Savor local foods & drinks produced in the southern gateway to the Shenandoah Valley.
It’s easy to find local foods and drinks on menus throughout Rockbridge County, Virginia, but you can also skip the middleman and go straight to the source. Get out and visit some local producers, from modern farms to historic mills, coffee roasters to craft breweries, cheesemakers to chocolatiers, and you’ll discover award-winning, crave-inducing items so high quality they make even the most refined taste buds swoon.
Wade’s Mill is the oldest continuously-operating commercial grist mill in the Shenandoah Valley. Local grains have been stone-ground the traditional way at this site since 1750. No wonder it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. “Until steam, the mill was the most efficient energy source,” says John Siegfried, owner and miller. He grinds an average of 300 to 400 pounds of grain a day and supplies restaurants in Lexington and other cities in Virginia and Maryland. Grits, cornmeal, flour and other treats—many made of heritage grains—are available for purchase. Explore three floors of historic milling equipment and museum displays.
On Saturdays at select times from April through December, the historic 21-foot iron Fitz overshot water wheel is demonstrated. To linger at this picturesque site, check into the overnight accommodations.
Lexington Coffee Roasters has been named one of the “12 Best Coffee Roasters in the U.S.” by Forbes and “Some of America’s Best Coffee” by USA Today. Its focus is on sourcing top-quality beans from Latin America and Africa. Visit the roastery on Route 11 to see the coffee roasting process, discover innovative brewing processes and equipment, and sip coffee and espresso drinks. Take home some freshly roasted coffee beans and order online when your supply runs low.
Craft beers, wines, and ciders flow in abundance in Rockbridge County with four breweries (all stops along the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail), four vineyards, and a cidery. On Route 11, Devils Backbone Outpost Tap Room & Kitchen produces more than 120 different beer recipes, all based on European brewing traditions. Enjoy a pint or sampler flight alongside hearty fare at the bar or in the outdoor beer garden.
Great Valley Farm Brewery & Winery (Photo Above: Chris Weisler) produces Belgian-style ales and Cabernet Franc, Gruner Veltliner, Lemberger and Vidal Blanc varietals using ingredients from its 27-acre farm in Natural Bridge. Sip pints or tasting flights against panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In downtown Lexington, Heliotrope Brewery produces what co-owner Erik Jones calls “wild farmhouse beers” using local ingredients. “We even foraged a wild yeast to give the beer terroir.” The beer lineup will change seasonally and cover a range of styles including IPAs, saisons, pilsners, and lagers among others. Savor a 12-ounce pour from a stemmed glass alongside a creative pizza, made to order in the brick oven.
Rockbridge Vineyard & Brewery, a two-time winner of the coveted Virginia Governor’s Cup, produces small-batch wines in a range of styles. Vinifera, hybrid, and native vines grow on 17 acres. Sample through the portfolio in the tasting room then enjoy a glass of your favorite while gazing out at the breathtaking view of Shenandoah Valley. Lexington Valley Vineyard has been handcrafting red and white wines since 1999. Enjoy them by the glass or bottle while relaxing on the deck and gazing out at the 67-acre property. Jump Mountain Vineyard welcomes visitors to its 32-acre farm on Saturdays and Sundays. Enjoy tastings, wines by the glass, or stock up on several bottles of red and white varietals to savor at home.
Sip small batch cider at Halcyon Days Cider Company. This family-owned cidery boasts a stunning labyrinth orchard. Inspired by the legendary labyrinth at France’s Chartres Cathedral, 2,500 dwarf apple trees are planted in a circuit that stretches 1.7 miles from the center to outer edge. Wander through 50 different apple varieties, from heirloom American, modern American, classic Europe, and Central Asian ancestral apple trees. Step into the pavilion for stunning 360-degree views of the Alleghany and Blue Ridge Mountains. All hard ciders are made using Virginia grown apples in a range of tastes from tangy to spicy to sweet.
Cocoa Mill Chocolates has gained a national reputation for its indelible treats, all made Awards and accolades from The Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit, Chocolatier, U.S. Air Magazine, CBS Morning News, The Washington Post, among others. The chocolatier strives for excellence each step of the process—using fair trade chocolate, choosing natural ingredients and freshly hand-crafting confections for each order. Whether you bite into a truffle, gourmet bark, dipped fruit, chocolate-covered pretzel or peppermint, or other treat, trust that it’s made with high-quality ingredients and attentive precision.
Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe is Rockbridge County’s only homemade ice cream shop. Its retro décor may spark nostalgia, but its now-antique equipment churns out treats that modern equipment can’t replicate—including homemade waffle cones. “We’ve been in business since 1982, but our waffle irons date back to the 1950s,” says owner Chris Williams. And that aroma will get your mouth watering the moment you step into the door! The best-selling cookies and cream flavor ice cream is dark brown, not the usual white, thanks to the fact that this ice cream machine can crunch and crumble a whole lot more real Oreo cookies than modern machines. Flavors like mint chocolate chip, cookie dough, banana, black raspberry, and dozens more—scooped into cones, sundaes, shakes, and other treats—lure locals and visitors alike. Grownups, don’t miss the Guinness beer-flavored ice cream.