Toast Virginia Wine Month While You Tour Wineries

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October marks the 20th anniversary of Virginia Wine Month. When the observance started in 1988, there were 40 Virginia wineries; today, there are nearly 140 across the state. Virginia is fifth in the nation for wine production.

Here are some ideas to help you get the most of Virginia Wine Month:

Let your spirit soar with the wind. Historic Long Branch plantation features its annual Hot Air Balloon and Wine Festival today. Seventeen Virginia wineries offer samplings and sales along with food and craft vendors, children's activities and live music.

Pick a city and enjoy a festival. Some of Virginia's coolest towns host wine festivals in October. More than 30 Virginia wineries will be present today at Norfolk's Town Point Virginia Wine Festival. The historic town of Orange will host the Pick of the Piedmont Fall Wine Festival on Saturday.

Spend the night at a winery. Several of Virginia's wineries offer overnight accommodations. From the splendid new Wedmore Place boutique hotel at the Williamsburg Winery to Sharp Rock Winery's bed & breakfast cottages, you'll find just the right place to snuggle in with a glass of Virginia wine.

Enjoy a perfect meal. Barboursville Winery is home to the outstanding Palladio restaurant, serving fine Italian cuisine. Chateau Morrisette Winery's restaurant offers not only superb dining but gorgeous views as well. The Gabriel Archer Tavern at Williamsburg Winery has an outdoor terrace where you can dine under a canopy of wisteria. Kluge Estate Winery's Farm Store is filled with delectable goodies that you can take with you for a picnic.

Walk in Thomas Jefferson's footsteps. Thomas Jefferson's dream of a thriving wine industry has taken root in his own backyard along the Monticello Wine Trail, connecting 19 wineries in the Charlottesville region.

Enjoy a private moment. Three Fox Vineyards has the cure for the hustle-and-bustle blues. They've placed a single table with chairs atop a high hill at their winery and call it "Table in the Sky." It's the best seat in the house and offers lovely views of the Crooked Run Valley.

Go to camp. For the ultimate in fun and learning, enlist in Food and Wine Camp at Lansdowne Resort. Your camp counselor is Mary Watson-Delauder, one of America's favorite sommeliers. Her approach to wine appreciation is to make wine accessible to all who are interested. She's even been known to pair wine with Twinkies.

Go spelunking for your favorite wine. Tarara Winery's 6,000-foot winemakers cave provides the best environment for wine storage. Valhalla Vineyards made its own wine cave 60 feet underground -- and found a statue of Buddha in the process.

Add some spice. You name it (almost) and Peaks of Otter Winery makes wine out of it. Apples, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, plums, pineapples, elderberries and strawberries are just some of the edibles fermented and bottled there -- and it is rumored that a tomato wine is on the way. …