The “Spirits” of Lake Anna
by Irene Luck
Lake Anna has its share of ghost stories floating around, particularly because it experienced its share of battles during the Civil War. However, there is another story of “spirits” that also attracts visitors – the liquid kind of spirits.
If you are looking for something new or different to do while at Lake Anna, why not visit one of the wineries, breweries or distilleries in the area? There are several that are within an hour drive of anywhere on the lake, and you can visit several in a day’s jaunt with a little planning.
Lake Anna Winery
Lake Anna Winery is celebrating nearly three decades of operation and has the distinction of being the oldest winery operating in the Lake Anna region. Owned and operated by the Heidig family since its inception, the vineyards were planted in the early 1980s by the elder Heidigs, Bill (now deceased) and Ann. In 1990, the couple opened the winery along with their sons, Jeff and Eric, who have assumed the day-to-day operations for the past twenty years.
The winery offers more than just tastings; it is a popular spot for events of all types, including festivals and weddings. The Virginia Renaissance Faire is staged at the property for five weekends beginning on Mother’s Day. Lake Anna Winery partners with neighboring wineries for several festivals, including a Heart of Virginia event and a Caribbean Beach Festival in August. The winery’s crew also attends numerous wine festivals in the state and aid in staging the Wine by the Lake event in the Fall. The facility is also a popular spot for local fundraising events, including one by the Humane Society, and other private events throughout the year.
Lake Anna Winery is open for tastings and tours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The business is located at 5621 Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania and can be reached by calling 540-895-5085. To check its schedule of events, visit their website at www.lawinery.net or their Facebook page at Lake Anna Winery.
Another popular winery in the area is 53rd Winery, formerly Cooper Vineyards, located at 13372 Shannon Hill Road in Louisa. The name comes from the fact that Cooper Vineyards was the 53rd farm winery to be licensed by the Commonwealth in July 1999. David and Susan Drillock renamed it when they purchased the business in July 2015.
One of the unique features of 53rd is its “green” tasting room which earned an award for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) with its glass walls to let in the sunlight, solar panels to supplement electrical needs, rainwater harvesting system for irrigation and toilets, and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
The Drillocks have continued the innovations with a state-of-the-art production facility constructed in 2017 from all recyclable materials. The building utilizes LED lights and collects rainwater in a holding pond for irrigation needs on the property.
In addition to the typical tastings you would expect, 53rd Winery offers live music for patrons to enjoy while sampling the variety of award-winning wines. The facility also hosts fundraisers for local organizations, features a private tasting room for up to 20 people, and is available to rent for private parties, weddings, and receptions. The business is also part of the Heart of Virginia trail and has special festivals and events throughout the summer.
53rd Winery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday during April and daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. May through December. The phone number is 540-894-1536, and more information on upcoming events is available on their website at www.53rdwinery.com or their Facebook page at Cooper Vineyards.
Belmont Farm Distillery
Looking for something with a little more kick than wine? Plan a visit to Belmont Farm Distillery in Culpeper County, the first craft whiskey distillery in the United States. This “Grain to Glass” business has been in operation for 30 years and is one of a few that handles the entire process from growing to bottling on the same property.
“We grow the grain, harvest the grain, store the grain, mash the grain, distill the mass, barrel and age the whiskey, and bottle on premise,” said Jeannette Miller, one of the owners. “We then market the whiskey in Virginia as well as to other states and countries.”
While whiskey has been available to the public since the repeal of Prohibition, production was long limited to large scale distilleries making thousands of gallons an hour. Individuals who made whiskey at home weren’t able to sell their product to others. However, Chuck and Jeannette Miller set out to change that.
Chuck is the master distiller and other owner who got the idea for distilling whiskey from his grandfather. His grandpa had an illegal distillery “back in the day.” In order to sell the farm product legally, the Millers had to get permission from the local governing body first. Then it was off to the General Assembly and the required approval from the federal government.
Copper kettle production gives Belmont Farm’s whiskey its distinctive taste. It is produced slowly and handled with care to preserve all of the aroma and taste of a fine, fresh whiskey. In 1999, Tim Smith heard about the Millers and the distillery and invited Chuck to speak at his Moonshiners Jamborie in Chatham. A friendship blossomed over their shared passion and Tim, who gained fame from the Discovery Channel show “Moonshiners,” is a frequent visitor to Belmont Farm Distillery.
When it came time for Tim’s product to become legal, he naturally thought of his good friend Chuck, and the two worked together to bring Tim’s famous moonshine recipe to the world. Climax Moonshine was officially born and is now marketed in the USA and overseas. Belmont Farm Distillery now produces a large amount of Climax product.
When visiting Belmont, patrons 21 years of age and over can take a tour and learn about the process and history of making whiskey. They can also taste the whiskies and purchase them – as well as other items – in the gift shop.
Numerous events are staged at the distillery beginning in late April. One of the most popular is the Bourbon, BBQ, and Bluegrass series staged during the summer. This includes not only a sample of bourbon, but also displays by the Virginia Distillers Roadshow. This allows other distilleries to present their products for tasting and purchase.
Belmont Farm produces a variety of whiskeys in addition to Climax, including Kopper Kettle Whiskey, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Bourbon, Apple Whiskey, Single Malt, Virginia Lightning Corn Whiskey, and Moonshine Corn Whiskey. Virginia Lightning is also available in butterscotch, peach, apple pie, and cherry flavors.
Looking for a unique locale for a special event or wedding? Belmont Farm Distillery is available on a limited basis for those as well.
Located at 13490 Cedar Run Road in Culpeper, Belmont Farm is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The phone number is 540-825-3207, and more information on special events and products is available at www.belmontfarmdistillery.com or its Facebook page at Belmont Farm Distillery.
Lake Anna Taphouse
Looking for a place to take visitors to taste the best of the area without driving all over? Try the Lake Anna Taphouse, where a selection of beers and ciders from Virginia and other craft breweries are available on a rotating and seasonal basis.
Brothers Eric and Brian Gilbreth opened the Taphouse late last summer on the shores of Lake Anna. They now offer patrons an opportunity to taste their spectrum of beers and ciders, as well as enjoy a glass or two with friends and neighbors. The brothers have continued to add amenities to the business since opening, including corn hole games, fire pits, and special events.
On the water for a day of fun and need a break and a refreshing beverage? You can visit the Taphouse, which is located near the Route 208 Bridge. Dock and come up for a beverage, a game of corn hole, or meet new friends while trying one of the seasonal beers or ciders on draft. There is a limited food selection available at the establishment, or you can order from one of the nearby restaurants across the parking lot.
Lake Anna Taphouse is located at 208 Lake Front Drive in Mineral. The business is currently open from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays, from 12 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 12 to 8 p.m. on Sundays. For more information on the current beverages on tap, visit their website at www.lakeannataphouse.com or Facebook page at Lake Anna Taphouse. Their phone number is 540-634-7500.
This is just a sampling of the wineries, breweries, and distilleries you can visit on a day trip from Lake Anna. For more ideas, check out www.virginia.org for a list of establishments nearby, as well as www.virginiawine.org for specific events involving the more that 100 Virginia wineries.