With an itch for a change in scenery, we recently planned a long weekend getaway to Charlottesville, Virginia. We first visited Charlottesville several years back to tour Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and we found ourselves charmed by the small city’s mix of history and college town life fueled by the University of Virginia. Add in some award-winning wineries with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and what’s not to love?
The drive to Charlottesville from DC is a about two and a half hours, and it becomes rather scenic after getting off Interstate 66.
Our first stop was Barboursville Vineyards, where we had a delicious lunch in their Palladio restaurant, followed by a tasting in their library. We were especially excited to try their 2015 Paxxito (pronounced pa-see-to) dessert wine, which recently won the 2021 Virginia Governor’s Cup. It’s uncommon for a dessert wine to win a top spot like this, but after tasting it we could certainly see why. Unlike many dessert wines that tend to be syrupy sweet, this aromatic wine was the perfect amount of sweet with flavors of peach and apricot. And for $35, we couldn’t resist buying several bottles to take home that we look forward to serving chilled on some warm summer nights.
Another standout for us at Barboursville was the 2016 Octagon, a red blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. People tend to throw around “bold” as an adjective rather casually when talking about wines, but wow, this wine is bold. With a smoky aroma that conjures up a campfire, this full-bodied red with big tannins would be perfect for a cold afternoon by the fire. Our server also let us try the 2014 blend which we also found delicious and a bit more subdued.
After our tasting we hit the road and drove to our hotel, the Clifton Inn, an estate that was originally owned by Virginia Governor Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., whose wife Martha was Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter. Our room was in an old farmhouse on the property, which made for a cozy retreat.
The following day we started out at King Family Vineyards, where we snagged a table on their busy outdoor patio to take in the view of the mountains and polo field. We each ordered a tasting flight and were particularly impressed with the 2019 Chardonnay. While we understand the buttery taste that comes from partial aging in new oak barrels isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we love it. We also enjoyed the smooth 2017 Mountain Plains red blend and the 2019 Cab Franc, which, when slightly chilled, is a great summer red.
Following lunch, our next stop was Veritas. The winery was founded by a British couple, who as they describe it, bought a farm in 1999 on a “leap of faith” and slowly built it into the thriving viniculture business it is today. We particularly enjoyed the reserve tasting, which was led by a member of the Veritas staff and included four wines. Our favorite from the tasting was the 2017 Petit Verdot (85% Petiti Verdot, 15% Merlot), a smooth red with flavors of blackberry and vanilla. While not on the tasting menu, we also really enjoyed the 2017 Cab Franc reserve, which we ordered to enjoy as we wandered around the grounds to take in the panoramic views.
To cap off our day, we stopped by Southern Crescent for a cocktail in their funky outdoor, New Orleans-inspired bar. With our stomachs very much ready for some food after a day of drinking, we then walked over to Tavola for a delicious and hearty Italian dinner. Both spots are highly recommended.
The next morning, as we made our way back to DC, we visited one final winery to close out the weekend. Keswick Vineyards is located in the middle of horse country, with a smattering of old Southern estates flanking both sides of a hilly country road. We arrived early and had our pick of tables on the sunny deck, with a friendly old cat who seemed perfectly happy to share his space. Perhaps it was the warm spring weather, but of the wines included in our tasting flight, the crisp 2019 LVA Rosé really hit the spot.
For more information on visiting Charlottesville, including other area wineries, visit VisitCharlottesville.org.