Whisky-Wine Excursions from Shenandoah National Park

Skyland Shuttle Excursions. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.

Shenandoah National Park is Virginia’s crown jewel for outdoor exploration. Here, hiking, biking, birding, wildlife, and relaxation abound in the mountains above the Shenandoah Valley. Trails lead to incomparable summit views as well as breathtaking waterfalls. While there is much to see and much to do within the park, you don’t want to miss out on some the wonderful experiences outside the park, too. Add an extra night to your stay just to see what you might be missing.

Skyland Shuttle Excursions are a new thing at Shenandoah National Park, and the options are growing as demand grows. Just launched in April 2016 is the Whisky-Wine Excursion which visits two nearby wineries and a distillery. The excursions are open to overnight guests of Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, or Lewis Cabins on select Mondays and Fridays.


During my recent visit to Skyland, I had the pleasure of tagging along on a Whisky-Wine Excursion. Our driver, Jerry, was a very knowledgeable gentleman with a passion for the history of Shenandoah National Park and a keen eye for wildlife. We narrowly spared the life of a black snake on Skyline Drive while actively watching for black bears and whitetail deer.

Jerry quizzed me on my SNP knowledge and I think I earned at least a B. I’m told a Park History Excursion could be in the works …

Our first stop was Copper Fox Distillery, a tucked away lab, of sorts, where mastermind distillers work their magic on Northern Neck Virginia-grown barley. Our guide, Tom, gave the room-by-room tour explaining most everything from the malting process to bottling, which is done by hand – labeling, sealing, and all. Tom said everything is done the traditional way at Copper Fox except for the aging. There’s a special process for creating the perfect Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky.

Copper Fox Distillery. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.

Winemaker Bob Claymier with writer Casey L. Higgins and Karen Riddle, owner of Shadow Mountain Escape in Luray.
Winemaker Bob Claymier with writer Casey L. Higgins and Karen Riddle, owner of Shadow Mountain Escape.

Next up was Desert Rose Ranch & Winery, a small vineyard and horse farm that’s big on personality and love. Winemaker Bob Claymier personally offered up his eight wines for tasting, each with a memorable name and a story to go with it. Bob said Ole Moo Moo White, a blend fermented in stainless steel, has been a customer favorite since day one. “Ole Moo Moo” was the name of a moo moo, if you wondered. Tasting options at Desert Rose range from four-for-$5 (red or white) to the Posse (all eight plus two club wines).

Desert Rose’s tasting room is spacious, and outdoor seating gives guests options, too, so we settled in to enjoy our picnic. A fresh Caesar salad as well as cheese, salami, and crackers were more than enough to push us on through the day.

Desert Rose Winery. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.

Our final stop was Rappahannock Cellars, a California style vineyard with a lovely tree-lined walk that makes one linger. The tasting room porch has tables and chairs begging for someone to sit and sip a while. Inside the massive front door is a glass wall giving you a view of the production below. To the right is a glass engraver doing what she does so well, and to the left is what you’ve been looking for: the wine bar.

Sheritage, a Sheri who married her name with Meritage, guided us through our tasting of Rappahannock wines as only she could. Her wit and humor were a sweet cherry on top of a great day, plus she knows her wine and interesting things to do with it. Sheritage makes Ghirardelli brownies and substitutes the prescribed water with their 2014 port, Red Dessert Wine. “It makes them really moist,” she said. Of Solera, a sun-aged Vidal heritage back-blend that has a nutty nose, she recommends basting a turkey or even dashing a bit over your ice cream. #WinningWineIdeas

Sheritage at Rappahannock Cellars. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.
Sheritage of Rappahannock Cellars.

So about that Excursion …

The Details:

  • Add the Whisky-Wine Excursion to your overnight for $70 per person.
  • The shuttle boards at 10:30 a.m. at Skyland. Expect to return by 5 p.m.
  • Destinations include Copper Fox Distillery, Desert Rose Winery, and Rappahannock Cellars.
  • A delicious picnic lunch is included.
  • Tasting fees range from $7 to $10 and are the responsibility of the guest.
  • Guests must be 21 or older to board the shuttle.

Are you ready for your Whisky-Wine Excursion? Book Now

This article was sponsored by Delaware North, authorized concessioner of Shenandoah National Park.

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