Though you may have missed the Vintage Virginia Wine Festival earlier this month, the season for tasting and touring Virginia’s vibrant wine country is just beginning. Did you know that Virginia boasts one of the country’s most active and acclaimed wine regions? From small-batch producers to varietals reminiscent of a trip through France or Italy, the state offers more than 200 wineries and a rich history of cultivating the vine. Virginia has even been compared to Australia and Chile as an up-and-coming wine destination.
But the only thing that’s new about Virginia wine is the buzz. The history of wines in Virginia dates back to the Jamestown settlement, where each male was required to cultivate his own vines, but it wasn’t until the early 1800s that Thomas Jefferson made viticulture famous by cultivating European grapes on his Monticello plantation near Charlottesville.
Whether you’re a Mid-Atlantic local seeking a weekend escape or a visitor to the Washington D.C. area in search of something beyond monuments and museums, these wineries, wine itineraries and wine-centric hotels are the key to uncorking a great time.
Perhaps the best (and one of the best-known) wineries in the Virginia area, Barboursville is located about 20 minutes outside of Charlottesville on the original homestead of former Virginia governor James Barbour, for whom the winery is named. The governor boasted a home designed by Thomas Jefferson. It was destroyed by fire in the late 1800s, but you can still visit the ruins right on the winery and vineyard grounds.
Taste between 16 and 20 of the winery’s best vintages and enjoy on-the-hour winery tours each weekend for the ultra-affordable price of just $5. Our favorite? The award-winning Octagon, a rich blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.
After you’ve tasted your fill, book a four-course wine dinner at the adjacent Palladio Restaurant. For just $75 ($100 with wine pairings), you’ll nosh on decadent dishes from chef Melissa Close Hart, who has created meals for the acclaimed James Beard House, among others.
Where to stay: Don’t worry about driving around during your trip to Barboursville. Book an overnight at the 1804 Inn & Cottages right on property. We’d suggest a stay in the main house, which comes with a sumptuous morning breakfast, a complimentary bottle of Barboursville wine, a cheese plate and warm, welcoming service. As an added bonus, overnight guests snag free tastings at the winery.
Just outside of Charlottesville proper and on the Monticello Wine Trail sits the popular Keswick Vineyards, one of the area’s best-loved spots for weddings and events. Bring your four-legged friends for “yappy hour” as you sip some of the region’s most popular vintages — the viognier and cabernet sauvignon are particularly well liked — on a picnic blanket.
Where to stay: Elect for the posh and similarly named (yet not related) Keswick Hall at Monticello, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel. The private-mansion-turned-hotel boasts the onsite Four-Star Fossett’s Restaurant, a spa and tennis courts in addition to top-notch rooms and an infinity-edge pool overlooking the golf course.
Nestled just off I-64 at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Veritas Winery is one of the area’s best wineries for special events due to its scenic location. Known particularly for chardonnay, viognier and cabernet franc, the family-owned winery has been producing award-winning vintages since 2002. In addition to private events, you may also schedule walking tours of the property as well as tastings for $5 per person.
Where to stay: If you don’t want to leave Veritas Winery, you don’t have to. The Farmhouse at Veritas offers six guest rooms and suites in a historic building dating back to 1836. We’d suggest the two-level Derby room or the luxe Surrey, which features a four-poster bed. Besides the tasty three-course morning breakfast, farmhouse guests may also enjoy a four-course, wine paired dinner with dishes such as Peking-style Cornish game hen or crispy Asian duck confit.
Think the Blenheim name sounds familiar? Once visited by Thomas Jefferson, once home to the ambassador to Great Britain and now owned by one of the country’s most famous musicians, Dave Matthews, the winery has more than its vintages to draw visitors. The beautiful A-frame wooden building that houses the tasting room is the perfect place to pause and enjoy a glass on your day of Charlottesville-area adventures.
Where to stay: Indulge in a stay at the 17-room Clifton Inn, a charming property situated on 100 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dine at the seven-seat chef’s counter to feast on a specially prepared meal, or reserve a table in the quaint dining room with its fireplace and hardwood floors. For special occasions, book the Carriage House — the inn’s largest suite — for a truly memorable experience.
Photos Courtesy of Jack Looney, Aaron Farrington, iStock/Hal Bergman