Sip Your Way Along the Monticello Wine Trail
Bon Appétit | Published Fall 2022
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Few places embody the breathtaking views and award-winning culinary scene quite like the wine-producing region of Charlottesville and Albemarle County in Virginia.
This little gem of an area is located at the foothills of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, which are on beautiful display from nearly every vineyard in town. The wine region is also located only two hours southwest of Washington D.C., and mere hours from the beach—so it’s the perfect locale for those hoping to pencil in a quick getaway. The region is steeped in winemaking history, which was introduced to the area by Thomas Jefferson, who dreamed of seeing his stateside home surrounded by vines as majestic as the ones he had seen in France. After years of attempts at making the region thrive, the Monticello Wine Trail finally took hold in the ‘90s and into the 2000s. The area is now home to more than 40 vineyards that are as diverse as they are welcoming.
Today, the wineries not only boast award-winning varieties, but are unique attractions in and of themselves. While there are vineyards rich in history, like Gabriele Rausse’s winery, which was founded by the man known as “the father of Virginia wine,” there are also vineyards leaving their mark on the vines in different ways. Loving Cup Vineyard and Winery is celebrating its 10th year as the only certified-organic vineyard in Virginia. There’s also Eastwood Farm & Winery, which is entirely owned and run by women who are making it their goal to diversify the wine industry as a whole.
Throughout the trail, there is truly something for everyone, with many of the wineries offering experiences beyond the grapes. A great example is Glass House Winery, which is home to a large tropical plant conservatory and an in-house chocolatier. Make sure to go by on a Sunday so you can see some live music performances after a tour of the stunning facilities. Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyards is a new vineyard on the scene, offering live music events and quirky, colorful decor. Of course, no trip down the wine trail would be complete without a stop by Dave Matthews’ Blenheim Vineyards, which hosts tastings and delicious food vendors—all while making sustainability and conservation a priority. The array of wineries perfectly demonstrates not only the diversity of wines offered in the region, but also the diverse groups of people that have come together to create the thriving food scene.
Many of the wineries also have adorable bed-and-breakfast offerings that provide guests with a gorgeous backdrop that’s never more than 30 minutes from the heart of the city and the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall. Here, you’ll be swept away by the idyllic brick-clad downtown area that’s home to dozens of locally owned shops and restaurants, many of which offering impressive outdoor dining spaces. This area has attracted chefs from all over the world, such as James Beard-nominated chef Jose De Brito, who brings everyday food with a classic French take at Café Frank; and none more renowned than Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose restaurant Marigold was recently opened at the newly renovated Keswick Hall. Here, guests can experience the tastes of the town through meats and produce options that are sourced locally and served seasonally.
While the wineries offer breathtaking views of the leaves in the fall, the winter provides guests with a more intimate experience that epitomizes coziness. From roaring fireplaces to heated outdoor spaces, many of the tasting rooms, bed and breakfasts, and dining establishments are well equipped for making their guests as comfortable as possible during the winter months. Not to mention, there are great deals on the luxurious accommodations (and fewer crowds) during the winter months compared to peak seasons in the fall and spring. Definitely make sure you download a Monticello Wine Trail Passport so you can have easy access to nearby wineries and activities. Start planning your winter stay today at visitcharlottesville.org to experience the height of North American wine culture in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.