It seems counterintuitive: Even though the scenic beauty makes you think, I could retire today, get a little place on this hill and watch the clouds track across the fields forever, there’s something about the Shenandoah Valley that urges you to keep moving. As long as American history has been recorded, the valley has been a natural highway for people on the move. Large armies once passed this way: Bands of Iroquois and Catawba waged war on each other here until the 18th century; and both Union and Confederate forces used the Shenandoah as an avenue of invasion during the Civil War. These days, long-haul truckers fill the rest stops along I-81, driving out of their way to avoid clogged Eastern interstates, while hikers revel in the protected 101-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Shenandoah National Park.
Whether you come to soak up the history or the natural beauty (or the wine), one thing is certain: You, too, will inevitably be drawn to see what’s just over the horizon.
Wine country in Virginia? It’s not as outlandish as it sounds. Renowned oenophile Thomas Jefferson considered Virginia’s climate perfect for planting vineyards, and President Obama thought a Virginia sparkling wine, Thibaut-Janisson Brut, elegant enough to serve at his first state dinner. Blind taste tests have placed several Virginia wines in the same league as offerings from California and France. With its dozens of wineries, the growing area just outside the Shenandoah near Charlottesville is a perfect place to spend an afternoon.
It’s hard to top Jefferson Vineyards for historic significance, since the land was first planted by the author of the Declaration of Independence. The view takes in Jefferson’s nearby Monticello, a historic house that itself demands a visit. The distinctive domed mansion, designed by Jefferson, is filled with artifacts from his presidency and life. Tip: Avoid waiting around for an open spot by booking your tour online. Nightly one-hour Signature Tours (May through September) take smaller groups to areas that other tours don’t see, including the stunning third-floor dome room.
Jefferson Vineyards: 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Charlottesville; 800.272.3042; jeffersonvineyards.com