With a dozen wineries in the Charlottesville Albemarle area, and more breweries and cideries, it can be very hard to narrow down your wine tasting itinerary. That’s why I talked to Anna Quillion, the top rated tour guide at Monticello Wine Tours. She spoke with me about her favorite Virginia wineries and why she values the experiences at each one.
Favorite Virginia Wineries from a Professional Wine Guide
Her favorite Virginia wineries, in no particular order, were King Family Vineyards, Pollack Vineyards (both in Crozet), Flying Fox Vineyard in Afton, Gabriele Rausse Winery, and last but not least, Blenheim Vineyards. Each location has a unique and delightful experience to offer the discerning tourist.
“King Family has a really fun and active schedule all year, with polo matches on Sundays in the summer, and Wine Wednesdays with food trucks for family fun too,” says Anna. “I recommend the Meritage and also be sure to find and pet the tasting room cat, Frank”.
Pollack Vineyards is one of the few Virginia wineries to grow all of their grapes on site. It delights the tastebuds with a strong set of reds that you can take down to the lake for a picnic with friends.
“Flying Fox is one of my favorite Virginia wineries not only because of its small boutique style but also because they produce a seasonal Vermouth, and are the only local winery to do so,” Anna explains. “I also highly recommend their Merlot, it’s absolutely incredible!”
Barboursville Vineyards has a long history in the area. It was started by Gabriele Rausse, the “Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry.” Gabriele was sent to America in the 1976 by his employer, Gianni Zonin, to establish the practices of Italian grape growing and wine making here. Today, Gabriele runs his own tasting room Gabriele Rausse Winery, which is only open three days a week. It offers local food paired with each wine, and fresh baked bread with a fine olive oil.
Last but not least, is Blenheim Vineyards. It’s owned by the one and only Dave Matthews, who is considered the musical son of Charlottesville. They offer food trucks, live music, and art exhibits alongside their wine selection. Their Painted Red is Anna’s most highly recommended bottle. Anna also loves their learning series for the interested customer.
Wineries stay open during the winter, making touring and tasting an ideal activity no matter the season. The tasting rooms of our favorite Virginia wineries have fantastic outdoor seating areas and views. But they also offer cozy indoor space where you can sip a cabernet sauvignon with some locally made cheese.
A Short History of Virginia Wineries
Thomas Jefferson, considered America’s first wine connoisseur, was among the first to bring vineyards to the commonwealth of Virginia. His passion for cultivating grapes into a delicious beverage remains an integral part of our lifestyle today. He kickoff the Virginia winemaking industry by giving 2,000 acres adjoining Monticello to Italian viticulturist, Filippo Mazzei, in 1773.
Today, Virginia ranks as the fifth most successful and popular state in the United States for vineyards and wine. The state has more than 3,200 acres of wine grapes and more than 280 vineyards. On average each year, 2.5 million people visit Virginia wineries and vineyards, not just for the wine but also for the spectacular views, the southern hospitality, and the local food. The vast majority of Virginia wine is sold and consumed on site at tasting rooms and wineries. Virginians know not to let a good thing pass unappreciated.
The younger generation is more and more interested in wine. They want to learn how it is made, where it comes from, and about all the different varieties. From this interest, the boom of wine tourism took off, and the Charlottesville area is a main hubs for this industry.