Note: This year, holiday budgets may be a little bit tighter than usual as inflation continues and a potential impending recession looms. On the other hand, we’re all also craving some space and time away from home as we enter a holiday season without the doom and gloom of a global pandemic.
Style is putting together a series with suggestions of day trips and staycation ideas for the season that are more budget-friendly than extensive travel. First up is Veritas Illuminated, a lights show and wine tasting just about 75 minutes away from home.
Richmond is known for its hopping beer scene with more than 30 breweries to choose from in the city. Locals, however, typically venture out to Charlottesville and other surrounding mountain towns during the spring and summer months where there’s dozens of vineyards and wineries.
Once the temperatures drop and daylight savings drops, Richmonders tend to stick to their local digs. Not this year, though.
Veritas Vineyards and Winery, tucked away in the hills of Afton, Virginia, this year has launched a lights show and wine tasting experience. Think the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens holiday lights experience plus your pick of craft wine.
“It’s not exactly a unique idea, but I think we have a unique space to carry out this idea and just really bring people together in a warm environment,” says Lindsey Navin, Veritas’ marketing director.
From Nov. 17 through Jan. 8, 2023, guests of Veritas Illuminated have the chance to meander through a 0.3-mile walking trail trimmed with holiday lights and paired with Christmas music. Some of the lights even flash to the beat of the holiday tunes, and unused grapevines are strung with lights just like a Christmas tree.
The idea for Veritas Illuminated was borne from a desire to make the venue a more desirable spot during the cold winter months. Grape growing season in Virginia begins in the spring months and wraps up in early fall.
“We have really beautiful, expansive grounds. There was just a gap in the year between harvest and the beauty of being outdoors and pulling in all the grapes and when everything becomes green again,” Navin says. “We want people to be able to enjoy Veritas throughout the year—365—not just when everything is growing on the vine.”
Veritas will remain open during its normal operating hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, but will stop taking reservations at that time to open to guests attending Veritas Illuminated. While the walking trail with lights is ticketed ($15 for adults and $10 for children 13 and under), the tasting room is open to guests without a reservation. The tasting room and walking trail are open until 9 p.m. Wine is not included in the ticket price, but glasses range from about $12 to $14 and bottles cost between $24 and $60.
While dogs are always welcome on the brick patios and picnic areas at Veritas, they won’t be allowed on the walking trails, so plan accordingly.
In addition to the typical Veritas tasting menu, the winery is also serving hot cocoa and mulled wine, which is a spiced wine served hot. This is a desirable option after walking the trail since wine glasses won’t keep your hands warm.
“Make sure you wear good shoes — the trail is unpaved and it’s through the woods. If you wouldn’t wear your shoes in the woods, I probably wouldn’t wear them here,” Navin advises. “Dress warmly.”
Another way to warm up after walking the light trail outside is ordering some sweet potato bisque—or, even better, grabbing a s’mores-making kit to enjoy around the fire outside. The kits are the perfect size for a date night with enough supplies for each person to have two s’mores. Hot dogs and chicken tenders are also available for the little ones, or really anyone who loves the classic comfort foods.
Before or after walking the trail, wine is best enjoyed by the roaring fire inside the tasting room, or even one of the “igloos” outside. These plastic tents shaped like the infamous ice houses trap in the heat and make for a cozy spot to enjoy a glass of Red Star, a red wine with hints of black cherry, raspberry, and strawberry, which tastes like Christmas in a cup.
Veritas Illuminated makes for an easy holiday getaway that can be fun for any groups you’re getting together this season, whether it’s for a date night, a family get together, or a new tradition with friends.
Plus, it will get you out of the city, even just for an evening.