Finding wineries in Fairfax County, Virginia are like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s just simply impossible to fathom, and if you were to ask the general population if they would ever consider this part of Northern Virginia a prime location for grape growing, most would give you a bewildered look. Fairfax County is known for miles upon miles of highways, suburban cookie cutter developments and other city-like dwellings. But, nestled in this region are some hidden towns that take you into a small-town world, feeling as though you’ve driven two hours out of the city to get there. And thus, within the small town of Clifton, Virginia, Paradise Springs Winery has seemed to defy this winery-in-a-suburban-county logic.
History of Clifton Wines
This was taken straight from their website:
“It is said that the founding of Clifton lay in the aspiration to make great wine. One night, while returning from the war, Harrison G. Otis passed through the town on the Orange and Alexandria railroad. While sticking his head out of the window to get some fresh air, he heard the squealing of hogs feeding on the profusion of wild grapes that grew in the area. So in 1868, he returned to the area and planted vineyards on the west side of town. Like Thomas Jefferson, his attempts failed as there was not enough technology at the time to allow Virginia wines to succeed. Even though his venture did not go as planned, Harrison went on to purchase the Deveraux Railroad Station (Clifton Station), develop the post office, build the town’s hotel, and become known as the founder of Clifton.”
History of the Name Paradise Springs
“The name Paradise Springs comes directly from the history books of Clifton, Virginia. Its origin was that of mineral springs on the west side of town. Clifton was considered a resort destination by many in Washington. It is said that past Presidents and Generals visited the town for its healing waters. In 1904, water from Paradise Springs was sent off to be tested and was found pure enough for commercial bottling. So in 1910, a bottling plant was constructed and Paradise Springs bottled water. The clear colored bottles displayed simply the word “PARADISE” blown into the glass. The Herald even once reported that Paradise Springs was “on the boom”. Nonetheless, the business eventually went under and became nothing more than a historical reference.”
The History of Paradise Springs Winery Property
Taken from their website as well:
“The site of Paradise Springs Winery lies on 36 acres nestled in the quiet corner of Clifton, VA. It borders Hemlock Regional Park with the Bull Run River flowing only steps through the woods. It was part of a 1000 acre land grant from Lord Fairfax in 1716 to Jane and Kirk’s direct ancestors and has been passed down through the generations. The original log cabin is estimated to be built between 1800 and 1825 (exact date is not known). It was then renovated in 1955 by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. A kitchen, bathroom, electricity, and plumbing were all part of the renovation and addition. Influences of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work can be seen through the indirect lighting, hidden spaces, and intricate electrical switches. In 1956 a red barn that sat just off Main Street in downtown Fairfax, was taken apart, individually numbered, and reassembled piece by piece on the property. Since then, no major additions have been made until 2008 at which time a vineyard was planted on the west end of the property and has since seen exceptional growth due to the rich fertile soils within the Occoquan Watershed. Today the site remains one of the few historical gems left amongst the ever expanding city sprawl in Northern Virginia. “
The co-owners of the winery are a mother and son team – Jane Kincheloe and Kirk Wiles (Kirk has been a friend over the last year). Both have taken significant strides to make a winery in this part of Northern Virginia happen and, after a few years of working with the State of Virginia to get their license, in order to be able to distribute on their property, they were finally able to open the doors for a soft opening January 9th and 10th, 2010. And of course, my friend Cari and I had to venture out that way to check out the wines they now offer.
When you drive into this region of Clifton, it reminds you a lot of a small rural town in the middle of the mountains – with about 1/4 of a mile of stores and restaurants and of course, the W &OD railroad running through it. And, as you continue to drive out further, its acres and acres of pastures, large homes and farms – a quaint and perfect setting for a winery.
Upon arriving, you head into the cabin, which although has modern features, such as electricity and appliances, gives you the feel of stepping into the 18th century. You are greeted by a wonderful staff, directing you downstairs to the tasting room. As you go down the stairs, you notice it has the feel of an old cellar. It’s dimly lit, with exposed concrete slab flooring, stone walls, met by logs and wood beams the rest of the way up to the low ceiling. My girlfriend and I walked up to the tasting bar and were given a sheet of the seven wines they offer, complete with a matrix of what type of barrel they aged in, what flavors were used and what they can be paired with. I was so impressed with their selection that I ended up buying three bottles – two rose’s (which they only made 90 cases of) and a Norton (a unique red). Now granted, I’m a huge wine fan and so, I love to learn about them, try to taste what’s in them and even try to make food pairing recommendations. These wines, coupled with the “cheat sheet”, made it easy to “get to know” each of them (it also helped that the staff was incredibly knowledgeable).
So, after our tasting was complete and our wines purchased, we headed upstairs to the dining area to relax for a bit and drink the glass of wine we each purchased. It was a cozy room with old oak barrel bar-height tables, a wooden bench dining set and when you peer over the velvet rope into the private tasting room, you get an instant feeling of stepping into the 18th century – the furniture, portraits and old oil lamps are well-preserved, causing me to be eager enough to want to sneak in and look around. 🙂
After a few hours of visting, my friend Cari and I left, agreeing that we would be back next weekend for the Grand Opening.
For me, it was a perfect scene – wine and history – something I think pairs very well together.