Boozing and Cruising Virginia's Route 151
Nelson County has some of the most picture-perfect views of the Blue Ridge mountains in all of Virginia. Situated both in the mountains and in Rockfish Valley below, Nelson is the perfect backdrop for craft breweries, hard cideries, wineries, and distilleries. In fact, in the past decade these establishments have all popped up in the area and formed a craft beverage trail known as Nelson 151. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to sit in the shade with a drink in their hand, soaking up mountain views?) Nelson 151 is a perfect day trip from Charlottesville or even Richmond. Grab your sober driver, buckle up, and let’s hit the road! We’re going to booze and cruise in this guide to Virginia’s Nelson 151.
Y’all know that I’m super into hard cider, right? I have definitely mentioned it before on this site and the odds are I will mention it again. Hard cider is my go-to alcoholic beverage. For that reason, I will lead this post with a summary of Route 151’s two cideries.
1020 Rockfish Valley Highway, Nellysford VA
Bold Rock is most definitely the king of hard cider in Virginia - if not the mid-Atlantic. Their ciders, which are sold in nine states, feature both signature flavors and seasonal varieties. Bold Rock has also recently broken into the hard seltzer industry with two low-calorie flavors. Last but not least, if you visit the Nellysford location on 151, you can try exclusive flavors available only at their Barrel Barn tasting room.
Bold Rock Must Tries:
Signature Series - Pear Cider, IPA, & Rosé
Seasonal Flavors - Ginger Turmeric, Peach, and Blackberry
Barrel Barn Exclusives - Barrel 78° (cider with a post-ferment addition of apple brandy!!)
Hard Seltzers - Cucumber Melon
Beyond the tasty drinks, Bold Rock is located on a hill above a stream with gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge. They also have a large field where they hold events such as movie screenings, music, and more.
Blue Toad Hard Cidery
462 Winery Lane, Roseland VA
Blue Toad is a hard cidery that was founded by three childhood best friends and is based in both Virginia and New York state. Blue Toad has three flagship ciders and a handful of seasonal flavors. Their ciders can be found in local groceries in both of their home states. I love fruity flavor pairings and was blown away by Blue Toad’s blueberry cider.
Blue Toad Must Tries:
Flagship Flavors: Black Cherry & Blue Ridge Blonde
Seasonal Flavors: Blueberry & Paddy Green
Blue Toad has a very charming and quaint pub-style tasting room and outdoor picnic table seating. We stayed longer than we meant to, just enjoying the fresh valley air and listening to a nearby babbling brook.
If hard cider is my favorite alcoholic beverage, then I would say that wine is a very close second. Luckily for me - and you! - there is no shortage of award-winning Virginia wine to be found along Nelson 151.
151 Veritas Lane, Afton VA
Veritas Vineyard and Winery has been at the forefront of the Virginia wine scene since 1999. Their selection of wines is comprised of a variety of award-winners. Veritas’ name is a reference to the quote “In Vino Veritas” (In Wine there is Truth) by Pliny the Elder. Honestly, the truth about Veritas is that their wine is delicious and their winery is one of the classiest places I have ever been.
Veritas Must Tries:
Petit Verdot (red), Vigonier (white), and Mousseux Sparkling (rosé).
Veritas Winery’s vineyards and grounds are incredibly picturesque. It’s no wonder that Veritas is a very popular (and pricey) wedding venue. The rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge, a lush green meadow, a gorgeous grand ballroom… Pretty much the stuff a dream wedding venue is made of! Veritas also hosts an outdoor summer concert series called “Starry Nights,” where you can bring a picnic blanket and lie underneath the stars as local musicians play.
10368 Critzer Shop Road, Afton VA
A sister winery to Veritas, Flying Fox vineyard has been producing 8 locally-sourced wines since 2006. They also recently began their own line of Vermouth. Though I have not had the pleasure of visiting Flying Fox Vineyard, I hope to do so in the future! In the meantime, their Pinot Gris & Trio (red blend) wines have both won state-wide awards, so those are definitely at the top of my to-try list.
9423 Batesville Road, Afton VA
According to their website, Cardinal Point’s winemaker Tim Gorman “is one of the few Virginia-born and educated winemakers in our area.” Though the winery itself only opened in 2002, the Gorman family has been growing grapes in their vineyard since the late 1980s. Unfortunately, I have not visited Cardinal Point yet. However, my good friend Steph is a wine connoisseur and she highly recommends their Rockfish Red and the Hopped Chardonnay.
2800 Berry Hill Rd, Nellysford, VA
Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery specializes in unique fruit wines and meads. Their fruit wines consist of everything from pears and plums to blueberries and blackberries. As their name suggests, they have a very attractive hill-top location. I have not been to Hill Top since I became of-age, however I did go when I was a bit younger to pick some delicious blackberries from their PYO plot amongst the grapevines. I would love to visit their tasting room to try either their spiced lavender mead (“Lavender Metheglin”) or their “Blue Heeler” blueberry wine.
234 Vineyard Ln, Afton VA
Owned by UVA grads who couldn’t get enough of the area, Afton Mountain holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I did my first ever wine tasting on my 21st birthday. I’ve been going back to Afton Mountain every few years since then, and I love seeing how their business has grown. My gateway wine at Afton was their rosé, but as I’ve gotten older I have also come to appreciate their full-bodied reds.
Afton Mountain Must Tries:
Rosé, Gewurtztraminer (white), & Tradition (red)
Although each of the craft alcohol campuses along Route 151 has great views, I believe that Afton Mountain Vineyards has the best views. Since they are perched on a location higher up than most, their vantage point of the surrounding Rockfish Valley is incomparable. Afton Mountain is the perfect place to bring a picnic - no matter what the weather. In the Spring and Fall, you can enjoy the cooler temps out on the hillside. In the Summer and Winter, head into the Pavilion where you’ll be either cooled down or heated accordingly.
9519 Critzers Shop Rd, Afton VA
The first brewery to establish itself in Nelson County, Blue Mountain features a number of beers made with Cascade hops. Not only that, but their brewpub has an extensive menu with many vegetarian and gluten-free choices. Back in the day, my family used to love to visit Blue Mountain for it’s restaurant fare - their specialty pizzas are *chef’s kiss emoji.* I am not a beer drinker myself - Emmett recommends the Full Nelson Virginia Pale Ale.
2461 Rockfish Valley Highway, Nellysford VA
Wild Wolf Brewery’s onsite restaurant and taproom was once a schoolhouse and now include a beirgarten & playground. Wild Wolf has six core-series beers as well as five rotating seasonal flavors. Their restaurant features farm-to-table provisions and has been voted #2 best farm-to-table in the Blue Ridge. Wild Wolf’s Area 151 Belgian-style blackberry beer is a local award-winner and comes highly recommended.
200 Mosbys Run, Roseland VA
Inspired by European brewpubs, Devil’s Backbone features Euro-style craft beers and is one of the largest breweries in Virginia. (A caveat for local brew purists: Devil’s Backbone is now owned by Anheuser Busch). Devil’s Backbone brews 128 (!) beers and can be found in 15 states. The odds are that if you’re not not a local but you have tried a Virginia beer, it was from Devil’s Backbone.
Devil’s Backbone Must Tries:
Core Series - Vienna Lager
Throwback Series - Cattywompus & Tommy Two Fists
Specialty Series - Hibiscus Hard Lemonade
Devil’s Backbone is a pretty large establishment - remember the 128 beers? - that has a plethora of seating both indoor and outdoor. They also have an extensive menu that is one of the most vegan and vegetarian friendly on Route 151. I personally had the cauliflower steak there a few months ago and it was superb. Last but not least, Devil’s Backbone consistently hosts outdoor music onsite throughout the warmer months.
At the moment, there is only one distillery located along Nelson 151. I have no doubt in my mind that more may pop up. In fact, Devil’s Backbone has been getting into the spirit distilling business as well. That being said, let me go ahead and talk about the award-winning Silverback Distillery.
9374 Rockfish Valley Highway, Afton VA
I’m going to be real with you: this is the only distillery I have ever visited. Ever. I do really enjoy a craft cocktail. However, I’m really cheap so I rarely treat myself to any while out and about. Thus, on my visit to Silverback this past July, I went all out and got three cocktails in order to sample some of their signature liquor.
Silverback Must Tries:
Straight Up - Route 151 Proof Blackback Moonshine, Blackback Straight Bourbon, and Strange Monkey Gin.
Mixed Cocktails - Sex in the Jungle, Blushing Mandrill, Jungle Juice, and Peach Sour.
Silverback’s tasting room is small but welcoming - it’s really got a tiny-bar-in-the-city vibe. More than that, though, there is a big gorilla outside that you can pose with for a souvenir photograph. When you’ve had a few drinks, this is exactly what you want to do before leaving the distillery. (At least me and my crew did).