If you drive around Albemarle County, Virginia long enough, you’ll eventually leave the rolling hillsides of the uber-rich and find yourself in the humbler Appalachian vales of Greene County. There, somewhere near the village of Dyke, the real fun of looking for the Stone Mountain Vineyards begins.
The Blue Ridge Mountains will lure you from the west. You’ll probably miss the dirt road turn off to the winery a couple of times, but that’s okay. Don’t bother relying on a GPS unit because your monitor will read something like, “Entering unknown area, use caution.” Your car’s computer will be whacked by the presence of a road that jumps 1700 feet from about sea-level to the sky in a matter of several hundred yards.
If you’ve ever dreamed of driving up a hill so steep that your vehicle flips over front to back, you won’t enjoy this climb. But it’s really not so bad. Bolivia’s “Death Road” is reputedly more dangerous. Sure, this Stone Mountain climb is not so much a roadway as it is a rutted goat path, a dirt track without a guard rail or even a recognizable pull off. And once the climb begins, rest assured there’ll be no turning back. You just lean forward, pray (if you’re so inclined) that no one else will be coming around that hair-pin curve above you, or just hope like hell that you will make it.
After you park at the beautiful and rustic winery that’s built into the side of the mountain, you’re ready to enter and ask the tour guides, “How ’bout that road?” You’ll probably get a nod that says, “Nothin’ to it, we’re here even in winter, though we’re closed December through February.” That said, you have earned your drinks. You can buy a $5 tasting (11 wines) or a $7 tasting (15 wines) and, if you’re like me, you’ll agree that the wines are better than average. The company I kept on this heavenward excursion seemed to favor the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonay, buying a few bottles to take back down to earth. But now it’s time for you to step outside to the wrap-around deck for your reward: the finest views from any winery in the Old Dominion…
You rest a while, taking in the long views of piedmont and southern mountains, thankful for the good tires and brakes that got you into this air of vultures, hawks and eagles. Hopefully they’ll be good to you on your descent, as well. There really isn’t any other way to go, unless you borrow wings from your friends above the skyline. Someday you might even read a short review about this interesting winery in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The writer will advise any future visitor to Stone Mountain Vineyards to drive up in a well-made vehicle, or better yet, borrow a friend’s “piece of shit pickup truck.” In any case, enjoy.
The last two posts about your ventures in the mountains of Virginia brought back very pleasant memories for me. I recognize names of roads and places, but would have to look at a map to see if I’ve been through there. Used to take back road trips out that way 4-5 times a year in my previous life. I do miss mountains, even short ones.
Ken, I take it that you lived there for a while and visited for a spell or two. I’m just getting used to the Charlottesville area, but used to live in northern VA back in the 70s. Good place to visit at this time of year.
I used to belong to a rod and gun club about 50 miles east of Richmond, something my ex father in law got me involved with. I walked away, being a gentleman, when I got divorced. Big mistake, I shouldn’t have done that. I would drive out there those 4-5 times a year. Main highways to get there, back roads to head back home to Illinois. Taking back roads through West Virginia was my favorite even though it would take an hour to go 10 miles at times. It’s hard to watch the winding, twisting road and look out over the vistas at the same time.
Ken, West Virginia roads are fun to travel on when you have the time and the weather’s right. Rural VA roads, too, are fun if you can find them before they’re suburbanized.
It was nice to read about this, and the fam’s adventures. I was kind of in the mountains today…Stuck between some of the Highland ridges.
Alyssa, You would’ve liked the climb, really crazy, and sorta like your new Highlands….