Traversing the rolling hills of western Fauquier County, Virginia on I-66, you can’t help but do a double-take at the expansive wood and glass winery atop a vine-enveloped knoll. A scene that stands with such promise that you’ll find yourself automatically pulling off the highway in search of this destination. And its name is Barrel Oak Winery.
Less than an hour from downtown Washington, Barrel Oak invites you for a visit–but demands you spend the day! As impressive as the winery and grounds are, it is approachable and warm. You’ll find everyone enjoying the scene: families, hikers and bikers, amorous couples, and those simply enjoying a nice glass of Seyval Blanc with man’s best friend. In 2012, Wine Enthusiast named Barrel Oak the #1 most family-friendly winery in the entire United States. On the weekends they show family-friendly movies in the loft, and they have a treasure hunt that is distinctly challenging! There could never be any doubt as to the dog-friendly aspect, as well, with their dog-themed décor to canine-related wine names to the placement of jars of dog treats smack dab next to the palate-cleansing crackers. And with 270 acres of rolling, lush grounds, there is a place and space for everyone. Come as you are, leave relaxed and carefree.
Winding up the hill to the main building, you’re greeted with neatly manicured landscaping and twisting lines of vines–and plenty of parking. For this most recent Mothers Day over 1,000 people were in attendance, and Barrel Oak didn’t blink.
If the winery could speak, it would ask you to c’mon in and take a seat. Rich with wood, soft lighting, and cozy furniture, it would be easy to skip right to grabbing a bottle and settling in, but then you’d miss the wonderful tasting.
Don’t let the family-friendliness fool you into thinking this is some watered-down juice joint where kids run amok–neither is true. But the wines are noteworthy; make no mistake these wines are being taken seriously and worth your attention to every subtle nuance.
The full tasting ($11) included the following ten wines:
Whites: 2015 BOWHaus White (65% Vidal Blanc, 17% Rkatsiteli, 10% stainless Chardonnay, 8% Seyval Blanc), 2015 Seyval Blanc, 2014 Petit Manseng, and 2013 Goldie (100% Traminette);
Reds: 2015 Rosé (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc), 2015 BOWHaus Red (69% Chambourcin, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 7% Syrah), 2015 BOWHaus Joy (65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon), 2015 Peanuts Petit Cuvee (49 %Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Barrel Chardonnay, 23% stainless Chardonnay), 2015 Norton, and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.
On tasting the whites: All four of the wines were crisp and refreshing, but each with their own personalities. Like siblings, there were notable similarities, yet each stood on its own and demanded individual attention! Now, I won’t say a parent has a favorite child, but . . . if you made me pick all Sophie’s-Choice-like, it would come down to the BOWHaus White (we took a bottle home, if you needed proof). This wine offered distinct tropical fruit on the nose and delicate citrus on the palate with a nice even finish. With 1.6% residual sugar, it is undeniably refreshing and an ideal match for humid Virginia summers. Also a highlight was the Petit Manseng with notes of wildflowers and green apple. Delightful wines.
On the red side: The BOWHaus Red was bursting with cranberry and cherry and nicely balanced. And the Norton (Virginia’s native grape!) was an absolute treat, dark and inky, with black raspberry on the nose and cinnamon on the finish, and distinct plum across the palate. This one made me want time travel to the winter holidays! The Cabernet Sauvignon was a pleaser, too, oaky and spicy with a notable cherry finish.
Taylor, our server, was awesome. He made sure to give us the detailed rundown on each wine as he poured, as well as the origin of the grapes. (80% are grown at Barrel Oak’s vineyard. The Petit Verdot comes from Washington State). Best of all he knew the answers to any questions I might have had, and offered knowledge on their award winners. And the success and quality of these wines is evident: Barrel Oak produces 125,000+ bottles of wine each year, almost all sold to the 70,000+ visitors who stop by the winery.
Not to mention, our server also mentioned he was moving toward a plant-based lifestyle. Attaboy, Taylor!
After the tasting, I had to get a glass of the BOWHaus Red and stroll the grounds. Everyone can find a place here, with multiple tasting bars on the first floor, one in the loft, and even more outside. I lost count at nine. (and note: there are oodles of clean restrooms, lost count of those, as well. May sound silly, but it matters.) There could be a dozen parties going on and you might not be the wiser.
Pack a picnic or enjoy the snacks offered by Barrel Oak (on some nights they even have brick oven pizza!) You won’t find a shortage of places to set up your food. Besides the many seating areas inside and under cover, they have several dozen spaced-out picnic tables.
And strolling along the vines and around the gorgeous acreage, you will find many treasures, including antique plows and grape harvesting equipment . . . and the occasional buttercup!
Barrel Oak is located in Delaplane, Virginia (on a hill in view of neighboring Blue Valley Winery). Well worth the drive to the country. Don’t let the playfulness of this winery fool you. These are serious wines, just made seriously fun.
Barrel Oak Winery, 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane, Virginia.
Want to tour another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!