Sip your way through Greater Williamsburg
by Arielle Patterson, with updates by Julie Matthews
There’s a new way to experience Greater Williamsburg, but one could say that it’s as old as this historic region. While early settlers were building forts and establishing their presence in the area, they also brewed their first beers and planted their first vines.
Many new producers of fine beverages have been opening their doors and welcoming patrons to imbibe. This has allowed visitors and locals a chance to experience high quality, handcrafted beverages produced by pioneers in their field. The Williamsburg Tasting Trail is a great way to explore the best beverages in the Greater Williamsburg area.
Establishments of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail
The venues chosen to be a part of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail were carefully selected. Each winery, brewery, distillery and meadery chosen has to display a dedication to their craft, constantly perfecting and improving their methods. They also have to meet the highest standards in their ingredient selection. Not only have these establishments perfected the art of making these amazing spirits, but they’ve also shown a desire to expand their repertoire through creative new processes and flavors.
Wine lovers are making Virginia a go-to destination. Since the days of the founding fathers, Virginia has been known for its excellent vintages. Five of the best wineries in the state are included in the Williamsburg Tasting Trail. These wineries make up the Colonial Wine Trail and are all located within one hour of Williamsburg.
Start your journey at the Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery, located on White Oak Farm, in a scenic area just across the James River from Jamestown. Besides the winery, red Angus cattle are raised here, and where you will find the World’s Tallest Goat Tower. Come enjoy some wine on the outside patio or in one of the multiple rooms—and see some goats!
Next be sure to stop by The Williamsburg Winery, the largest winery in Virginia. Serving classic, European-style wines, The Williamsburg Winery is known for its award-winning vintages. A tasting experience here will also include beautiful views, a delicious meal at one of the winery’s dining venues and possibly an overnight stay at Wedmore Place. Williamsburg Winery even has a 1,300-square-foot tasting room and wine bar in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square. Visit the location and enjoy a tasting flight on the picturesque outdoor patio.
Heading north will take you to Gauthier Vineyard, where you will find a large selection of wines and a memorable wine tasting experience. Besides a vineyard and winery, this is a family-owned working farm and equestrian center. Just several miles away you will also find Saudé Creek Vineyards. Enjoy live music every weekend. Saudé is the perfect place for a mellow, relaxing experience with your closest friends. Take in awe-inspiring views of the scenic Pamunkey River from their wrap around porch. Incredible varietals and a warm, welcoming atmosphere are always found here.
The opulent feel of New Kent Winery will give you a taste for the good life. Drink a dusky merlot while taking in the historic buildings, constructed with century-old reclaimed materials. Just north of Richmond is James River Cellars Winery. With a distinctive Virginian flavor, this family-owned winery has a wide selection of wines that you won’t want to miss. The last stop on the trail takes you to Upper Shirley Vineyards, on a dazzling riverside estate in Charles City. The winery boasts 19 acres of vineyards that produce about 3,000 cases of award-winning wine per year.
Amiraj is one of two restaurants in Williamsburg to have received the esteemed Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Their world-class wine list has 170 wines from around the globe including selections from world-renowned French, California and Indian vineyards.
Both locals and visitors alike are enjoying the variety of flavors that the microbrew industry produces. Breweries in Greater Williamsburg have appeared as strong contenders in this field. Their beverages range from dark, thick stouts to light and fruity saisons. They stand alone or pair perfectly with some of our favorite foods, combining for a mouth-watering experience.
With 16 beers on tap daily, visitors are sure to find something they love at Alewerks Brewing Company. Be sure to grab a delectable half-pound soft pretzel with your lager. The Virginia Beer Company knows that nothing goes better with an ice-cold brew than local food and corn hole.
The Cannon Tap Room at Brass Cannon Brewing Co. is unique in that it’s the only craft brewer in Williamsburg that does not distribute to stores or restaurants. You only get their amazing beer by visiting them. Their decision about distribution is their revolt against “mass produced craft beer,” instead deciding to be a true craft microbrewery. Their Angry Scot-Wee Heavy Scottish ale is unapologetically anti-IPA and more devoted to malt than hops. But they also have IPAs, including their “SKULL” New England IPA, and offer up to six taps of nano-batches. You might find a citrusy Fresh Squeeze ale or their jalapeno-pineapple “Maui Hot.” Brass Cannon brews “beer for people who love beer.” Unique to Brass Cannon is their replica of The Frenchman’s Map, which has been carved and painted across the entire ceiling of The Cannon Tap Room.
Billsburg Brewery is a destination brewery and event venue in Jamestown dedicated to the artisan craft of small-batch brewing. Amber Ox, a Williamsburg brewpub, pairs creative cuisine with craft beer that is brewed on site, while providing a casual setting to sip and savor. Precarious Beer Hall brings modern, creative and expertly crafted beers right to your table.
The Talleysville Brewing Company, which opened in October 2020, is located at New Kent Winery and is the county’s first Farm Brewery. Here you will find lager, stout, pilsner and IPA, and eventually more seasonal beers.
The great thing about these breweries is the ability to sample. Most locations offer a flight so that you can taste the diversity of flavors and find something you love.
Distilleries and Meadery
Whisky, bourbon, gin, rum and mead, the final locations on the Williamsburg Tasting Trail, offer high-quality spirits. Pay homage to the past at Eight Shires Distillery, formerly known as Williamsburg Distillery. This venue uses 18th-century techniques and recipes to produce spirits with historical significance. While there, be sure to sample the only bourbon in the world made with Indian corn.
Next, head over to Copper Fox. The handcrafted whiskies are like no other in the world—with malted barley smoked in American fruitwood. Williamsburg’s first meadery, Silver Hand Meadery, introduces contemporary spirit enthusiasts to the ancient honey-based fermented drink, mead.
Plan ahead and plot your tasting experience. All visitors are encouraged to drink responsibly. It may be wise to include a designated driver in your tasting trail adventure.