If you’ve ever seen any sort of advertising for Virginia tourism, you know their slogan is “Virginia is for lovers”. My own take on their slogan is that “Virginia is for wine lovers”!
Virginia is one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country. With over 300 wineries, if you are a wine lover, this is a state that you want to visit. Keep reading for more information on the wine industry in Virginia, as well as some of the wineries that we visited during a recent trip to the Charlottesville area.
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HISTORY OF WINEMAKING IN VIRGINIA
People have been making wine in Virginia since the first colonists established residency there in the 17th century. Virginia has a long history with wine. In fact, one of the first people to make wine in Virginia was one of its most famous residents – Thomas Jefferson.
Virginia doesn’t have a climate that is typically suited for making wine. Their summers are hot and humid. However, counties in central and northern Virginia in particular have found a way to grow grapes. Specifically, the area just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains has the largest density of wineries in the state.
While Virginia has been producing wine since the first settlers came to this country, the wine industry in the state really got started in the 1970’s. Barboursville Vineyards opened in 1976 and started putting Virginia wines on the map. By 2009, over 160 wineries were operating in the state. By 2012, over 230 wineries were operating.
Most of the wineries in Virginia are small, family-owned vineyards. Because of this, they rely on wine tourism and you going out to the winery to purchase their wine directly. There are a number of wine trails and wine festivals in the state. In addition, many of the wineries have special events featuring music and food, to encourage people to come out and visit.
For more information about Virginia wine, including how to plan a trip to visit the wineries, check out www.viriginiawine.org.
WINERIES IN THE CHARLOTTESVILLE AREA
We recently took a short trip to Charlottesville. Because we only had one full day, we were only able to stop at a couple of wineries. However, there are dozens in the area. If you are planning a trip, I’d recommend at least 2-3 full days in order to visit several of the top wineries.
On this trip, we tried to visit wineries that we had never been to before, so I’ve only written about those. But if you are heading to the area, I also recommend Barboursville Vineyards (one of the original wineries in Virginia) and Jefferson Vineyards.
If you want more information about visiting the Charlottesville area, check out my blog post and see my tips for planning your trip.
PIPPIN HILL FARM & VINEYARDS
ABOUT THE WINERY
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is located in North Garden, VA and is about a 20-30-minute drive outside of the city of Charlottesville.
The 6-acre vineyard overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains. The views are absolutely breathtaking.
Pippin Hill is not just a tasting room. They have a full-service restaurant as well. They also host all sorts of events including weddings.
The vineyard is owned by husband and wife Lynn Easton and Dean Andrews. Winemaker Michael Shaps has been making wine for over 20 years, both in France and in Virginia. He was previously the winemaker at Jefferson Vineyards, before starting his own wine consulting firm.
Pippin Hill is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can find more information on their website at www.pippinhillfarm.com.
Here are the wines I tried during our visit.
Zero White: White blend made mostly of Vidal Blanc. Very tropical and crisp, with just 1% residual sugar.
2016 Viognier: Viognier is the state grape of Virginia, and this wine is a 100% varietal. The grapes are aged in stainless steel for 5 months.
2016 Chardonnay: Even though this Chardonnay is aged in oak for 9 months, it doesn’t have an overpowering oak taste.
2016 Cabernet Franc: 2016 was a very wet year for Virginia, so this Cabernet Franc is very light. It’s smooth, with some spice on it. Very dry on the finish.
2017 Rose’: Made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and aged for 6 months in stainless steel. This is a very dry French-style Rose’. It’s light and crisp, and floral as well.
2016 Red Pump: This is a blend of their Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, and Tannat. It comes across as a sweeter red, but only has 1% residual sugar.
WISDOM OAK WINERY
ABOUT THE WINERY
Wisdom Oak Winery was one of my favorite wineries of our visit. In fact, I liked their wine so much, that I walked away with a case!
Located in North Garden, VA, it’s a little bit of a challenge to get to the tasting room. Don’t let the long and narrow driveway intimidate you. It’s worth the drive!
Wisdom Oak is owned by husband and wife team Jason and Laura Lavallee. Laura was working the tasting room when we visited. She told us how her and her husband were working corporate jobs in Philadelphia, and decided to leave it all behind and open up the winery. When we told her that we were visiting from Philadelphia, she asked us what part. Turns out that they lived in the same small western suburb that we live in!
There’s nothing better than visiting a winery and being the only ones in the tasting room. We could get Laura’s full attention, and learned a lot about their wine. Wisdom Oak focuses on quality rather than quantity. Their tasting room is BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) and pet friendly, so bring a picnic and enjoy the great wine and the serene setting.
Wisdom Oak Winery is open Thursday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. You can find more information on their website at www.wisdomoakwinery.com.
Here are the wines I tried (and bought) during our visit.
2016 Chardonnay: Barrel-aged but a very light oak taste on the wine.
2016 North Garden White: This was one of my favorite wines. It’s a blend of their Vidal Blanc and Petit Manseng.
2017 Petit Manseng: Aged in stainless steel. The wine is very crisp and has a peachy taste to it.
2014 Vidal Blanc: Also aged in stainless steel. This wine reminded me of a pear taste.
2016 Meritage: A blend of their Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. This was a very light red wine that has been in the bottle about 4 months.
2014 Merlot: Aged 18 months in neutral French oak. I’m not normally a big Merlot fan, but I enjoyed this wine.
Tinto: Wisdom Oak’s version of a Port. It’s a blend of all of their reds fortified with brandy. It’s aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels for 24 months. Delicious!
GABRIELE RAUSSE WINERY
ABOUT THE WINERY
Gabriele Rausse Winery is located in Charlottesville, just minutes outside of the downtown area. The tasting room is open Thursday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
They offer food paired tastings until 1:00 p.m. You can also purchase wines by the glass or bottle to enjoy on the property.
Gabriele Rausse has been making wine for decades. In the mid-seventies, Rausse moved to the Charlottesville area from his home in Italy, and started making wine for Barboursville Winery. He left Barboursville in 1981, and has been consulting for wineries in the area since then. Rausse has now opened his own tasting room to allow people to taste his wines.
You can find more information on their website at www.gabrieleraussewinery.com.
Here are the wines I tasted at Gabriele Rausse Winery.
Vin Gris: A white Pinot Noir. Very crisp and dry, with a tropical taste.
2017 Rosso: Red blend that is 50% Petit Verdot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. There is no oak on the wine. It has a very nice nose and is very dry.
2016 Cabernet Franc: Aged in oak, but in barrels that are on their 3rd or 4th use. Nice and light, with a lot of berry.
2015 Merlot: Aged in oak 10 months, but as with the Cabernet Franc they are used barrels. Also very light.
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon: Made from a single vineyard grape. This wine has a lot more oak on it. The wine would be delicious with a steak.
ABOUT THE WINERY
If you are a Dave Matthews Band fan, you probably already know about Blenheim Vineyards. Owned by Dave himself, the winery is located in Charlottesville just a few minutes from downtown.
The tasting room was designed by Dave, and was opened in 2000. For the first several years, you could only taste the wine by private appointment. In fact, my husband and I visited one of the first years the tasting room was open, and Dave’s sister (Jane) gave us our tasting.
Today, the winery is open to the public. It’s open 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. When you visit, be sure to check out the merchandise for sale. Many of the drawings on the shirts, hats, prints, etc. are done by Dave Matthews.
You can find more information on their website at www.blenheimvineyards.com.
Here are the wines I tried during our visit:
2017 Rkatsiteli: This is the most planted and oldest grape (although it was new to me). The wine is a bit acidic, but would be nice chilled.
2017 Viognier: This grape was almost extinct in 1965, but has made a big comeback. The wine reminded me of an unripe honeydew.
2017 Chardonnay: Aged in French, American and Hungarian oak for 5 months. The oak was very light and not overpowering.
2016 Cabernet Franc: Aged in the barrel for 9 months. The wine had a lot of cranberry on the taste.
2016 Painted Red: This wine is a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Merlot. It’s aged in oak for 10 months.
EARLY MOUNTAIN VINEYARD
ABOUT THE WINERY
If you are coming to Charlottesville from the north, make a stop at Early Mountain Vineyard on your way. Located in Madison, VA, they are about 30 miles north of Charlottesville.
The winery is owned by Jean Case, and the wine is made by winemaker Ben Jordan. In the tasting room, you can do a tasting or just purchase a flight. They also have a full restaurant if you’d like to enjoy some food with your wine.
The tasting room is open every day (except Tuesday) from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can find more information on their website at www.earlymountain.com.
Here are the wines I tasted at Early Mountain.
2017 Rose’: The wine is a blend of 73% Merlot, 18% Syrah, 7% Malbec, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Very dry and crisp.
2017 “Young Wine” Vidal: This wine is a blend of 95% Vidal Blanc and 5% Petit Manseng.
2017 “Five Forks”: This wine was just released the week we visited. It was a bit acidic.
2016 Petit Manseng: This is 100% Petit Manseng and is aged in concrete. Very floral and tropical.
2016 Foothills: Aged 10 months in barrel, this wine is their red blend made of 9% Merlot, 19% Petit Verdot, 18% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Tannat and 3% Petit Manseng. I really liked this wine. It almost had a creamy taste to it.
2014 Novum: Another red blend made of 61% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 9% Tannat, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Petit Verdot. This was one of their award-winning wines.
So, there you have it. These are just a few of the many wineries you can visit in the Charlottesville area. If you love wine, consider planning a wine trip to the area soon!
Have you visited any wineries in the Charlottesville area that we didn’t cover? Have questions or interested in learning more about the wineries or the wine? Please comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
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