As you’ve no doubt figured out by now, there are heaps of choices when it comes to planning a wedding (including a rehearsal dinner!), but choosing a venue is the most important one. It can dictate so many other things.
If you have your sights set on a Virginia winery, be aware that most require you to purchase their wine for serving. Cideries are a bit more flexible, as in the case of Castle Hill, which requires couples to buy three cases of cider for an event, but allows outsider wine and beer.
Choose a restaurant and you may be required to work with its limited wine list or, in some cases, order something from its wholesalers. Non-winery venues like Old Metropolitan Hall, Alumni Hall, The Space Downtown, Darden, and James Monroe’s Highland are the most flexible, allowing you to bring in your own wine and beer. Local independent wineshops will likely deliver to your venue and, bonus, are the best source of value for your budget. Here are our area picks—wherever you end up—for the best sips at your rehearsal dinner or on your special day.
Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
Claude Thibaut and Manuel Janisson bring to this sparkling wine generations of tradition from the Champagne region of France. They have captured the flavors and essence of the Virginia terroir. The Cuvée, made of 100 percent Chardonnay from the Monticello appellation, has vibrant aromas of pear and ripe apples; the taste is perfectly balanced, crisp, and refreshing.
Pair with: crudites, appetizers, or save it for the toasts.
Early Mountain Vineyards Rosé 2018
(Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot)
Pale in color, this fresh, appealing rosé attracts with aromas of strawberries enlivened with notes of peach and white flowers. Offer it as an aperitif or serve it with almost any dish.
Pair with: anything spicy (like mini taco hors d’oeuvres).
King Family Vineyards Crosé NV
Done in the traditional Provençal style but with a darker color, this is a 100 percent varietal Merlot dry rosé. The nose opens with red and white cherry. The mouth is dry, fresh, and round with a cranberry finish. It’s great as an aperitif, but rich enough for a main course.
Pair with: Mediterranean food or the cheese course. It’s also nice with salmon.
Jump Mountain Winery Grüner Veltliner 2017
Husband and wife team David Vermillion and Mary Hughes produce only some 500 cases a year in their humble Shenandoah Valley winery, but those wines are of a high quality. Their Grüner Veltliner is a perfect summer aperitif. Think Sauvignon Blanc from another dimension: vibrant and citrusy with a bit of green herbs and a hint of white pepper on the finish.
Pair with: salads or, unexpectedly, fried chicken.
Early Mountain Vineyards Five Forks White Blend 2018
The Five Forks white is a delightful blend of a richly fruited grape, Petit Manseng, and a crisp and vibrant grape, Sauvignon Blanc. The result is a pleasing marriage of a soft, juicy palate and a lively acidity. Every sip desires another.
Pair with: roast chicken, fish dishes, sausage.
Stinson Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Stinson has two way-cool concrete egg fermenters in which the Sauvignon Blanc is made. The eggs provide for a fast fermentation with very little reduction (sulfur) and also gives the finished wine minerality, complexity, body, and texture. This texture, showing itself as a creaminess on the palate, adds to the pleasure this wine affords. Notes of yellow citrus, green herbs, and a soft acidity nicely round out the package.
Pair with: salmon with any kind of citrus or herb preparation.
Early Mountain Vineyards Foothills Red Blend 2017
(Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and others)
Made in the classic Merlot-based Bordeaux-style, this synergistic combination of Merlot and Cabernet Franc creates an interplay of ripe black fruits with the complex herbal notes of the Cab Franc. A lingering finish shows a soft murmur of black olive from the Syrah.
Pair with: any red meat or even barbecue.
Ox-Eye Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2016
Grown on the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ox-Eye’s Cab Franc is a consistent performer. It has a lightness of being combined with a soft finish. Spicy red and black fruit aromas are leavened with intriguing green bell pepper notes.
Pair with: salmon, chicken, mini sliders.
Jump Mountain Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
The glorious vintage of 2015 produced this elegant red Bordeaux-style wine. Aromas of cassis combine with a mineral note and a robust body to make a well-rounded wine that lingers on the palate. Pour us another.
Pair with: steak.
If you’re backed into a corner, wine-wise, at your venue, try adding a little extra Virginia flare with Flying Fox Vermouth. Produced in four seasonal batches each year, the summer vermouth shows peach, nectarine, and grapefruit notes, spiced with wild heather and elderflower. Pass this recipe on to your bartender for your signature cocktail—it’s a favorite on the vineyard’s list of go-to “foxtails.”
2 oz. Summer Vermouth
1 oz. Virginia Distillery Whisky
a dash of peach bitters
Garnish with a slice of fresh peach.