A Two-Day Trip to Taste Virginia’s Finest Wines

Split-rail fences, vintage plantation homes, grazing horses, and the gentle Blue Ridge Mountains set the backdrop for some of Virginia’s best wineries, all in and around Charlottesville.

After the drive down, you might stop for lunch at the Farm Shop at Kluge Vineyards, which serves proper meals such as chicken pot pie and quiche. The winetasting ($10 for five generous portions) is unorthodox, presented in a stylish tray that holds fluted plastic cups. Sample the Blanc de Blanc, a tasty sparkler, and the award-winning “Rose,” which benefits from the consultation of a top French Champagne producer and earned a spot on Food + Wine’s Best list this year. 3550 Blenheim Rd., Charlottesville; 434-977-3895; klugeestateonline.com. Daily 11 to 6.

Without Thomas Jefferson, there’s a good chance Virginia wouldn’t have a wine industry at all. See where it all started—before his dreams for world-class American wine were cut short by the Revolutionary War—at Jefferson Vineyard. Try the clean Pinot Gris and the blended Petit Verdot. 1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy., Charlottesville; 800-272-3042; jeffersonvineyards.com. Daily 10 to 6 (9 to 5 in summer).

About half an hour outside town, Keswick Winery gives visitors a good sense of what the state has to offer. Grab a bottle of “Chambourcin,” an oaked and earthy French-American hybrid and winner of the Gold Medal at the 2007 Governor’s Cup. Bottle in hand, retire to the patio, overlooking the 400-acre estate with ponds and swans. This plantation is steeped in Civil War history—it was used as a Confederate campsite. 1575 Keswick Winery Dr., Keswick; 888-244-3341; keswickvineyards.com. Daily 9 to 5.

At the end of the day, you can check into the luxurious Keswick Hall at Monticello. The spa’s $460 Keswick Reserve treatment features a Shiraz body scrub, red-wine body mask, and Pinot Noir facial. Afterward, head to Fossett’s Bar, a cozy room with chairs clustered around a fireplace. The bar offers tastings of wines from Blenheim Vineyards, owned by indie rocker Dave Matthews. Don’t miss the “Cab Franc,” which is less tannic than most and popular with area sommeliers. Tastings every Saturday and Sunday noon to 11, weekdays 3 to 11; blenheimvineyards.com. Rooms at Keswick start at $295. 701 Club Dr., Keswick; 434-979-3440; keswick.com.

The next day, stop at Horton Cellars, in a faux medieval château complete with rocky turret. People come for the “Horton Norton” and Viognier as well as Norton Port, the only one made in Virginia from 100 percent Norton grapes. Tastings are free. 6399 Spotswood Trail, Gordonsville; 800-829-4633; hvwine.com. Daily 10 to 5.

End your wine trip at nearby Barboursville, Disneyland for oenophiles. Alongside the vast tasting room—which features a museumlike space dedicated to the history of the winery’s best-selling red blend, “Octagon”—is a shop with a nice selection of books on wine. Outside on the 830-acre property, rambling roses line stone paths that cut through a working farm complete with cows. Atop a hill sit the remains of a Thomas Jefferson–designed home created for a former governor. Nearby is a bubbling stream, a perfect place to throw down a blanket and sip wine. You may not want to leave this beautiful property—and you don’t have to. Barboursville has converted outbuildings to inn accommodations; rates start at $225. If you must return home, you can reserve a table for lunch at Palladio Restaurant, which features Northern Italian cuisine in honor of the vineyard’s Italian owners. A three-course lunch with wine pairings is $55. 17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville; 540-832-3824; barboursvillewine.com. Monday through Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday 11 to 5.

This article first appeared in the September 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here