Updated: Sep 1, 2019
Bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy at a winery is one of our favorite pastimes. But we’ve learned several lessons over the years to enhance our winery picnic experience. Here are some of our suggestions on how to have a picnic at a winery and avoid some unexpected pitfalls.
1. Don’t assume that a winery allows outside food. Check the website or call ahead. Some wineries, like Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton, Virginia on the Nelson County Wine Trail, sell light fare and allow outside food for picnics in designated areas.
2. Have a plan. This may sound obvious, but it’s crucial. In the beginning we’d just shoot for an area that had several wineries, hoping to luck into a spot we really liked. Much as this appeals to my sense of adventure (and we’ve uncovered some great little finds this way), it didn’t always work out. Sometimes we’d end up at a winery that was too crowded for a picnic or had wine we didn’t care for. Now we target where we want to enjoy our winery picnic experience and include a backup destination just in case that falls through.
3. Consider what atmosphere you’re looking for. For instance, some wineries specifically cater to dogs. Examples include Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, Virginia, which is dog-themed, and 8 Chains North in Waterford, Virginia, which keeps a bowl of doggy treats at the entrance and has a fenced-in dog park. Some wineries encourage party buses or children; others won’t allow them. Some offer live music, and some wineries are more attractive than others. Others might offer additional amenities you’re interested in, like Doukénie Winery in Hillsboro, Virginia, which allows fishing on its property.
4. Keep your picnic essentials in one place. We used to scramble to pull together plastic utensils, paper plates, napkins and the like. It can quickly become a time-consuming chore. We’ve learned to keep a shopping bag filled at the ready with our equipment. Our bag will include water, tin foil, sandwich bags for leftovers, trash bags, twist ties, paper towels, and cups. One thing you probably won’t need is a corkscrew, since the winery will open whichever bottle you choose for your picnic.
5. Check to see if your intended picnic destination is hosting an event at the time you want to visit. It’s increasingly common for wineries to attract visitors by offering lectures, yoga, or other activities. A great website to find out whether a winery is hosting an event in an area is localwineevents.com; that way you won't have to research wineries individually. If you were looking for serenity in your winery picnic experience, but the winery you've targeted will be hosting an event, you may want to picnic there another time. These events can draw crowds, making it harder to get parking and a picnic table. On the other hand, some wineries host events to augment the winery picnic experience. Stinson Vineyards, in Crozet, Virginia on the Monticello Wine Trail sometimes hosts Tailgate Thursdays to encourage picnics on the property.
6. Tread carefully when having an indoor picnic at a winery. The number of wineries allowing indoor picnics is dwindling, as more of them now offer their own food. Two notable exceptions as of this writing are Morais Vineyards and Winery in Bealeton, Virginia, part of the Fauquier County Wine Trail, and 8 Chains North. If you’re looking to picnic in the winter, or if you’re concerned that the weather may turn against you and you’ll need indoor refuge, call ahead and double check.
We hope you enjoyed these suggestions for what to keep in mind when having a picnic at a winery! Cheers to your next picnic – please feel free to send us photos of your next winery picnic experience.
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