When Virginia’s first European settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, the Native Americans stated that there were mountains a few days to the west – the Blue Ridge. But before you get to the Blue Ridge, you reach a smaller mountain range about 30 miles to the east.
These Southwest Mountains run from Orange County to Albemarle and Nelson Counties. Thomas Jefferson traveled along the eastern side of these mountains toward Philadelphia and Washington, DC and referred to them as the “Eden of the United States.”
Honah Lee Vineyard sits on the eastern slope of these mountains, midway between the Towns of Orange and Gordonsville, just off of Route 15. Virginia’s larger wineries have something to offer, but Honah Lee feels particularly intimate and personal. Just outside the tasting cabin (yes, it especially feels like a cozy cabin inside) lies their vineyard, on the hill that slopes down to Route 15.
When we visited, Chelsea was our attendant – friendly and informative. Honah Lee grows their own grapes but also sells wines sourced at other Virginia vineyards. While tasting, you’re offered crackers and jams produced by BerryWood Crafters. The entire vibe is “homemade” and rustic. And BerryWood’s jams are for purchase, too.
From the front porch you can enjoy the view eastward and southward, with the vineyard in view. Behind the tasting room is a patio and pergola with a large tent for special occasions like weddings. Honah Lee regularly features guest musicians so check out their website or Facebook page for upcoming entertainment.
Something I like to keep in mind is that this area was once the “wild west” of America. While it doesn’t feel “wild west” in the exciting sense, it offers peace and quiet because this is an area of the state that is not directly on larger roads like I-95 or Routes 29 or 7.
President James Madison’s family, who built their Montpelier plantation just over the mountain to the west (where they could enjoy a front-porch view of the Blue Ridge Mountains), were clearing this land with the help of their enslaved workers back in the 1720s and 1730s. But things change quickly in America, and by the late 1700s families from this area were already moving on to Kentucky to find more land to farm. They left the peace and quiet behind for us.
Farming is still big in Orange County, but it’s nice to see grapes and wine being produced now. For those of us living in Virginia’s larger towns and cities, it’s a fantastic destination to get a change of pace while sipping some fine wine.
Honah Lee Vineyard is on Route 15 approximately mid-way between the Towns of Orange and Gordonsville. It’s not difficult to get to. Just take Route 33 east into Gordonsville from Route 29, or Route 15 north from I-64.