Charlottesville Wineries and Monticello AVA Vineyards
Charlottesville Winery & vineyard Tours
History of VA WINE
The history of wine in Virginia dates back to 1607 with the successful establishment of a colony at Jamestown by the Virginia Company. Early accounts of the abundance of native grape varietals sent back by Captain John Smith created a fervent desire to make wine in the New World. In 1619 the Virginia House of Burgesses passed Act 12, requiring each head of a household to plant ten vines and, “attain to the arte and experience of dressing a Vineyard.” By most historical accounts, however, such attempts to make palatable wines failed. By 1768 the American colonies were exporting less than 13 tons of wine that, by most standards, on either side of the Atlantic, was undrinkable, due to the persistent foxiness, or musty aroma and taste associated with American grape varietals.
MONTICELLO AMERICAN VITICULTURAL AREA
Welcome to the Monticello American Viticultural Area! This wine region of the upper Virginia Piedmont includes Albemarle and Nelson counties and parts of Greene and Orange counties, in the heart of the Central Virginia countryside. Two thirds of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive of Charlottesville. In fact, this small university city renowned for its culture, arts, and leisurely lifestyle is less than a three hour drive from, and serves as a scenic complement to the federal and military seats of power in the Washington Metropolitan and Tidewater areas respectively. The Monticello AVA is also the only wine region in the country host to three homes of former U.S. Presidents (two of whom were Founding Fathers), and each of the three is also host to its own wine festival.
Afton Mountain Vineyards
If their slogan “grapes don’t grow in ugly places” is true, they have nothing to worry about: their vineyard is surrounded by beautiful vistas. Nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the stunningly beautiful Afton Mountain Vineyards grows not only chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, but also varietals not frequently seen in the Monticello AVA (American Viticultural Area): gewurztraminer, pinot noir, sangiovese and albariño. Some of the vines at Afton Mountain date back to the 1970s: in an emerging wine region, it is rare to find vineyards of this age, and the fruit of these mature plantings adds to the character of the wine. These older vines have deeper, hardier roots and, even at nearly 40 years old, they are still in the prime of their lives. Before your next Western Charlottesville Winery Tour, read more about Afton Mountain Vineyards Story here.
The story of Barboursville Vineyards is inseparable from the story of the land. The estate was first cultivated by a prominent Virginia family in the late 1700s. It grew in wealth under the stewardship of James Barbour, the son of Thomas Barbour and Mary Pendleton Thomas, who would become the 19th Governor of Virginia and later Secretary of War under John Quincy Adams. Friendship and political allegiances with his colonial neighbors James Madison and Thomas Jefferson undoubtedly meant that James Barbour was a player in the formation of the new republic. Thomas Jefferson designed the stately brick and columned main house, which was home to the Barbour family until fire destroyed the building on Christmas, 1884. Though its sloping hills and rich soils are perfect for cultivating grapes, the land had to wait another century before its character and beauty was fully revealed in a glass of wine.
Blenheim Vineyards has blended the pleasures of wine, art, and community like few other places. Owned by renowned musician Dave Matthews and run by some of the most approachable staff in the business, the intersection of these spheres has become the center of Blenheim’s philosophy.
In 2000, the final touches of Blenheim’s two story joint tasting room and barrel room were completed. Designed by Dave Matthews and master craftsman William Johnson, this energy efficient hall features beautiful reclaimed timber framing a full southeastern façade of windows and skylights for natural lighting. A partial subterranean foundation helps maintain the consistent cool of the barrel room.
Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery
The Gormans’ connection to Virginia wine country dates back to their purchase of property near Afton Mountain in 1985, but the dream of owning a vineyard dates to a few years before that. In the early 1970s, General Paul Gorman and his family were posted in the small city of Bad Kreuznach, Germany. This remote region of Germany was known for producing some of the world’s finest Rieslings, and those few years spent in this wine-rich region were enough to instill the dream of a family vineyard for the Gormans. Upon returning to the United States, they began searching for suitable land, and eventually found an excellent site in Afton. This established a setting for the family winery, but its realization required patience enough to wait for the next generation.
For the active couple or family searching for a vineyard that offers more than just your standard day of wine tasting, look no further than thirty minutes south of Charlottesville in Faber, Virginia. Located in a rural community, DelFosse vineyards are terraced into the mountains. The site offers plenty of sun, good elevation, essential wind streaming and a picturesque setting. When owners Claude and Genevieve DelFosse first came upon these 330 acres in Nelson County, it was clear that they had found something special.
Early Mountain Vineyards
History, beauty, and terroir meet here in Madison, Virginia, a short drive north of Charlottesville. Named for local Revolutionary War veteran Lt. Joseph Early, whose home served as a makeshift bed and breakfast for Revolutionary notables, this bucolic farm was made into a vineyard by the Sweely family in 2004. In 2011, Steve and Jean Case took over, planning to shake up not only a specific winery but an entire industry with their grand experiment. Their international wine tasting trips exposed them to the finest vineyards and winemakers the world over, and when they decided to create their own, they chose Virginia as a place with great potential.
Flying Fox Vineyards
When Flying Fox vineyard describes itself as a “small, family-owned winery” they mean it. Planting their first vines in 1999, they keep only six and a half acres of red grapes and produce only 1,400 cases per year, which makes them perhaps the smallest operation on the Nelson County wine trail.
And when they say they want to “make the most honest wine possible from the very best grapes,” they mean that, too. Their approach is to manage their vines for low yield and high fruit intensity, which emphasizes quality over quantity. In these few short years, that quality has already begun to be recognized. In just their second vintage in 2006, they won Silver, Gold, and Double Gold medals for their Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Glass House Winery
Imagine the gentle sway of palm trees, the scent of tropical blooms and your own private table set with artisan chocolates and a flight of local wines. Now, imagine that you are still in Albemarle County, a short ride from Charlottesville. A fantasy? Yes, but one brought to life by the enterprising team of Jeff and Michelle Sanders, who welcome you to their world of wine and chocolate in bucolic Free Union.
Grace Estate Winery
John Grace fell in love, and he fell hard. Impossible to blame him- everyone who visits Ireland and is lucky enough to visit the Mount Juliet resort feels the same. Add to that the discovery that some of his ancestors had once owned part of that venerable estate, and it was an unquenchable passion. Small wonder, then, that when he stumbled across the lovely Mount Juliet estate in bucolic Crozet, its purchase was a foregone conclusion. The magnificent house was based on the Irish original, and its rolling green hills were possibly even more verdant, more alluring than those on the Emerald Isle. And, there were the grapes…
It has been over two hundred and fifty years since Jefferson walked the property that is home to Jefferson Vineyards today. The winery bears his name and produces wines from vines planted on his former land. Even though Jefferson Vineyards has no current official link to the Sage of Monticello, the winery’s history is intertwined with his legacy as America’s first distinguished wine enthusiast.
When Al and Cindy Schornberg moved from the Detroit area to the historic four hundred-acre Edgewood Estate near Keswick Virginia, they took a step back into history. Considered to be the “western frontier” during the Colonial period, the rolling hills and rich lands of the Keswick area were sought after for their rich soil, temperate climate and accessible location. The area was a primary route between the growing city of Charlottesville and the capitals in the East – first Williamsburg and later Richmond.
King Family Vineyards
When David and Ellen King moved with their three sons to Crozet from Texas in 1996, starting a vineyard was the last thing on their minds. They envisioned raising their family on the farm with their horses, an occasional polo game, and a crop of alfalfa to tend. However, after an unknown stranger put the bug in their ear, they planted a few vines beginning in 1998. Their first vintage, in the year 2000, yielded five hundred cases of wine with winemaker/consultant Michael Shapps. Mr. and Mrs. King quickly succumbed the allure of winegrowing and have never looked back. Today, King Family Vineyards produces over seven thousand cases of wine and has twenty-five acres under vine. Their plantings are distributed between Chardonnay, Merlot, and the Virginia favorites of Viognier, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The farm is also home to a protected waterfowl preserve and the King's are very involved in wildlife preservation and environmental stewardship.
Even in an area known for its breathtaking views, Moss Winery is notable for its spectacular location. 1000 feet up and swept by rising thermals and plunging downdrafts, the circular and katabatic wind patterns make the surrounding forests roar. That, and granite rich soil, ensure the vines that survive have the toughness required to create the best wines. And survive they do, for which fans of the cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, viognier, varmentino and merlot grapes can be very grateful.
When you sit on the terrace overlooking the rumpled Blue Ridge, it all seems inevitable: the unforgettable scenery, the delectable wine, the crisply modern tasting room and headquarters
Every season brings something special when you live near the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the spring, I never need much of an excuse to take a weekend drive in the country. Sometimes my route takes me up 810, where, a few miles past the crossroads of White Hall and a bit off of the beaten path, it just so happens Mountfair Vineyards is located. A proud member of the Monticello Wine Trail, Mountfair is a hidden treasure with excellent wine and all the excuse you need to take a drive in the country. A small winery with about 5 acres of grapes, Mountfair specializes in producing a variety of blends based of the traditional Bordeaux grapes: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and malbec. Such descriptions, however, do not begin to define the essence of the place.
Pippin Hill Vineyards
Imagine sitting under a veranda overlooking pristine foothills back-dropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains. There’s a glass of Virginia wine and fire-baked artisanal pizza on the table before you, banks of native flora edging the landscaped grounds and local musicians lending their sounds to the tone of the afternoon. This is just one of the idyllic experiences waiting for you at Pippin Hill Farm and Winery. It may be the youngest winery in the Monticello region, but its owners, Dean and Lynn Easton Andrews, are applying lessons learned through their years at the top of the hospitality industry. At Pippin Hill, they have merged their talents to create a boutique winery that provides its visitors with a true Virginia experience.
Drawn to the property primarily because of interest in the residence, the Stinsons came into being vintners accidentally. Scott Stinson, an architect from Northern Virginia/D.C., focused much of his work on historic architecture and restoration. With a personal preference for historic homes and his wife Martha’s desire to locate in Albemarle County, they spent four years scouring the area for the perfect restoration-worthy house. In 2009, they found and purchased the Piedmont House located at the base of Sugar Hollow in the tiny town of White Hall, which is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Stone Mountain Vineyards
Al Breiner used to wonder out loud if he should charge for the viewings and give away the wine. At an elevation of 1700 feet up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Stone Mountain Vineyards provides a memorable, windswept panorama. Inspired by the Rhine River Valley’s steep vineyards, the Breiner family decided to bring high altitude, slope-clinging grapes to rural Dyke, Virginia. Al and his son Chris brought this vision into reality, planting the first seeds in 1995.
A boutique winery located 10 miles from downtown Charlottesville, Thatch Winery offers superior wines in a rustic yet modern 5000 square-foot tasting room. The property features rolling hills, stunning sunsets, manicured gardens, patios, a renovated loft complete with games, two fireplaces and a total of three tasting bars. Formerly, First Colony Winery, Thatch currently has over 6 acres under vine featuring varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Sprawling across one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Albemarle region is the revitalized Trump Winery. In the short thirteen years since the first vines were planted on the estate, then founded as Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard, a storied history flush with color and headlines has been written. It is perhaps, the Virginia winery most written about in bold due to its ambitious and eccentric founder Patricia Kluge, highly publicized failings and foreclosure, and its unceremonious resale to corporate real estate and entertainment mogul Donald Trump. However, lost in these bylines is the story of the wines and the individuals that have been making them. In 2010, as the presses rolled on about the foreclosure of Patricia Kluge’s winery and the ensuing fire sale of her wines by the bank, there continued to stand over 220 acres of pristine vines and over 1500 barrels of fine wines on the repossessed property. They sat untouched for nearly a year until the winemakers returned in late 2011.
Andrew Hodson is the patriarch of Veritas Vineyard & Winery. As a young man he dedicated his life to medicine, working in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. A talented neurologist, his hands became an expression of his intellect, compassion, and skill. Medicine was his passion, shared with his wife, Patricia, who owned a medical billing service, but in the 1990s, the couple decided to leave the profession. They were looking for something new, something to bring change to each year and each season. They didn’t know then, but their choice brought a great change in which the seasons are celebrated by “each vintage.”
In Mr. Jefferson’s day western Albemarle County was considered part of the western frontier, where pioneers looking to make their home in the Blue Ridge came and settled. The rugged mountains gave the promise of a new life and the excitement of finding opportunity in a bountiful if often dangerous place. Tony and Edie Champ undoubtedly felt such excitement when they moved to Virginia in 1992. Tony and his wife, Edie, developed a love of wine while touring the Napa Valley. They soon became enamored with the idea of starting their own winery and set about looking for the perfect spot to plant vines and build a dream, much as the colonial pioneers who came before them had done.