Soaking in the Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farm

Photo by Nicolette Rafferty

In my wine life, one of the joys that I’ve come to genuinely appreciate over the years actually has little to do with (the) wine itself; and yet it can be almost everything…and that is a beautiful winery and its accompanying scenery. Certainly, the wine is critical; but a tremendous view can make what’s in the glass taste even more memorable.

In this regard, Virginia is very blessed. And in my travels to many of the wineries in the state, I’ve encountered everything from beautiful boutique grounds to grand and rolling landscapes filled with perfect rows of viticultural magic. Oftentimes, the structures themselves, with underground wine cellars and soaring tasting rooms, add the final touches to a great wine experience. And sometimes, you don’t have to travel that far to find such a place.

Draped along the southwest shoreline of Lake Manassas, a 770-acre reservoir of untouched scenery located in Gainesville, the Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farm (W@SRF) is a local getaway unlike any other you’ll find in Northern Virginia. Sitting on a pristine 10 acres, the winery takes full advantage of its bucolic surroundings, both complementing and completing the setting with a gorgeous two-story, rustic-chic building and a pergola-covered wraparound porch that overlooks a sizeable bluff, spaciously peppered with 40-plus picnic style tables. Inside, stone fireplaces, old and custom-made wine barrel tables as well as other unique furniture pieces are all designed to envelope you in the look and feel of a rustic lodge, while offering the serenity and beauty of a countryside lake home. In addition, and for those who may prefer a more private setting, there’s a Club Member room on the second story with beautiful original art for sale and its own private deck. Leaning a bit on the more industrial side, it’s a very cool space to enjoy company, food, beer and of course, wine.

Business partners Maria Rafferty and Tom Schrade opened the winery in March 2020, just as all the world was about to change. Representing three generations of two families, they stayed true to their commitment of family (and friends) coming together to serve a common pursuit – to provide both locals and visitors from afar a place to gather, imbibe and absorb breathless natural scenery.

Upon a recent visit, I enjoyed not only such scenery, but a terrific flight of wines including a crisp Pinot Gris, a Kabinett-styled Riesling and a beautiful ruby-colored Chambourcin rose`. The quartet was capped off with a wonderful Cabernet Franc, filled with floral notes, red currant, and a touch of spice. Winemaker J. Ashton Lough, whose work can be found at The Winery at Bull Run, is offering his talents to W@SRF, as they are in the nascent stages of their own wine production. One-quarter acre of vidal blanc is planted, with a hopeful first bottling in 2022/23. Also on the wine horizon is viognier and petit verdot, two wine grapes that have truly flourished throughout Virginia. There’s also an adjacent 10 acres just waiting for the future and rows of vines…all in time.

Speaking of time and finding more ways to spend it at W@SRF, off the grand floor sits an adjacent room called The Dog House Brewery…another sight to behold. Refurbished and repurposed pieces, such as old pews that survived a Culpeper church fire and ornate metal roofing materials that adorn the main wall, contribute to the old pub vibe. A great beer menu is offered as well, courtesy of Maria and Tom’s friends at Cedar Run Brewery and Beltway Brewing Company, including the Love Pipe Light, an American Light Ale inspired by the ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ metal sculpture, called the Love Pipe, which stands tall on the property. Be sure to ask about the great love story attached to it!

Every Friday-Sunday, local food trucks and live entertainment on a beautiful custom-built stage add even more fun to the collective experience.

As Tom will tell you, “This place was built from the land. Friends and family, local workers using local materials. All of it.”

Maria adds, “Our hope is that everyone feels like they’re home when they visit. It’s just so beautiful here.”

So, if a solo walk on the waterfront, or a happy gathering of friends is in your plans this last stretch of 2021, indulge your desires and head over to The Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farm…book a flight of wine, or nab a local brew, and soak up the sun.

Until next time, Happy Vino’ing!

Mark Luna
About Mark Luna 37 Articles
Mark Luna is a Portfolio Rep for Roanoke Valley Wine Company. He holds a WSET Level 3 (Advanced) certification through the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. He is also a certified Italian Wine Scholar, graduating with Honors, through the prestigious Wine Scholar Guild. Both certifications are industry recognized post-nominal accreditations. Through and beyond his work for RVWC, Mark writes, teaches and guest-speaks about wine in a variety of both industry and privately held events. He lives in Warrenton with his family. Mark can be reached at info@winespique.com.

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