A Drinker’s Guide to the Nelson 151
While heading from I-64 to Route 29 in Virginia or visiting one of the state’s ski resorts (yes, Virginia has ski resorts!), you may encounter bustling Virginia State Route 151, which runs through a small portion of Nelson County, Virginia. Though once a rural passthrough, it’s now home to one of Virginia’s best-kept secrets for drink lovers.
Nelson County’s wine-soaked ascension arguably began in 2001, when Veritas Winery produced its first vintage. Within a decade, breweries, cideries and other drinks spots started popping up. And today, the area dubbed the Nelson 151 is home to seven wineries, four breweries, three cideries and three distilleries, making it an exceptional stop for those looking for a weekend getaway off bustling Virginia State Route 151.
Ready to get explore? From places to eat and drink to places to stay, here’s everything to experience when visiting the Nelson 151 trail.
Beer and Cider Stops
Although the location is tiny, WildManDan Brewery offers big flavor. Husband and wife team Dan and Terri Tatarka draw inspiration from brews they enjoy during their travels, then use local ingredients to recreate their own version back home, which they brew in 10-gallon batches. Look for the Chai Laxin (a tongue-in-cheek way to say “chillaxin’”), an English brown ale with flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and ginger. The offering is meant to evoke teatime in London.
A seat at the bar, housed in a former 1900s feed store, showcases an upright piano turned kegerator, which Dan Tatarka—a former fiber optic engineer—constructed himself. The farmhouse, built in 1870, also serves as a bed and breakfast; an overnight stay includes a beer tasting.
Bold Rock Cider Barn
In 2010, John Washburn, a Virginia farmer, and Brian Shanks, a New Zealand cidermaker, joined forces to begin producing hard cider. Today, the operation produces craft beverages using locally-sourced apples. With outposts at both ends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the flagship Bold Rock location on the Nelson 151 route features a distillery that makes spirits with flavors of spiced peach and cinnamon apple. Also on offer? Easy-drinking canned cocktails that are not to be missed.
Blue Toad Hard Cider
Blue Toad Hard Cider sources a blend of apple varieties from Nelson County and Western New York. Look for their Barrel Aged Series of small-batch, exclusive ciders and their award-winning dry cider, Granny Smith.
In addition, unlike many other locations on the route, their property is flat, which enables a panoramic view of the mountains from every vantage point.
Helmed by a mother-and-daughter duo, Silverback Distillery aims to create flavorful spirits using mountain water and locally-sourced grain. Consistent favorites are their 4-Grain Straight Bourbon, Blackback Honey Rye and Strange Monkey Gin, which they claim puts the “gin” in Virginia.
Stop by to taste their cocktail flights or sit at the bar to drink a whiskey served neat.
After falling in love with the area, Andrew and Patricia Hodson decided to buy a small farm in 1998. That purchase quickly turned into a passion project for the entire family. With their daughter Emily Hodson serving as lead winemaker, Veritas Winery produced its first vintage in 2001. Due to the beautiful landscape, visitors tend to linger at the winery and vineyards, sipping wine and sampling Veritas-made charcuterie.
A cottage and farmhouse rooms are available for those wishing to stay overnight.
Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery
Looking for a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to go alongside your wine or beer? Hazy Mountain truly delivers. One of the newer stops on the Nelson 151 route, this location opened in 2019.
Sip varietals such as the operation’s 2018 Dry Riesling and 2019 Petit Verdot, via a flight or a guided wine tasting. If you prefer hoppy beverages, sample its take on Hefeweizen or select a seasonal brew, such as Spiced Ale. Feeling peckish? Hazy Mountain has a curated selection of light bites should you arrive hungry.
Flying Fox Vineyard and Winery
Perhaps the most Instagrammable location on the route, Flying Fox Vineyard and Winery is easily recognized by its large outdoor mural that beckons visitors from Route 151. Although the winery started in 2001, Emily Hodson—also the lead winemaker and co-owner at Veritas—came on board in 2006 and now co-owns Flying Fox. Try their experimental Sly Fox sub-label, which focuses on vermouth, orange wine and bourbon barrel-aged wine.
Restaurants With Outstanding Beverage Lists
Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Named after a local mountain ridge, Devils Backbone was initially inspired by a beer that founders Steve and Heidi Crandall tasted on a trip to the Alps. The brewpub in 2008.
Today, the Devils Backbone property includes multiple on-site eateries, a cigar bar and a distillery lounge, where you can sample house-made gin, rum, bourbon and whiskey. Menus include classic brewpub apps, such as a wood-fired pretzel, plus infused options, like the macaroni with Vienna lager beer cheese and a burger topped with hop-brined pickles.
Besides Devils Backbone’s craft beverages, they also offer other locally-made options from Potter’s Craft Cider in nearby Charlottesville and a vast lineup of California wines.
Blue Mountain Brewery
Blue Mountain Brewery, opened in 2007, offers a hearty selection of dishes. With an emphasis on casual fare that pairs well with the operation’s housemade beers, the items include beer-boiled local bratwurst, paninis stuffed with fried green tomatoes and burgers anointed with sticky-sweet bourbon bacon jam. In addition, the brewery offers eight to 10 of their brews on tap, plus wine, cider and kombucha produced in Afton and Charlottesville, Virginia.
If you are in town on a Wednesday, stop in for happy hour from 5 to 9 p.m. The brewery also has live music every Friday night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Depending on the weather, you can enjoy your drinks indoors, out on the patio, or cozied up by the outdoor fire pit.