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Southern spirits

Courtesy Virginia Tourism Corporation

With nearly 200 wineries, Virginia is indeed for lovers, especially wine lovers. “It’s difficult to pinpoint any area in our state that offers more wine experiences than others,” said Richard Lewis, public relations manager for the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

“When thinking about groups, I imagine it would be fun to visit wineries that offer the whole experience — not only the winemaker who meets and greets you, takes you through the testing and barrel rooms, but also a beautiful place to enjoy a meal and a gift shop.”

Barboursville Vineyards, not far from James Madison’s Montpelier and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, is a one-time plantation owned by a sixth-generation heir to a family wine enterprise.

Visitors are welcomed to Barboursville’s tasting room in a northern Italian-style farmhouse where more than 15 award-winning wines are offered. A tour of a historic mansion, a stroll around the estate park, cooking classes and a meal at the elegant Palladio Restaurant can also be on the itinerary.

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains above the Rock Castle Gorge Wilderness Area, the Chateau Morrisette Winery was once described by the owner as “a hobby that got out of hand.” Today, producing 19 different wines, it is one of the largest wineries in Virginia.

Although the Potomac Point Winery is new to northern Virginia, the Mediterranean-style venue has won more than 70 prestigious medals from major local and international competitions in the past three years. Groups can either eat a meal at the Le Grand Cru Bistro or enjoy a catered antipasto platter or an entire feast at the pavilion area.

Asheville, N.C.
For three years in a row, Asheville has been voted BeerCity USA in an online poll by BeerCity USA.

“With eight breweries within city limits, our Asheville Brews Cruise has also been voted one of the top brewery tours in the country,” said Dodie Stephens, senior communications manager for the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Because there are so many breweries downtown, you can take a walking tour; but groups will probably want to take a riding tour, sip your way through Asheville — all with a designated driver.”

The tour includes a behind-the-scenes look at three or four breweries and a look at the stainless-steel brew kettles and fermenters where science and passion turn malted grain, hops, yeast and water into beer. “And, each stop includes generous samples,” said Stephens.

One of those breweries is the Highland Brewing Co., the oldest brewery in the South. “Visitors can taste a variety of brews, from their best-selling Gaelic to their winter, seasonal Cold Mountain Ale. There is a stage inside and one in their beautiful meadow where music is often offered,” said Stephens.

The Green Man Brewery, offering English-style beers, is a small venue and a favorite of soccer fans. It is famous not only for its sports atmosphere but also for its pretzels and mustard, which go so well with its brews.

At the Wedge Brewing Co., visitors can enjoy music and even classic movies in a restored building once used to store slaughtered hogs. “This is an artsy and cool place in our River Arts District. Metal art workers have created such an urban atmosphere,” said Stephens.

The Pisgah Brewing Co. is where local residents go to hang out and enjoy bluegrass music.

“One of the most popular breweries, Pisgah is the Southeast’s only certified organic brewery. It’s located in a beautiful setting and even offers an art gallery,” said Stephens.

Visitors can enjoy not only Asheville’s Brews Cruise but also any of its several festivals. There is at least one for every season, among them Brewgrass, a celebration of brews and bluegrass.