Living Luxe / Summer 2018
By Irene Moore
Virginia, the birthplace of American wine, has a rich winemaking history dating back to its original settlers in Jamestown. From Mount Vernon to Monticello, our country’s founding fathers saw the potential of wine production in the colonial state — with its most famous winegrowing advocate being Thomas Jefferson. It was Jefferson’s vision of lush vineyards surrounding Monticello, his beloved mountaintop home, that has inspired many of Virginia’s winemakers today.
Now known as the Monticello Wine Trail, its 33 wineries are located within the Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA) surrounding Charlottesville. Visitors to the area can explore attractions such as James Monroe’s Highland estate, the University of Virginia and Jefferson’s own Monticello — what some might consider the birthplace of American viticulture. Nearby Charlottesville is popular amongst foodies and wine lovers alike and was dubbed one of “America’s Favorite Mountain Towns” by Travel & Leisure magazine.
More than 200 years later, Jefferson’s dream has manifested as Virginia wines have increased in quality, gaining favor in the wine industry and receiving national and international acclaim. The Monticello Wine Trail boasts a deep historic significance alongside rolling vineyards and stunning vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wineries along the trail take pleasure in welcoming guests from around the world to sample their wines, relax in the picturesque countryside and share their pride in Virginia’s winemaking heritage.
Here are our personal picks for the best wineries to visit along the Monticello Trail.
Andrew Hodson was a neurologist working in Jacksonville during the 1990s, and his wife, Patricia, owned a medical billing company. At the close of the century, they “bought the farm” (quite literally) when purchasing Saddleback Farm, a horse and cattle concern located just 20 minutes west of Charlottesville along the Monticello Wine Trail. On a wish and a prayer, they planted five acres of grapes as a passion project, and so Veritas Vineyard & Winery was born.
Their first vintage, in 2001, was a great success, and their love for the Virginia wine industry blossomed, relocating the Hodsons permanently to Virginia. Today, they have expanded the vineyard to become a family affair, with their three children helping to run the business. George, their son, left Atlantic Beach for Charlottesville in 2012, becoming CEO of Veritas as well as eventually President of the Monticello Wine Trail.
Veritas has grown to more than 50 acres of vineyards, producing complex and elegant wines. They named the vineyard for Roman historian Pliny the Elder’s observation “In Vino Veritas,” which translates to “In Wine There Is Truth.” The family believes that the “truth” in wine is the expression of the land.
Veritas’ wine portfolio includes red, white and sparking wines. With Old World principles of viticulture and vinification at the heart of production, they also utilize state-of-the-art technology to enhance the varietal and regional character of the grapes.
Along with daily wine tastings and guided walking tours, Veritas offers several annual events including an outdoor concert the second Saturday of each month during the summer.
Onsite accommodations are offered at The Farmhouse, a bed-and-breakfast adjacent to the Veritas Vineyard & Winery. It features eight guest rooms and suites in the style of its 19th-century beginnings, with the comfort of modern-day amenities. There is also The Barn Cottage, which has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen. The porch is the ideal place to sit with a glass of wine while enjoying the rural view and the vineyard.
Dinners at The Farmhouse are four-course, wine-paired meals featuring homegrown farm-to-fork menus prepared by Chef Andy Shipman. Guests can enjoy them al fresco in the summer or cozy by the fire in the winter. veritaswines.com
Just 30 minutes outside Charlottesville, Barboursville Vineyards is situated in the Virginia Piedmont, parallel to the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1976, the 900-acre estate began operations under the direction of Northern Italy’s Zonin S.p.A., producers of fine Italian wine since 1821. Founding owner, oenologist Gianni Zonin, singled out Virginia for the same European wine varietals that Jefferson so appreciated.
Zagat praised Barboursville Vineyards as “one of eight great reasons to travel to Charlottesville” and rates as “the most well-regarded Virginia winemaker.”
The winery is located on the estate of James Barbour, 19th governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. One of Jefferson’s architectural masterpieces built during Barbour’s time in office, the home boasts an elegant Palladian style, unsurprisingly similar to Monticello, also designed by the former President. Despite being destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, 1884, history buffs can still explore the ground’s Landmark Ruins, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The vineyards produce red, white and rosé wines under the expertise of winery manager Luca Paschina, who first arrived on the scene as a consultant in 1990. Now considered one of Virginia’s leading winemakers, his goal is to achieve consistent quality in the estate’s vintages. Most recently, their tasting room presented the arrival of the Vermentino Reserve 2016, which won a gold medal at the San Diego Wine & Spirits International Competition, as well as gold medals from the 2018 Virginia Governor’s Cup.
The Tuscan Tasting Room is open daily, which is where the broadest range of the current vintages is introduced, while the Library 1821, home to historic documents and memorabilia, offers older vintages with culinary pairings on the weekends.
A permanent exhibition on the estate’s signature wine Octagon, a distinctive blend of estate-grown Bordeaux varietals, is housed in the Octagon Barrel Room. The wine’s moniker celebrates the central octagon drawing room, which Jefferson designed in Governor Barbour’s mansion.
In June, the winery will introduce Allegrante, a vintage rosé blend of Nebbiolo and Petit Syrah, named for a thoroughbred racing mare owned by Governor Barbour.
Wine enthusiasts can also learn of the estate’s winemaking processes during various guided tours, which include the wine cellar and barrel room, with a discussion of basic wine production and a tasting en route.
Barboursville also offers cheese and charcuterie plates that can be enjoyed on the deck, in the tasting room or on the picnic tables scattered about the estate.
For more substantial fare, the Palladio Restaurant, helmed by Executive Chef Spencer Crawford, offers a Northern Italian-inspired menu featuring ingredients mostly produced on the farm.
For guests who wish to stay on the property, the 1804 Inn is a classic Georgian villa which offers expansive, luxurious suites, with adjacent cottages available. bbvwine.com
Just 15 minutes west of Charlottesville, King Family Vineyards offers guests stunning views of the mountains, outdoor seating, shade trees for picnicking and polo matches on Sundays in the summer.
The King family opened its winery in 2002 on just over eight acres, with 480 cases of their 2000 vintage. Today, the winery has expanded to 31 acres, producing more than 10,000 cases of red and white ultra-premium wines annually. Winemaker Matthieu Finot, who studied viticulture and oenology in Burgundy, selects estate-grown grapes to create Old World-inspired wines intertwined with the Virginia heritage.
A Classic Tasting of six different wines that change seasonally is offered in the Tasting Room, Barrel Room or Pavilion. Guests interested in a private tasting are invited to sample wines conducted by experienced wine servers in the Library Room, reservation required.
Vineyard and winery tours offer a history of the farm and Virginia viticulture, guided exploration of the winery and conclude with a Classic Tasting.
On “Wine Wednesday,” visitors can partake in local food and drink as the sun sets behind the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. kingfamilyvineyards.com
Located in the heart of the Monticello Wine Trail 25 minutes south of Charlottesville, Trump Winery is Virginia’s largest vineyard, spread across 1,300 acres amid large lakes and stunning panoramas of the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains.
The family-owned winery is managed on a day-to-day basis by Eric Trump, son of President Donald J. Trump, owner of the estate.
With a variety of white, red and sparkling wines, Trump Wines have won numerous national and international medals and best-in-class designations. In addition, they are consistently well regarded by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Lover magazines, as well as by journalist and wine critic, James Suckling.
The winery offers many signature events, including an Albemarle Estate Garden Tour, several Wine Tasting Series and Vine and Dine Summer and Harvest Celebrations, while the Tasting Room offers sweeping vineyard views along with a seasonal menu.
For wine lovers looking to extend their stay, Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery is a luxury boutique hotel surrounded by vineyards and beautiful countryside. Designed by world-famous architect David Easton, the 45-room mansion is referred to as “one of America’s true treasures” and features a 150-year-old English oak library, spa, fitness facilities, outdoor pool and hot tub, movie theater, croquet lawn and 24-hour concierge service. trumpwinery.com
Whether you prefer the amenities of a large, upscale winery or a more intimate, family-owned vineyard, there is something for every wine enthusiast along the Monticello Wine Trail.