It’s a bit of a well-kept secret among those who love wine: You can board a train at DC’s Union Station (or in Alexandria or Manassas) and be in Charlottesville—home to some of Virginia’s top wineries—in less than three hours, for as little as $60 round-trip.
Once at Charlottesville’s downtown Amtrak station, you won’t need a car. The Draftsman, a sleek boutique hotel, is a ten-minute walk (from $158). Or, for some Southern pampering, the Inn at 400 West High is five minutes farther (from $210), just off the pedestrian mall at the heart of Charlottesville life.
With dozens of locally owned shops and eateries, the mall is always bustling. For dinner, civilians love Bizou, an old-style French cafe featuring framed movie posters, zinc-topped tables, and a comfort-food menu with creative twists. For a more intimate meal of traditional steak, fish, and fowl, the cozy C&O Restaurant is a good choice.
As for wine, book ahead for Monticello Appellation Wine Tours’ small group outings for two to six people, which include hotel pickup, a guide who leads visits to three wineries based on your preferences, and a fruit/cheese/chocolate platter, for $145 a person plus tasting fees. For a less structured day, Hop On Virginia runs five hop-on/hop-off routes that include wineries, breweries, and distilleries for $39 to $65 a person plus tasting fees.
Before heading home, consider a visit to the University of Virginia’sAcademical Village, including the picturesque Lawn and Rotunda, all designed by Thomas Jefferson. It’s a 1.5-mile, one-way walk from the mall, or you can catch a free trolley at the Amtrak station. Students lead free one-hour tours during the school year.
Incidentally, though Jefferson’s university worked out well, his grape-growing trials failed miserably. Fortunately, Charlottesville’s wineries got that all sorted out.
This article appears in the September 2019 issue of Washingtonian.