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10 Great Wineries in Charlottesville Virginia You’ll Love

Did you know that Virginia has one of the most exciting and innovative wine scenes in the world today? I didn’t either until I visited lovely Charlottesville and its Monticello Wine Trail.

Thomas Jefferson brought the first vines to Virginia at the end of the 18th century. He correctly identified Charlottesville’s terroir as ideal for vineyards. Alas, he had not assessed the best grapes for the soil and climate of Charlottesville, and his attempts to start the Virginia wine industry failed.

For the next couple of hundred years, Charlottesville did not have a wine industry. An opportunity was created in the 1970s when state laws began to change, and there was new potential for wineries. In 1979, there were six wineries in Virginia. The number grew slowly to 50 in 2000; today, there are more than 350. More than 40 of those are the wineries in Charlottesville, VA, that comprise the Monticello Wine Trail.

1. Michael Shaps

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Michael Shaps is one of the best-known names in the Virginia wine industry. He studied winemaking in France and arrived in Virginia in 1995, when the industry consisted of 45 wineries. He began his career at Jefferson Vineyards and then started his own vineyards and consulting business in 2007.

Shaps championed the Petit Manseng grape in Virginia. This high-acid white grape was originally used for sweet wines. However, in 2012, Michael began making a dry wine from Petit Manseng and aged it in French Oak barrels. Today, Petit Manseng and Viognier are his two most popular sellers.

2. Jefferson Vineyards

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This family-owned and operated winery is perhaps the best-known winery in Charlottesville—the name and history, of course, help! (More of that to come). But don’t let the well-known name put you off—Jefferson Vineyards was one of my favourite wineries in Charlottesville, VA, and I came home with a few bottles.

3. Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard

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The beautiful Pippin Hill has a wonderful location on top of a hill with sweeping views across their vineyards and the local area. The vineyard also has as beautiful gardens. No wonder it is a popular spot for weddings.

4. Wisdom Oak Winery

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Wisdom Oak is one of the hottest wineries in town after winning the Monticello Cup and being included in the Governor’s Case in the same year. This would be a major achievement for any winemaker on the Monticello Trail. However, when you learn the story of Wisdom Oak Winery it becomes even more impressive.

The vineyard is named after one big beautiful tree on its land – the Wisdom Oak. Their Petit Verdot is the wine in the Governor’s Case (I took a bottle of this home – it is quite fantastic) and their 19 Bordeaux style blend was the winner of the Monticello Cup. And don’t miss their fantastic Petit Manseng.

5. Keswick Vineyards

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Stephen Barnard is one of Virginia’s best known winemakers. Originally from South Africa, he has been making wine for 20 years and is the winemaker at family owned Keswick Vineyards.

Keswick Vineyard’s first vintage was in 2002. Their focus is on high acid wines that pair well with food. Stephen looks to maximise the value of their clay based soil which slows down the ripening of the fruit.

6. Gabriele Rausse Winery

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Gabriele Rausse is known as the father of the Virginia wine industry. He arrived in Virginia in 1976 from his native Italy. In 1977 he began grafting vines in a manner he thought suited the local environment and for the first time in the Virginia wine industry 99% of the vines survived.

Rausse’s winery feels like walking into someone’s beautiful home in the Swiss mountains. There are lots of windows, lots of oak and a very relaxed feel. If you like rose don’t miss visiting the Gabriele Rausse Winery. I was told by multiple people that I needed to try his sparkling rose and it was fantastic. Plus, Rausse loves to experiment and there are loads of interesting rose variants available for tasting.

7. Eastwood Farm and Winery

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I am always very pleased to meet another female entrepreneur and Athena Eastwood was a delight. A former commodities trader, she purchased the land around what is now Eastwood Farm and Winery in 2016.

Eastwood is a different kind of winery. Eastwood doesn’t have their own vineyard. Instead they source from and invest in different growers in the area under a partnership model. They are very community focussed and work closely with charities in the area. And if you’re traveling with kids, this is the winery to visit as it is designed to be family (and dog) friendly.

8. Blenheim Vineyards

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Dave Matthews bought his mother a house outside Charlottesville in the 1990s. When he learned of the area’s wine potential (and history), he decided to explore the opportunity and appointed his brother to manage the project.

At Blenheim, the style is to produce high-acidity, approachable wines that go well with everyday foods. The wines are lighter in style and tend to be lower in alcohol. No wine is kept in a barrel at Blenheim for more than 12 months. They have 17 different grape varietals planted across the estate, and Dave Matthews designs the wine’s modern graphic labels.

9. King Family Vineyards

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King Family Vineyards sold its first bottle of wine in 2000. Over that time, it has grown from eight to forty-eight acres and will produce 22,000 cases in 2023. All three sons and their families work in the business and live nearby.

King Family Vineyards is known for producing some of the best quality, approachable wines in Virginia. This was my favourite viognier of the trip—fruity yet soft, the acidity perfectly balanced. Their chardonnay is made in the burgundy style, so it is fruitier and light on the oak.

10. Stinson Vineyards

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This family-run vineyard specialises in small-lot wines. Stinson is run by a father-daughter team and her husband. The winery is located in what was a three-car garage. The family are big fans of French wine and use traditional French wine-making techniques, such as whole-berry fermentation, for their red wines.

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