It took me a little while to begin visiting the famous Virginia wineries that literally surround me in Charlottesville. But now I think it’s time to do a round-up of the wineries I’ve visited so far. If you can’t make it all the way to Napa Valley, central Virginia isn’t such a bad alternative for a wine destination. The Monticello Wine trail features a couple dozen beautiful wineries all within a small radius (click for map), making it easy to hit a few of them in a weekend.
But first, a little history about the Monticello Wine Trail:
“Late in his life, atop Monticello mountain located adjacent to the small hamlet of Charlottesville, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson envisioned vineyards and wines from his native state standing shoulder to shoulder with the great wines of the Old World. He planted his vineyards close to home that year, but his efforts were in vain, and his vision remained unfulfilled.
Some 200 years later, the counties surrounding Monticello were designated the Monticello Viticultural Area(AVA), in recognition of the region’s distinguished and burgeoning wine industry. Over half of Virginia’s 2000 vineyard acres grow within the Monticello AVA, and well over 20 wineries produce fine wines of national and international acclaim.
Today, the Commonwealth of Virginia is the 5th largest producer of wine in the United States, with the Monticello Wine Trail as its crown-jewel, truly fulfilling Jefferson’s vision of winemaking in Virginia.
No place is this vision more pronounced – no place is Jefferson’s legacy more real – than at Monticello, his stunning mountain-top home and America’s only site listed on the World Register of Historic Places. A visit to Monticello remains a touchstone of American culture, a rite of passage for all who seek to understand from whence this country came, and an immersion into the greatest of American minds.
The Monticello Wine Trail remains the wine world’s best kept secret, where boutique wineries produce small quantities of high-quality wines, shared with family, friends and visitors. One day our secret will be uncovered and the wine world will shine its brightest light on this region. Until then, it remains ours, yours, and Jefferson’s, The Sage of Monticello, and America’s First Wine Connoisseur.”
Let’s begin! You’ll see my rating for each vineyard below (highest honors gets 5 wine glasses).
My friends Kati and Casey came to visit Charlottesville for a day with their guys and we met up at Jefferson Vineyards first. This vineyard is about one minute away from the Monticello Visitor’s Center, so it would make for a fun day of touring. The staff was incredibly friendly, talkative, informative, and basically made the tasting experience especially pleasant. Tastings are $10, including the glass. They had a great selection of wines to taste, and I bought a bottle of the Cab Franc to share with my parents when they came to visit. They had a patio outside to enjoy a picnic and the view.
4 wine glasses
Up next was Trump Winery. That’s right… Donald Trump is reaching into the winery business in Charlottesville with his son, Eric. Their tasting room is absolutely gorgeous with an indoor seating area, as well as a patio overlooking some beautiful grape vines. The tasting was $8, including the glass. I loved their sparkling wine the best. However, our tasting associate was not the friendliest, nor the most attentive, so I’m knocking some points off. The associate doing the tasting for the group beside us was excellent, animated, and friendly, though.
3.5 wine glasses
When Ashley came to visit, we went to Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards on the most gorgeous of Fall days. Rumor has it that Jennifer Aniston wed her fiance, Justin Theroux there this past summer, but it’s top secret. A beautiful setting for a wedding, the vineyard is nestled in a valley with gorgeous mountains in the distance. The view was spectacular, and the place was abuzz. Literally no open seat on the outdoor patio or in the restaurant inside. We had to wait a few minutes for our tasting, which was $5 for our choice of 4 wines from their menu. I tried a sparkling, a white, a red, and the dessert wine. All were excellent! While beautiful, Pippin Hill does not allow outside food or drink, unlike most vineyards where picnics are encouraged. For that reason, I’d have to knock a few points because it didn’t have as relaxed a feel as other places. So we just soaked up the beauty instead of food.
4.5 wine glasses
From there, Ashley and I ventured to Veritas Vineyard & Winery. I loved this place. The white wrap-around porch and picnic tables on the lawn were very inviting and warm, as were the couches inside by the fireplace. We had to wait a few minutes for our tasting, but our tasting associate was excellent and very interactive. Tastings were $5 including the glass, for around 7 or 8 wines. I love their motto, In vino, veritas (In wine, truth) that is etched on their glasses. After our tasting, we grabbed a couple of seats on the plush leather couches and stayed warm by the cozy fireplace.
5 wine glasses
This past weekend, Stephanie and I met for an afternoon between Cville and DC at Prince Michel Vineyards and Winery. This winery is very easy to find/access, as it’s right off Highway 29. We had a great time doing the tasting of about 12 wines for $5 (including the glass). We ended up buying a bottle of red and sharing an indoor picnic in their beautiful space. They even had a self-guided tour available, but we were too enthralled in our wine and picnic to take part in that. They didn’t have great views, so that knocks a few points off. But we both had a great time there and loved their wines.
4 wine glasses