Charlottesville & Central Virginia: A wine lover’s guide

Vineyards in Virginia

Central Virginia boasts America’s original winemaking history. Thomas Jefferson famously acquired vineyards and attempted at-home winemaking at Monticello during the late 18th century. The region is ripe with vineyards often right next to former battlefields and other places of significance to American history.

Beyond its rich history, Central Virginia offers an ideal wine getaway for nearly any traveller. For urban dwellers looking for a bit of action, the ‘Downtown Mall’ of Charlottesville offers a plethora of great places to eat and drink. Travellers looking to experience the outdoors will enjoy the area’s surrounding mountain landscapes – perfect for hiking, skiing or cycling.

History buffs will take delight in the nearby Civil and Revolutionary War sites, period-inspired festivals, and more.

From a viticultural perspective, it’s no surprise why grape growing has taken off in Virginia, particularly within Central Virginia. The eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains create ample hills and valleys dominated by granite-based clay soils – perfect for cultivating a slew of both vinifera and hybrid varieties.

A long, 200-day growing season allows the fruit to reach peak phenolic maturity, while large diurnal temperature swings keep acidity in the berries fresh and abundant.

For those looking to enjoy the best that Central Virginia’s winemaking scene has to offer, we recommend posting up in downtown Charlottesville as a home base. You can use the city’s central location as a jumping off point. Renting a car will offer the most affordable and accessible means of transportation, though hiring a driver for the day (we recommend Albemarle Limousine Service) offers a hassle-free and safe way to enjoy wine tastings.

Best of all, Central Virginia’s moderate daytime temperatures make visiting anytime of year pleasant, though we find the most exciting times to be around bud-break (spring) and harvest (late September through October).

A tasting tour

Aerial view of Early Mountain Vineyards. Credit: Early Mountain Vineyards

With over 300 wineries across the state, there’s certainly no shortage of places to go when planning a wine-focused trip to Virginia. As with any region, we recommend going in with a loose plan and a few must-hit places – leaving some flexibility for spontaneity. However, no trip to Virginia wine country is complete without a visit to Early Mountain Vineyards.

Although relatively young, this iconic Madison-based winery has been making waves across both viticulture and vinification realms since its early days in 2005. Now spearheaded by forward-thinking winemaker Maya Hood White, this unmissable estate is putting out some of Virginia’s most exciting and thoughtfully-crafted wines.

Pours range from experimental pét-nats to Bordeaux-inspired blends and beyond. Stay for lunch, grab a seat on the expansive outdoor patio, or simply post up at the tasting room counter and get lost in conversation with the winery’s knowledgeable team.

After a morning spent at Early Mountain Vineyards, hitting Hark Vineyards (approx. 25-min drive) is an excellent way to spend some time before returning to downtown Charlottesville. Founded by Aaron and Candice Hark just a few years back, this new-to-the-scene winery specialises in affordable, easy-drinking wines that are perfect for popping on the large outdoor space and enjoying with a view. Be sure to sample a few of winemaker Jake Busching’s private label wines while on site. 

Located closer to Charlottesville is Stinson Vineyards, an equally unmissable stop for wine lovers of all palate preferences and knowledge levels. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this family-owned estate is spearheaded by husband-and-wife team Rachel and Nathan.

Longtime lovers of French wines – and inspired by the great ‘garagiste’ wines of France – the couple focuses on Bordeaux and Loire Valley grape varieties. Stinson  implements generous whole cluster use and…

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Charlottesville & Central Virginia: A wine lover’s guide  
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