October is officially “wine month” in Charlottesville, but any of the 30 local vineyards can be enjoyed year-round. Part of the reason for the success of vineyards in this part of the state is the topography. The eroded mountains create wonderful growing conditions, which in turn, yield beautifully complex wines. Following are a few vineyards in and around Charlottesville that should be included on any wine tour.
Barboursville Vineyards (17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville, 540/832-3824) is a popular stop on the local wine tour scene on a beautiful 18th-century estate, less than a half hour from Charlottesville. They were the first in the region to seriously develop European wine varietals and offer daily tastings.
Blenheim Vineyards (31 Blenheim Farm, Charlottesville, 434/293-5366) was established in 2000 by Dave Matthews, of Dave Matthews Band fame. The vineyard is a family-owned and operated business 20 minutes southeast of the city. They have two vineyard sites and grow chardonnay, viognier, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and cabernet sauvignon. The timber frame tasting room ($5 per person) has cool glass flooring that allows visitors to look into the tank and barrel room below.
First Colony Winery (1650 Harris Creek Rd., Charlottesville, 434/979-7105) offers state, national, and internationally awarded wines. They produce chardonnay, viognier, merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon. They have tastings, a gift shop, a beautiful 2,000-square-foot event room, and picturesque grounds for picnicking.
Jefferson Vineyards (1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Charlottesville, 434/977-3042) sits on the site between Monticello and Ash-Lawn where Thomas Jefferson and Filippo Mazzei of Italy first decided to establish a vineyard. The vineyard produces between 6,000 and 8,000 cases annually and makes wine entirely from grapes grown in Virginia. Daily tours and tastings are $10 and include a crystal Riedel glass.
Keswick Vineyards (1575 Keswick Winery Dr., Keswick, 434/244-3341) specializes in the production of small lots of wine. Their international award winners include viognier, verdejo, chardonnay, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petite verdot, syrah, norton, chambourcin, and touriga. Their wines are all produced from their own fruit. Tastings are available daily.
Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard (5022 Plank Rd., North Garden, 434/202-8063) is a boutique winery and vineyard, just outside Charlottesville. It is relatively new to the Charlottesville winery scene and offers a sustainable viticulture program, an exquisite event space, and landscaped gardens. The tasting room features their signature wines and food pairings ($6) which can be enjoyed at a beautifully hand-carved bar or out on a stone terrace.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Virginia & Maryland.