Made in Virginia 2020: Drink Winners

Whether your drink of choice is beer, wine, spirits, or cider, Virginia has you covered with local libations.

Photography by Fred + Elliott

Terrestrial Cider 

Castle Hill Cider, Keswick

Castle Hill began making cider in 2011, inspired by the historic roots of its namesake estate and the Albemarle pippin apples first grown there in 1777. The company uses a variety of apples grown both on the cidery’s 600-acre grounds and by a community of local farmers. At 0.4 percent residual sugar, Terrestrial is one of Castle Hill’s dry ciders. The 2019 vintage was crafted with golden russet, Albemarle pippin, Hewes, and Dolgo apples. Bright acidity gives this cider a crisp, clean, refreshing finish. “A magical aspect of cider making is tasting the difference in flavors of apple varieties from year to year,” says cider maker Don Whitaker. “You can taste the terroir of Virginia in every sip.” $17, 

Staff Notes: Crisp and dry, but with a distinct apple flavor. It would make dry wine drinkers love cider.

Bloody Blue Ridge

Back Pocket Provisions, Richmond

Bloodys are better with friends, as illustrated by this mixer, made by Back Pocket Provisions in partnership with Ian Boden from The Shack, Staunton, and Bridget Meagher from Catbird Sauce Co., Charlottesville. With local tomato juice, habaneros from Catbird Farm, miso and tamari Worcestershire, and sweet-and-spicy sorghum hot sauce, this Bloody is rich, spicy, and tangy with tons of umami. “As a business, one of our core values is creative collaboration,” says Back Pocket Founder Will Gray. “The opportunity to work with great food entrepreneurs like Bridget and Ian was especially fun for us, because it let us highlight other artisan brands that are centering local agriculture in their food and products.” $32 (16-oz. three-pack), 

Staff Notes: Very flavorful and complex. Serrano pepper adds a great kick, but the rich tomato flavor keeps you hooked.

Optimal Wit

Port City Brewing Company, Alexandria

The longest operating craft brewery in Northern Virginia, Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company has spent the past decade brewing beer that can stand in the company of some of the world’s finest. Optimal Wit, the company’s flagship beer, has been a bestseller since day one. “It is a Belgian-style witbier, which is crisp and refreshing, and we are proud to brew the beer with 100 percent Virginia-grown wheat,” says owner Bill Butcher. The beer has won gold, silver, and bronze medals at The Great American Beer Festival and has won seven medals at the Virginia Craft Beer Cup. It is nationally recognized as one of the best examples of the style in the United States. $10.99 (six-pack), 

Staff Notes: Light and well balanced, but interestingly spicy, too. I’m a fan!

Extra Brut Sparkling Rose 

Rosemont of Virginia, La Crosse

The Lake Gaston-area farm where Rosemont Vineyards is located has been with the Rose family since 1858. Over generations, the family’s operations have included vegetable farming, a peach orchard, beef cattle, dairy farming, and commodity crops. In 2003, Stephen and Chandra Rose added more than 32,000 grapevines across 22 acres. Today, they grow a blend of vinifera and hybrid varietals that are well suited to Virginia’s climate and red clay soils—including their Extra Brut Sparkling Rosé, which they make from 100 percent Chambourcin grapes. “We felt that the bright flavors of cranberries and strawberries, combined with the bright fuchsia color and a bright acidity, would translate well into a sparkling wine,” says director of marketing Aubrey Rose. $25,

Staff Notes: So festive! This sparkling will be wonderful to serve at the holidays.

Filibuster Dual Cask Bourbon   

Filibuster Distillery, Maurertown

Founded seven years ago at a liquor store on the corner of 9th and M Streets NW in Washington, D.C., Filibuster Distillery has since moved the core of its operations to Maurertown in the Shenandoah Valley. But because of its former proximity to Capitol Hill, Filibuster was “a natural choice for our name,” says owner Sid Dilwari. “We wanted to lampoon the intensity of the political culture in D.C. … Maybe if everyone just talked it out over a few drinks, things would go more smoothly?” The distillery’s Dual Cask Bourbon is definitely a smooth choice, with a palate of caramel, vanilla, and cocoa that carries through from entry to exit, with a flash of heat on the end. $42.99,

Staff Notes: Well rounded, with a wide array of flavors, including tobacco and toasted oak atop a perfect range of caramel, vanilla, and cocoa. Very smooth. 

Hot Cocoa Mix

Cocoa Mia of Floyd, Floyd

Remember the French romantic drama Chocolat, about a woman and her daughter opening a chocolaterie and enticing a small town with their sweet goodness? Jennifer and Grayson Rudd of Cocoa Mia in Floyd have been living the movie since 2018. Their Hot Cocoa Mix blends Belgium chocolate and cocoa powder with sugar, vanilla, and sea salt. It can be used in cold applications or with locally roasted Costa Rican coffee for the couple’s signature Mocha Java. “We both get excited as we watch the expressions on the faces of our customers the first time they take a sip of the hot chocolate,” Jennifer says. “You can see all the things they carried on their shoulders just melt away.” $14.95,

Staff Notes: Amazing! It’s like a liquid chocolate bar. 

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue. See below for links to more winners. Look for these and other products Made in Virginia in the Virginia Living Store.

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