Sip your way through spectacular scenery in Virginia’s lush Shenandoah Valley at these alcoholic beverage producers.
Story by Ginger Warder
Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the historic town of Lexington, Virginia has a cornucopia of tasty reasons to visit, from delicious local foods to quaint horse-drawn carriage tours, from its direct ties to compelling chapters of American history to vigorous hiking trails, modern boutique shops to natural wonders, and so much more.
Surrounded by natural beauty and fertile farmland, this land is also home to a bounty of breweries, wineries, and cideries well worth exploring. What could be better than a tasty beverage with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background? Here’s what you need to know to plan an alcoholic liquid tour of Lexington.
The D.I.Y. Craft Beer Itinerary
Start your liquid tour on Main Street in historic downtown Lexington at Heliotrope Brewery. Its motto, Pax Soles Fermentum (Peace, Sunshine, Fermentation) reflects the founders’ commitment to locally-foraged ingredients native to the Shenandoah Valley. Known for its small-batch ales and lagers, Heliotrope also offers farm-to-table salads and artisanal pizzas to accompany its cold brews.
North of historic downtown on Route 11 is the Devil’s Backbone Outpost Tap Room & Kitchen. Originally inspired by a trip to the Alps, the custom-built brewery uses a German-designed Zeiman-Miyake system to produce Vienna style and seasonal lagers, sparkling ales, and a handful of specialty IPAs. Chow down on bratwurst and sauerkraut to pair with one of the German-inspired brews, go all-American with a burger or wings, or go Southern with some deviled eggs and a catfish sandwich.
Combine sipping and sightseeing by quaffing drinks at nearby Great Valley Farm Brewery and Winery, which boasts breathtaking views. The brewery specializes in Belgian-style ales that include many ingredients grown on its 27-acre farm. The wines also exhibit a European influence with an estate-grown Gruner Veltliner and a Chambourcin Rosé. Traveling with a four-legged family member? Well-behaved pets are welcome on the grounds here.
Fruit for Thought: An Apple & Grape Lovers Tour
Shenandoah Valley has a long reputation for growing excellent apples. The family-owned Halcyon Days Cider Company uses only Virginia apples and no artificial colors or sweeteners in its ciders. Try the Epiphany Hard Apple Cider that highlights Virginia’s famous Albemarle Pippin apples. Kids of all ages will love winding along through the 1.7-mile labyrinth—an orchard maze that weaves walkers through a literal apple history of the world—and gazing upon the stunning views of the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains from the pavilion in the center of the labyrinth. If you make it to the pavilion, the cidery owners promise a special surprise may be waiting for you!
For grape wine, the family-owned Lexington Valley Vineyard, located just 10 minutes northwest of the city, specializes in one of Virginia’s favorite heirloom grapes: Norton, which was first cultivated in the Richmond area in the early 1800s. This winery’s earthy red Norton wine is complex and dry with concentrated notes of blackberries and chocolate; it pairs as well with a European cheese board as it does with Southern barbeque. Other perfect pairings with regional favorites include LVV’s Vidal Blanc with Chesapeake rockfish, or Traminette with Shenandoah rainbow trout. Soak in the views of the vineyards and rolling foothills from the lovely sundeck. Although the winery offers light snacks, you’re welcome to bring a picnic.
The award-winning Rockbridge Vineyard is located off of Interstate 81 between Staunton and Lexington. Owner and vintner Shepherd Rouse fell in love with the wine industry in Germany, working at wineries there and in California before he and his wife found the perfect tract of land in Rockbridge. The winery’s gold medal winners in the annual Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition include the 2017 V d’Or dessert wine—similar to an ice wine—and the 2015 De Chiel Meritage, a reserve Bordeaux blend with spicy notes of black currant.
Whether you prefer kicking back with a craft beer or sipping a luscious Cabernet, Lexington’s liquid itinerary has you covered. Check the winery and brewery websites for special events throughout the year, ranging from live music to outdoor festivals.
Plan A Trip
Lexington, Virginia is home to the first public military college in America—the Virginia Military Institute (VMI)—and also one of the oldest colleges in the country, Washington & Lee University. Robert E. Lee is interred in the lower level of the Lee Chapel on the campus grounds, and infamous Civil War general Stonewall Jackson —a former professor at VMI— is buried in a local cemetery that now bears his name.
The most well-known attraction in the region is Natural Bridge, a high limestone arch that was once one of the country’s most famous natural attractions. Owned by Thomas Jefferson and his family until 1833, Natural Bridge is still a popular tourist attraction. Rockbridge County—named after the geological formation—is also home to the farm where Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper, an invention that forever changed modern farming techniques.
For non-alcoholic sips, don’t miss Lexington Coffee Roasters, which has been craft roasting award-winning fine coffees for nearly 30 years.
Lexington and Rockbridge County Tourism
- Devil’s Backbone Outpost Taproom & Kitchen
- Great Valley Farm Brewery
- Halcyon Days Cider Company
- Heliotrope Brewery
- Lexington Valley Vineyard
- Rockbridge Vineyard
Ginger Warder is a contributor to the Fodor’s Guide to Virginia & Maryland and is the author of Fido’s Virginia.