington, DC area. The I-81 corridor is a very scenic route, where you’ll enjoy mountain vistas of the Shenandoah. There are also quite a few vineyards along the way so we always make it a point to stop and try one (or two, time permitting). Some are closer to the interstate then others, so do budget extra time to get to them.
Table of Contents:
Vineyards to Visit
Weekend Trip Accommodations
More Wineries/Vineyards to Visit
Vineyards to Visit
35 Hillview Ln
Raphine, VA 24472
Photo of the vines growing at Rockbridge Vineyards. Photo by Peggy Mihelich, All Rights Reserved
Located less than 2 miles off of I-81, Rockbridge is an ideal place to stop in for a tasting and not loose too much time on your journey north/south. The modern red barn tasting room is bright and spacious, featuring lovely vistas of the surrounding vines and mountains. If the weather is pleasent, grab your wine and head over to their covered patio area featuring a DIY wine bottle chandelier. Dogs are welcome inside the tasting room, outdoors and on the patio.
Our favorites: Traminette, Chardonnay and Meritage
Award winning wines: Viognier, Dechiel Chardonnay
Barren Ridge Vineyards
984 Barren Ridge Road
Fishersville, VA 22939
Photo of the tasting room at Barren Ridge Vineyards. Photo by Peggy Mihelich, All Rights Reserved
If you’re into rustic/barn chic, Barren Ridge will surely please. It’s a former apple orchard that now grows a variety of grapes. The picking barn plays host to tastings and is a comfortable place to sip and sample wine. Need a little cheese and crackers to wash down your wine? Purchase some tasty snacks. We particularly liked the pub cheese. Note, if there is an event going on the day of your visit, they move tastings to a small shed on the property — not glamorous and not very appealing. Personally, I’d make sure to visit on a non-event day or attend the event so you can fully enjoy the property. Dogs are allowed in the tasting room, on the grounds and the patio.
Our favorites: Harmony (white blend)
Award winning wines: Harmony, Viognier, Christof (white dessert wine)
Virginia Mountain Vineyards
4204 Old Fincastle Rd
Fincastle, VA 24090
Photo of wines at Virginia Mountain Vineyards. Photo by Peggy Mihelich, All Rights Reserved
This vineyard has been growing grapes since the 1990s and offers 13 different wines for tasting. The tasting room is small with only one bar, but it’s well worth the wait to try their unique wines — be sure to sample their signature white, Acacia Gold. When you’re done tasting, grab a glass (or bottle) and sit out on the covered patio (or find one of the benches around the grounds) and enjoy some lovely views of the vineyards and mountains. Dogs are allowed on the grounds and patio.
Our favorites: Acacia Gold
Award winning wines: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Trinity (blend)
Weekend Trip Accommodations
Where we stayed:
Photo of Mountain Lake Lodge. Photo by Peggy Mihelich, All Rights Reserved
Mountain Lake Lodge - mostly known as the set location for the 80s movie Dirty Dancing, this mountain retreat is more than a place to dance in the footsteps of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. It boasts fine dining, hiking trails, a game room (pool tables, ping pong, air hockey) and outdoor adventure center. Do as much or as little as you want. Be sure to spend time in the bar, where they serve up specialty cocktails and spin tales of old (the hotel dates back to the 1800s). And yes, learn all about the making of the movie that made sure “nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
If you have additional time to explore the I-81 corridor, I would suggest visiting the following:
This 215-foot tall limestone gorge, sits within Virginia’s newest state park, Natural Bridge State Park. There is more to see then just the bridge, so take your dog and explore one of the many trails.
This is southern Virginia’s biggest city. It’s history is mostly associated with the railroads and it was a major stop for 3 lines, most notably the Norfolk & Western. Tour the historic downtown for a glimpse of the past and check out the following local places: Roanoke Star & Mill Mountain Park, Dog Mouth Fountain and Black Dog Salvage.
This is college town, USA. Home of Virginia Tech’s (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) 30,000+ students and faculty, this sprawling campus is worth a tour, even if it’s just a drive-by one.
Additional Vineyard/Winery to Visit:
Peaks of Otter Winery
2122 Sheep Creek Rd
Bedford, VA 24523
Peaks of Otter is a fruit orchard that specializes in wine made from apples, grapes, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, chili peppers, cherries, elderberries and more. Dogs are welcome inside the tasting room, outdoors and on the patio.
Cover Photo is of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Photo by Mark Schneider / CC BY 2.0. Photo brightness was increased.