Virginia Back Roads: Finding History, Natural Areas, and Wine

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Virginia Back Roads: Finding History, Natural Areas, and Wine

I’ve done a great deal of exploring the United States in the past year, but only recently started taking a look at my own back yard here in Virginia. Sometimes it takes a foreign visitor to get me to see the local sights. So when Juno Kim of RunawayJuno.com came to town, I decided I’d try to show her some of the back roads of Virginia. We started with the Northern Neck.

At Washington Birthplace National Monument.

History

On a small, elevated, breezy plateau where Popes Creek and the Potomac River meet is the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. While there isn’t much original in terms of structures and remnants, the site is still a nice place to visit in order to learn about both Washington and the area and time in which he lived.

Just down the road from here is Stratford Hall,  birthplace of Robert E. Lee , and a fine example of a Virginia plantation. Here, unlike Washington’s birthplace, you can walk through the original house as well as view many of the antiques inside on display.

Stratford Hall is privately owned and costs $10 for adults, $5 for children. Both sites are located quite close to one another about 45 miles east of Fredericksburg.

Creations of the blacksmith at George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Natural Areas

Once very much on-the-beaten-track in Washington’s time, Virginia’s Northern Neck is now a quiet landscape of farms, woods, back roads and secluded waterfront properties.

This means it’s home to a few natural areas as well. These include Caledon Natural Area, Bush Mill Stream Natural Area Preserve, Dameron Marsh Natural area, Westmoreland State Park, and Belle Isle State Park.

We choose to visit Westmoreland and Caledon, the former being known for its majestic cliffs and the latter for its quiet walks in the wilderness. The George Washington Birthplace also has a few short easy walks through the woods as well as views of the river.

Wine

Virginia is an up-and-coming producer in the US wine market and the Northern Neck wineries are among the best in the state. Athena Vineyards & Winery, Belle Mount Vineyards, General’s Ridge Vineyard, and Ingleside Plantation Vineyards are just a few.

Juno Kim of RunawayJuno.com tastes wine at Ingleside Winery.

I had my sights set on Ingleside. I had tasted their wines once before when I worked at a boutique wine shop in Fredericksburg. During my time there, I tasted a diverse range of international wines from Chateau La Lagune in Medoc, France to Franz Haas in the foothills of the Italian Alps. But there is nothing like drinking the wine of Virginia terroir.

The Ingleside winery did not disappoint. Not only are their wines elegant, but the tasting experience is enjoyable and educational. My favorites were the Pinot Grigio and Petit Verdot along with their spectacular Cabernet Franc (if you get some of 2007 vintage consider yourself lucky).

As long as I’m at home catching up on work and resting between international jaunts, I’ll continue to check out the lesser known places Virginia, USA.

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Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno
Stephen Bugno has been traveling the world and writing about it for the better part of 20 years. His articles and essays have appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, and Transitions Abroad magazine. He blogs at Bohemian Traveler and edits the independent travel magazine GoMadNomad.com. He most recently set up a tour company offering authentic, small group tours at Unquote Travel. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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