“I want to move here and buy a vineyard,” I declared before we’d even stopped at a single winery. We’ve been to Virginia wine country twice now, and the desire has only gotten stronger.
To clarify, the whole state of Virginia could be considered wine country. But what we refer to here is the area surrounding Charlottesville, better known as the Monticello American Viticulture Area (AVA). While Virginia consists of seven total AVAs, Monticello is where we’ve spent all of our time (thus far!).
With rolling hills, changing seasons, and scenic views, you can’t help but feel in awe. And with 33 wineries, the oenophile in all of us will fit right in.
Everyone knows that Virginia is for Lovers. But the Monticello Wine Trail, in particular, has helped solidify that Virginia is for Wine Lovers too!
Intro to Virginia Wine
We didn’t know much about Virginia wine before our most recent visit. We knew it was good and offered a diverse selection. But we learned a few key points on our trip that help explain it a little better.
Key point one. The soil and the climate make Virginia a prime spot for quality grape-growing. And not just quality grape growing of one or two varietals. You won’t come and taste only Chardonnay. Or only Pinot Noir. Nope. Virginia wine country has quite an extensive list of award-winning wines from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Key point two. You’re going to see a lot of Viognier. It’s the state grape of Virginia! At first, I was hesitant. The Viognier I had in the past didn’t impress me. But a few sips of Virginia Viognier and you can understand why it’s the state grape. It does so well here! It’s is light and refreshing, without being too sweet.
Key point three. If Virginia had a state grape from the red family, it would be Cabernet Franc. For the last several years, I would only have Cab Franc if it was in a blend. And even then, I was skeptical! My first sip of 100% Cab Franc was back in 2011 in Sonoma, California. I spit it out. I liken that Cab Franc to this: taking a big swig of water from the bottom of a can of cigarette butts. Admittedly, it could’ve just been a bad bottle or a struggling winery.
BUT! Virginia Cab Franc proved me wrong. Apparently, Virginia wine country has a much better growing environment for the grape. So, the bottles produced here are leaps and bounds above those from California. I don’t want to start a war over who has the better Cab Franc, but I do have to say that I ordered several glasses of the stuff while in Virginia. It was the perfect summery red for the 90-degree days we endured while exploring the area.
Key point four. Petit Verdot. Point made. It was my favorite. I fell in love with Petit Verdot in Virginia. I personally felt expensive when I drank it. Smooth and luxurious. The best we had was at Veritas Vineyard and Winery, where Doug from the tasting room called it “silk in a glass.” Do yourself a favor and bring home lots of the stuff!
The Monticello Wine Trail
Now that you’ve had a crash course in Virginia wine, here’s a crash course in the Monticello AVA.
The name and region have roots in the history of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate. In fact, touring Monticello is a perfect way to spend a morning when visiting this area. You’ll learn about Thomas Jefferson’s interest in a variety of scientific and agricultural pursuits, including viticulture!
The best part is, the estate opens before the wineries. So, you can have a history lesson in the morning and sip Virginia wine in the afternoon!
Unfortunately, Thomas Jefferson didn’t live to see Virginia wine turn into the gem it is today. I guess he’s just another artist who was ahead of his time. But the area is full of odes to his legacy. Nicknamed the “Birthplace of American Wine,” the Monticello AVA was the first one established in Virginia. You can read more about the history of the Monticello Wine Trail on their website.
Long story short, there’s a partnership amongst these 33 wineries. They commit to local grape-growing and production, as well helping each other when times are tough. This includes rounding out each other’s harvest when dangers like frost threaten a crop.
The best thing about their partnership (besides the fabulous wine itself) is their willingness to point you in the right direction. The wineries want you to visit their nearby counterparts. They aren’t so much in competition as they are a collaboration. The better the wine and the more fun the experience, the better it is for all of Virginia wine country.
The Monticello Wineries
The easiest thing I can do is provide you a link to a list of the 33 wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail.
In our two trips to Virginia wine country, we still haven’t been to them all. In fact, we’ve only been to nine. We clearly need to plan a few more trips. Or just move there, because you can’t see them all on one trip, or even two.
But you can focus your efforts on some areas in particular to maximize your time. Take, for example, the Nelson 151 trail, otherwise known as “Virginia’s Weekend Address.” Or you can try sampling some of the wines at our favorite Virginia wineries thus far.
Additionally, here’s a quick and dirty list of the Virginia wineries we’ve tried:
- Afton Mountain Vineyards – Gorgeous views, delicious wine, great place to stay for the weekend. This place has it all. Also part of the Nelson 151 trail.
- Barboursville Vineyards – In addition to history and great wine, the food is award-winning. One of our favorite Virginia wineries!
- Blenheim Vineyards – Dave Matthews owns it and designed the gorgeous (and sustainable!) buildings. One of our favorite Virginia wineries!
- Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery – A stellar local joint down a country road with creative offerings. Also part of the Nelson 151 trail.
- Gabriele Rausse Winery – Small and set in the woods, almost like something out of Twilight (sorry, had to go there). Check their hours of operation before you go, as they seem a bit odd.
- Jefferson Vineyards – The tasting room is small, and they seem to know it, so the tasting will go quick. Then get a glass to enjoy out on the patio or in the Adirondack chairs on the hill.
- Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards – Gorgeous grounds, delicious food, stellar wine. This place has it all, plus ample seating. One of our favorite Virginia wineries!
- Trump Winery – Like it or not, this place exists, and the views are spectacular.
- Veritas Vineyard & Winery – One of our top choices. Kick-ass winemaker, beautiful spot, our favorite wine from the area (Petit Verdot). Also part of the Nelson 151 trail AND one of our favorite Virginia wineries!
Plan a Visit to Virginia Wine Country
Whatever stops you decide to make, know this: Wine tasting when you haven’t done it before can sound daunting. Words like Viognier, Sauvignon, and Gewürztraminer can trip us all up. But Virginia wine country is so not snobby. They’re excited to teach you about wine, share their favorites, and show you a good time. It’s the perfect place to go whether it’s your first wine tour or your fiftieth!
Now, it’s time to see firsthand why Virginia is for Wine Lovers! Planning a visit to the Monticello area is easy. Stay Charlottesville is a great resource for finding local places both in Charlottesville and the surrounding areas. You could even stay at Afton Mountain Winery in one of their cottages!
Leave a comment below to let us know what wine region around the world is your favorite! Cheers!
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We can’t thank Virginia.org enough for their support during our stay. They helped with accommodations, meals, and itinerary-planning for our four-day visit. But as always, our reviews are honest and genuine. We do not guarantee a positive review in return for assistance.
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