So you’ve decided to do a day trip and visit some of the wineries on the Southern Virginia Wine Trail. Let’s plan your itinerary, shall we?
You don’t want to be rushed, and you want to immerse yourself in the charms, quirks and lifestyle of the region. You don’t want it to be a marathon, either, so this time you’ll limit yourself to four wineries (we’ll suggest other SoVA Wine Trail itineraries in future posts). There’s one very important thing to consider, which is taken for granted in other parts of the world: what about lunch?
If you’re in, say, Napa you have lots of sophisticated options to choose from, like Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustard’s Grill, or Foti’s up north in the town of Culpeper, but in Southern Virginia, not so many — at least not yet. We already have a handful of very sophisticated places serving dinner – Bistro 1888 in South Boston, Molasses Grill in Halifax, Charley’s Waterfront Café in Farmville, Cooper’s Landing Inn & Traveler’s Tavern in Clarksville — these are the best restaurants in their respective towns, but of these four, only Charley’s serves lunch while Cooper’s has a Sunday brunch.
This leaves us for the most part with three choices (of course there are exceptions; we recommend one below): packing a picnic to eat at one of the wineries; visiting one of the less-interesting chain restaurants; or (our choice) the most interesting alternative — “road food” from one of those informal, inexpensive regional greasy spoons serving up good, honest food enjoyed by the locals. On this part of the trail, we have just that kind of place: a wayside store called Punk’s. But first, let’s plan our trip.
Back when we had time to plan our own wine tasting adventures, we would start with the location furtherest from us and work our way back. So let’s say you’re traveling west from Richmond or some other city in the Tidewater. The first winery you’ll encounter is Annefield Vineyards, an easy hour and fifteen minutes from Richmond. But don’t start there — keep going!
Our first destination is Sans Soucy Vineyards outside of Brookneal, so take Route 360 to the town of Keysville in Charlotte County, then take Route 40 West. This will take you through the county seat, Charlotte Court House (stop a moment to see the Court House; it was designed by Thomas Jefferson). If you time it right, you’ll arrive when they open at 11 am. Give yourself 45 minutes for a tasting, then travel west to Brookneal (a 10 minute drive), then south to the town of Nathalie to visit Bright Meadows Farm.
Now here’s the dilemma: do you want an early lunch in Brookneal, or keep going? Your best choice in Brookneal is the Drug Store Grill. But it’s only noon and that seems early to us, so we would keep going. So spend 45 minutes at Bright Meadows (also 10 minutes away from Brookneal), and that brings us to about 1 pm. And this brings us to Punk’s, a wayside store a half-mile down the road from Bright Meadows.
What will you find there? There grill is in the back, past shelves of groceries and household items, jars of seed, packages of beans. There’s a butcher shop, too. No menu is posted, and there’s an array of foil containers with what’s being offered that day, hot and cold items, salads, you name it. Seems like you just ask for what you have a hankering for — things like hamburgers, hot dogs and fried chicken are surely popular. We saw one gent get roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. We had a couple of cheeseburgers and a bottle of water, which came to all of $5.80.
The day we were there we witnessed a steady stream of cars and trucks, and a couple of 18-wheelers idling while the drivers ran in to grab lunch. There are several picnic tables across the road, and plenty of parking. It isn’t pretty and some might think it unhygenic — but those were some mighty fine burgers. Not glamorous, but definitely authentic.
After lunch, next head east about 25 minutes to Hunting Creek Vineyards and conclude with Annefield Vineyards, another 25 minutes east. By then it should be around 4 p.m. and time to head home. Not a bad day.
Punk’s Self Service Store, 1010 Nathalie Road, Nathalie, Virginia 24577
Drug Store Grill, 105 Main Street, Brookneal, Virginia 24528