How do you finish an incredible trip to a National Park? You go to a vineyard, of course!
A desire to see and hike Shenandoah National Park began this wonderful adventure. My son Ryan, who has fallen in love with National Parks as much as myself, has become my frequent traveling companion. He planned some amazing hikes for us to tackle and found some beautiful places to stay. After we had worn ourselves out, we found a delightful family-run vineyard and winery just outside of the park.
First though, the incredible Shenandoah National Park. Straddling the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Virginia, it is both visually and physically inspiring. Though authorized to become a National Park in 1926, it didn’t become one until Dec. 26, 1935. Its feature, Skyline Drive, is 105 miles long and runs through this narrow park offering some great stop off points for photos. During a visit, you are able to see stunning views and wildlife while challenging yourself to some difficult hikes if you choose.
We started our trip with a hike to Dark Hollow Falls (1.4 miles roundtrip). This was not a difficult hike and we saw tons of wildlife, even a bear. The falls were beautiful and a great start to the trip.
Staying the night at Big Meadows Lodge, on the Historic Places Registrar, we walked to the Big Meadow in the dark to try our hand at taking some starry night photos.
We also stayed at the Skyline Lodge which had some incredible sunset views overlooking the Shenandoah River Valley.
A hike on the Old Rag Mountain Summit trail turned out to be a much more difficult than we expected, but we persevered and had a blast doing it.
Finally, we were able to walk a part of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the park. It was a thrill to do something we had always wanted to do.
After all of that, we decided to relax and went searching for a vineyard. Lucky for us, we found King Family Vineyards in Crozet, Virginia. They are located just outside the southern end of the park off of Hwy 64.
The King family has created a place that is comfortable even though they have grown since their opening in 2002. What started as an 8-acre vineyard has become 31 acres producing 10,000 cases or more a year. The property is picture postcard perfect. The white and green trimmed buildings are stunning against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, while the gravel driveway still reminds me that it is a farm. They are in the Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA) and they grow a variety of vines: Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.
We were greeted by James King, one of the sons, when we arrived at the tasting room. A former Marine, he has also served as the Tasting Room Manager and a General Manager. He was warm and friendly and introduced us to his family’s boutique, ultra-premium wines. He told us about their winemaker, Matthieu Finot, who was born in the Rhone Valley of France and some history of the farm.
The tasting room is spacious, with high ceilings, a stone fireplace, lots of windows and ample tables and chairs. Tastings are done at the large stand-up bar that even has a hook to hang your purse. They offer a classic tasting of 6 wines that rotate seasonally. That day we tasted a number of wines on their menu including a 2015 Cabernet Franc and a 2016 Crose a dry, Merlot-based rose, which I purchased. They do not have a restaurant, but you may bring a picnic or purchase a variety of meats, cheeses, and bread that they offer.
While exploring, I was surprised to see a polo field on the property outside the tasting room. David King, the owner, has played polo since 1980 and wanted a place to continue playing when they moved to Virginia from Houston, TX. With a perfect location, he built the field and now Roseland Polo hosts matches on Sundays. They are free and open to the public. You can bring a picnic and purchase wine from the golf cart during matches. We were so disappointed that we were not there on a Sunday, but it gives us a reason to return to the vineyard and explore Shenandoah National Park again!
For more information on King Family Vineyards go to: http://www.kingfamilyvineyards.com
To plan your Shenandoah National Park trip visit: http://www.nps.gov/shen/index.htm