Fauquier County Wine Tasting & Competition
Photos: Faith Maddox Photography

Fauquier County Wine Tasting & Competition

Get your ballots (and glasses) ready! The third annual Fauquier County Wine Tasting and Competition returns this year on Saturday, February 25.

“There are many wine events in the spring and fall, but we wanted to do something in the winter [when not a lot else is going on],” explains Fauquier County Tourism Coordinator Catherine Payne.

The day long event will be held again at Airlie, a hotel and conference center located on 300+ acres in Warrenton, Va. While only about an hour from DC, the retreat offers stunning landscapes amid charming old-world style buildings. Once an elite destination for world leaders and diplomats, the estate is now making itself open to the public and hosting events such as the Tasting Competition.

There are two wine tasting shifts – one beginning at 12:30 p.m. and one at 3:30 p.m. – and each is 2.5 hours. During the tasting, guests will have the opportunity to taste through signature wines from 15 Virginia wineries. The wines will also be paired with featured hors d’oeuvres prepared by the Airlie kitchen. Some highlights from the 2016 event included Barrel Oak Winery’s reserve chardonnay paired with beet and chèvre mousse garnished with beet greens and candied apple, and Morais Vineyards and Winery’s touriga nacional alongside duck breast prosciutto with figs, sweet and sour shallots, and a grape glaze.

Enjoy live music while you stroll among the wine booths, and if you need a little break from tasting, you can visit the wine experience area where you can learn about different wine-related topics. If you find some new favorites, you’ll also be able to purchase bottles to take home.

There will also be a number of professionally-judged awards, including an additional category for the best rosé, dessert or sparkling wine. The favorite “Tasters’ Choice” red wine in 2016 was Barrel Oak Winery’s 2013 cabernet sauvignon, and the winning white was Desert Rose Ranch and Winery’s 2015 Ole Moo Moo – a vidal blanc/viognier blend. The professional judges awarded Best in Show to Naked Mountain Winery and Vineyards for their quality white and red wines.

If the tasty hors d’oeuvres caught your attention, you’ll also want to participate in the intimate wine pairing dinner later in the evening. The five-course meal will again be prepared by Airlie chefs, and each course will be showcased alongside wines from the participating wineries. Tickets for the main tasting and competition are $35, and dinner tickets are $95.

The event is a fantastic way to taste through the great variety of wines being produced throughout Virginia without having to drive from tasting room to tasting room. This annual event continues to grow and improve – last year’s event attracted more than 350 wine lovers to participate in the competition and tasting. Tickets for both the tasting and dinner must be purchased online via Eventbrite in advance; there will be no sales at the door.

Tickets are $35-$95, and can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com. This year’s participating wineries include Arterra Wines, Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn, Barrel Oak Winery, Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery, Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint, Desert Rose Ranch & Winery, Miracle Valley Vineyard, Molon Lave Vineyards, Naked Mountain Winery & Vineyards, Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, Three Fox Vineyards, Pearmund Cellars, Vint Hill Craft Winery and Narmada Winery.

Airlie: 6809 Airlie Rd. Warrenton, VA; 540-347-1300; www.airlie.com

Inside Scoop with Brian Roeder
Owner, Barrel Oak Winery

On Tap: What is new at this year’s wine tasting competition?
Brian Roeder: This year, there will be a series of tables set up where people can truly learn about the winemaking and growing process.

OT: Tell us about the competitive aspect of the event.
BR: For us, we’re not competing against other wineries around the world, it’s more just the local places. It’s more of a gathering of family, friends and peers.

OT: What makes this event special?
BR: You’re on this rural campus in an old building with all this charm. All the winery owners are here together. We’re in a beautiful location, we’re all together and we’re all drinking wine


Tess Ankeny

Tess has been writing wine-related features for On Tap since 2014. She is a Certified Sommelier (CS), Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and a Certified Wine Educator (CWE).