By Laura Longhine
Henry James may have praised the summer afternoon, but here in central Virginia, where daytime temperatures regularly climb above 90, summer evenings are the better bet. And the best way to spend them is out in the open air, listening to live music, with a glass of wine in hand and a view of the mountains spreading out before you.
On the first Wednesday of every month, May through September, you can head out after work to the heart-stoppingly gorgeous grounds of King Family Vineyards. The winery stays open till 8:30pm, with a band on the patio and an expansive lawn to spread a blanket on and enjoy an icy bottle of their ever-popular Crosé rosé. There’s usually a food truck or two parked up front, or you can bring your own picnic, the perfect choice for grazing toddlers and it’s-too-hot-to-cook grown-ups alike.
For parents like me, it’s a godsend, a chance to catch up with friends while the kids roam the fields or take a peek at the polo horses in the stables nearby. But the evenings are also popular with college kids in khaki and sundresses, and older couples who set up their chairs near the band, and maybe even dance. Best of all? It’s free.
It’s a little more crowded up at Carter Mountain Orchard, but the sunset views over Charlottesville are spectacular at the venue’s Thursday Sunset Series, held from late May through September from 5-9pm. The on-site concessions offer causal food options (not to mention apple cider donuts), and there’s local wine and Bold Rock cider on tap.
And if you’re willing to pay for a ticket, Veritas Vineyards’ popular Starry Nights (second Saturdays) offers brand-name bands like ’80s cover favorites The Legwarmers, with price options from $20 for general admission to $80 for a waiter-service, three-course dinner on the deck.
Wherever you end up, it’s hard to go wrong. So gather your friends, fill your glasses, and watch the Blue Ridge mountains blur around the edges, as the Virginia twilight settles around you. This is why you live here.