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.
The first vines were brought to Virginia by Thomas Jefferson at the end of the 18th century. He had correctly identified the terroir of Charlottesville as being 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, there was no wine industry in Charlottesville. 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.
Of course, there is more to Charlottesville than just wine. I will take you through 15 fantastic Charlottesville wineries (in no particular order) and then cover some other kinds of non-wine things to do. Plus I will cover where I ate, where I stayed etc etc.
Before I get to the wineries, I want to run through the key grapes grown in Charlottesville.
Table of Contents
- Charlottesville Grapes
- Virginia Wine Competitions
- 15 Fantastic Wineries in Charlottesville VA
- 1. Michael Shaps
- 2. Jefferson Vineyards
- 3. Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard
- 4. Loving Cup
- 5. Wisdom Oak Winery
- 6. Keswick Vineyards
- 7. Gabriele Rausse Winery
- 8. Eastwood Farm and Winery
- 9. Blenheim Vineyards
- 10. King Family Vineyards
- 11. Stinson Vineyards
- 12. Afton Mountain Vineyards
- 13. Barboursville Vineyards
- 14. Veritas
- 15. Trump Winery
- How to Plan Your Monticello Wine Trail Visit
- Things to do in Charlottesville that aren’t wine tasting (exactly)
- 1. Cider Tasting at Albemarle Ciderworks
- 2. Visit Monticello
- 3. Visit the University of Virginia
- 4. Farmers Market at IX Art Park
- 5. Visit The Wool Factory
- 6. Carter Mountain Orchard
- How to get to Charlottesville, Virginia
- Charlottesville Restaurants
- Charlottesville Boutique Hotels
- Last Word on Charlottesville Wineries
Viognier is the major white grape grown in Charlottesville. Chardonnay also grows in the region as well as the less well-known Petit Manseng grape. Chardonnay tends to be grown more often in Northern Virginia as Charlottesville can be a bit warm.
Petit Manseng is a grape that lasts until quite late in the season and makes delicious dry white wines. Personally, I am a Chardonnay drinker and I loved the Petit Manseng wines I tried while on the Monticello Wine Trail. Viognier and Petit Manseng are the primary white grapes in Charlottesville.
Like Bordeaux, Charlottesville is all about blending its reds. The main red grape is Cabernet France and there is also some Cabernet Sauvignon. Petit Verdot is also grown. This grape is traditionally used for blends in Bordeaux, but in Virginia, it features as a single varietal. It produces a dark purple, full-bodied wine with bold tannins that age well. Petit Verdot is Virginia’s equivalent of the California Cabernet.
Finally, Virginia has a unique indigenous red grape known as the Norton, which can be quite polarising. It’s a deep purple grape with flavors of dark fruits and a rich, fruity aroma.
Virginia Wine Competitions
Virginia takes its wine competitions very seriously. All of the wineries that I visited were proud to mention the positions they had achieved in the competitions held throughout the state. The biggest wine competition in Virginia is the Governor’s Cup. This state wine competition is held every year, and the wineries of Monticello tend to take home more than half of the gold medals each year.
The Governor’s Cup produces what is known as the Governor’s Case. These 12 wines are then declared to be the best in the state of Virginia. It is a major honor to be included in the Governor’s Case.
The local version of the Governor’s Cup is the Monticello Cup. Entry criteria include being a member of the Monticello Wine Trail and the wine must contain at least 85% fruit from the Monticello AVA.
15 Fantastic Wineries in Charlottesville VA
1. Michael Shaps
Michael Shaps is one of the best-known names in the Virginia wine industry. Shaps 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 as well as a consulting business in 2007.
Shaps also started his own vineyard in Mersault, Burgundy in 2004. Today Maison Shaps is run by his oldest daughter.
It was Shaps who 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.
Michael’s Petit Manseng was one of the first wines I tried in Charlottesville, and I absolutely loved it. I bought a bottle to take home. I drank it with a friend nearly two months later, and it tasted even better than I remembered.
Michael is quite experimental when it comes to sparkling wines. His Blanc de Franc uses cabernet franc grapes rather than pinot noir, and he also has a sparkling made with Riesling. Both are made using the traditional method.
Don’t leave without trying Michael’s dessert wines. Michael uses old tobacco curing barns to dehydrate grapes he uses to make dessert wine. He makes a petit manseng dessert wine (Raisin d’etre) as well as a cabernet franc version.
The Michael Shaps Winery is about 10 miles outside of Charlottesville. However, Michael has also set up a tasting room/wine bar called Michael Shaps Wineworks Extended in Charlottesville. Wineworks Extended features the same wines you would taste at the main winery as well as some extra listings.
Michael also owns a vineyard in France and it is possible to try those wines as well as some of his personal favourites. Try a flight of Michael’s French Wines or Virginia Wines for just USD$10 each or enjoy the wine on tap.
Michael Shaps Wineworks Extended is open between 1pm and 7pm for wine and snacks. The main winery is open daily from 11am to 5pm.
2. Jefferson Vineyards
This family owned and run winery is perhaps the best known winery in Charottesville – 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.
Let’s start with the location of Jefferson Vineyards. It is just 10 minutes from Charlottesville and a stone’s throw from Monticello. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the extremely picturesque St Luke’s Episcopal Church and some beautiful vineyards.
Thomas Jefferson and Phillip Mazzei began growing grapes on the Jefferson Vineyards estate almost 250 years ago. Jefferson brought Chianti viticulturists over from Italy to assist in planting and growing grapes. This is why all Jefferson Vineyards bottles bear the signature of Jefferson.
Alas, none of those vines exists today, but the history of the land inspired Stanley and Shirley Woodward to begin growing grapes again on the land in 1981. With the assistance of the father of the Virginia wine industry, Gabriele Rausse, the winery began to flourish. Today, the winery is managed by their grandchildren, Attila and Alexa Woodward.
The winery is best known for its Bordeaux style blends, Viognier and Petit Verdot. Jefferson was the first winery in Charlottesville to make a single varietal Petit Verdot. Winemaker Chris Ritzcovan stores the Viognier in a mix of French and Hungarian oak barrels as well as a little stainless steel to reduce the grape’s natural acidity and provide a soft mouth feel and longer finish.
There are two tasting rooms at the winery itself but I would recommend taking your wine outside to enjoy the vineyard’s beautiful patios and their stunning views. Jefferson has four tiers of wine from table to reserve and there are usually two seasonal wine flights that each feature four wines. Wine is also sold by the glass or bottle.
The Jefferson Vineyards tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday 11am to 6pm and they also serve cheese and charcuterie.
3. Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard
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.
Pippin Hill is also known for its excellent restaurant that features many ingredients from the gardens on site. I combined a lovely lunch at Pippin Hill with my wine tasting and highly recommend this option.
Pippin Hill works closely with Michael Shaps to produce sauvignon blanc, barrel fermented Chardonnay, Blanc de Blanc and Cabernet Franc. It also produces other varietals but it is these wines for which it is best known.
I enjoyed a tableside white wine flight tasting with my meal. Small apothecary style bottles became popular for wine flights in the area during covid and have been kept on – they are so cute! My flight included Pippin Hill’s zero white blend, chardonnay, petit manseng and rose. There is, of course, also a red wine table flight option.
The menu is a mix of items designed for sharing like boards and salads and small plates. It changes seasonally. The winery has a buzzing tasting room with a high ceiling inside. Restaurant tables are mostly outside. Estate tastings are also available which include a tour of the estate, a wine tasting and food. These can be booked for groups sizes up to 10.
The tasting room at Pippin Hill is open most days with different levels of food available. The winery also hosts events like live music and cooking classes. All events, tastings, meals etc can be booked on the Pippin Hill website.
4. Loving Cup
Loving Cup is the only certified organic vineyard and winery in Virginia and has been so for ten years. It’s a very relaxed and comfortable winery with lots of outdoor seating. Loving Cup offers wine flights as well as bottles and glasses of wine.
I was able to see the actual winery but alas it wasn’t open when I visited (they are only open Friday to Sunday). I heard good things about their wines so check it out and send me an email.
The winery is located at the end of a rather long windy gravel road – there are reassuring signs along the way!
5. Wisdom Oak Winery
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.
Jason and Laura Lavallee lived the corporate life in Philadelphia. When they acquired their gorgeous dogs they realised they couldn’t travel as frequently. They were both mad about wine but had no training.
In 2015 they bought 126 acres of run down winery with just 800 vines and started farming it. The first vintage was in 2016 and the awards started coming in 2018. Jason will be the first to say that the support of the very collaborative and kind local wine industry was instrumental to the winery’s success.
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.
Jason loves to experiment and does many small productions of different types of wines. Wisdom Oak has a wine club that plays a big part in vetting these experimental wines. Unlike their European counterparts, winemakers in Virginia have considerable flexibility in developing new varietals and blends.
Wisdom Oak also produces Albariño, which isn’t a common varietal in Virginia, as well as a successful port. They were working on their traditional method sparkling when I visited – I am keen to taste the results.
The tasting room at Wisdom Oak Winery is open Thursday to Sunday. There is plenty of outdoor seating and space to lay down a rug and enjoy the vines. Seasonal food items are often available on the weekend.
6. Keswick Vineyards
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. Barnard is a big fan of acidity for three reasons.
Firstly, wines with higher acidity tend to pair better with food and secondly higher acid often results in lower alcohol levels which are becoming more popular amongst his audience. The third benefit of higher acid levels is less need for preservatives allowing for a more natural wine.
Stephen tends to focus on single varietals much more than blends. They are known for their Viognier and they make a lighter, citrus flavoured Chardonnay with no oak. I was a big fan of their reds, particularly the Cabernet and Petit Verdot. They also make a Cabernet Franc, rose and several other varietals.
Keswick also has two wine clubs. The “standard” wine club involves regular wine shipments, tastings, discounts etc. They also have the Barrel Owner’s Club that allows members to own their own barrels and of course the wine inside.
Like all the wineries in Charlottesville VA I visited, Keswick is very well set up for tastings both inside and outside. Wine flights can be custom built and Stephen likes to visit so you may well meet him too!
7. Gabriele Rausse Winery
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 made his first wines in 1978 under the Barboursville brand. His PhD in plant pathology and upbringing in the Veneto region of Italy convinced him that there could be a Virginia wine industry – despite being told by virtually everyone he met that this was not possible.
By 1981, Rausse had started providing consultancy to the new winemakers in the industry and he also moved to Jefferson Vineyards where he was the winemaker for some time. In 1995 he took a job at Monticello as the assistant director of their beautiful gardens.
I was lucky enough to meet Gabriele at Monticello. In addition to looking after their rather large gardens he continues to consult and has his own winery.
When I asked Rausse what he thought made Virginia wine unique his response was “it’s all about the soil” as many winemakers will say. However, he did add that vines like temperature variation and Virginia have a lot of that! These two elements combined create the base for what makes Virginia wines different.
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.
Rausse sources grapes from a range of vineyards and make many unique wines for the region such as Malvasia and orange wines. His reds are quite light in texture and he often uses Nebbiolo grapes.
The Rausse winery is the perfect place to relax for an afternoon of wine tasting, particularly if you like to try innovative experimental wines (he also has the classics).
The winery is open for tastings on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
NB: The winery doesn’t appear to have a sign so it isn’t easy to find. If you hit the Trump Winery you’ve gone too far.
8. Eastwood Farm and Winery
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 travelling with kids this is the winery to visit as it is designed to be family (and dog) friendly.
Eastwood opened at the end of 2020 and the tasting barn opened in February 2021. All of their white wines have won silver at the Governor’s Cup. They have a stainless steel stored Chardonnay that is fantastic if you like your Chardonnay a bit more acidic with a strong green apple flavour.
If you prefer a softer chardonnay try their reserve. It is oak aged for 20 months and doesn’t have the buttery burst of a California chardonnay. Instead, you’ll enjoy honeysuckle and apricot on the palate – my kind of wine!
On the red side, the Eastwood Merlot is soft and low on tannins so very drinkable. Their cabernet franc has a great nose and gives lots of cherry on the palate. Their meritage is a blend which is heavy on cabernet sauvignon and goes back into oak for 12 months after it has been blended. This is their Bordeaux style blend and if you like your reds big and deep this is for you.
Athena is a single mum with three kids and a grandchild so Eastwood also offers juice flights for kids! And she keeps the tasting room open till 8pm in the evenings so locals can visit after work. The tasting room is open Wednesday to Sunday.
9. Blenheim Vineyards
Dave Matthews bought his mother a house outside Charlottesville in the 1990s. When he learnt of the wine potential (and history) of the area he decided he wanted to explore the opportunity and appointed his brother to manage the project.
They developed four “blocks” of vineyards in 2000 and have now been producing sustainable Virginia wines for 10 years. Over that time Blenheim Vineyards has only had two winemakers and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with their current winemaker, Kirsty Harmon.
Kirsty wanted to be a scientist until she met Gabriele Rausse (his name pops up everywhere!). He convinced her to become a winemaker and she travelled through California, France and New Zealand to learn her trade.
At Blenheim, her style is to produce high acidity approachable wines that go well with everyday foods. Her 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.
Blenheim offers a one hour guided tasting for $25 or you can enjoy a glass or a flight if the guided tastings are full. The vineyard has lots of lovely outdoor space that is perfect for wine tasting. The tasting room is open Thursday through Mondays.
10. King Family Vineyards
I visited King Family Vineyards on my final day in Charlottesville. Throughout my trip I was asked multiple times if I was visiting Kings so my expectations were high. I am glad to say that they were exceeded!
The vineyard is located in the Crozet area which was once the peach capital of the world. The King family (mum and dad and three sons) left Houston in 1995 and were seeking a farm where they could also play polo. When they first moved in they learnt that their new farm had the potential to produce some great grapes and they were hooked.
They sold their first bottle of wine in 2000. They have grown from eight to forty-eight acres over that time and will produce 22,000 cases in 2023. And all three sons and their families work in the business and live nearby.
King Family Vineyards are known for having some of the best quality approachable wines in Virginia. This was my favourite viognier of the trip – fruity yet soft the acidity was perfectly balanced. Their chardonnay is made in the burgundy style so it is fruiter and light on the oak.
The King Family reds were my personal favourites. I love jammy black fruits and heavy body in my reds so the Petit Verdot was a big hit.
The polo field opened in 2004 and an average match these days has 2500 attendees. Plus they hold over 100 weddings each year – it is easy to see why when visiting the beautiful King Family estate. And they have a wine club.
Wine tastings are offered daily between 10am and 5pm. Self guided flights are available in a classic or seasonal theme. For a little extra enjoy five wines and a guide or try six wines in the lovely King Family library for a little more again.
11. Stinson Vineyards
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.
Stinson’s most popular wine is their 100% merlot Rose called Crose. The second best seller is their Meritage which featured in the most recent Governor’s Case.
The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday and visitors can enjoy wine flights or grab a bottle or glass. There is a lovely large garden area with comfortable seating. Plus they have a lovely bed and breakfast next door if you feel like staying the night!
12. Afton Mountain Vineyards
Afton Mountain Vineyards sits at the western end of the Monticello Wine Trail and has some spectacular views over the countryside. I was able to have a quick look around Afton but alas I didn’t have time to stay for a tasting. I deeply regretted this as it was so relaxed with lots of comfortable outdoor seating.
Grapes were first planted on this farm in 1978 so it is one of the older wine farms. The site was acquired by its current owners in 2009.
Afton Mountain Vineyards is open Thursday to Sunday between 11 and 5 for tastings. Wine flights are on offer as are wines by the glass and bottle.
13. Barboursville Vineyards
Barboursville Vineyards is one of the oldest wineries on the Monticello Trail. Run by three Italian brothers it came up frequently during my trip as one of the best Charlottesville wineries to visit. Alas, I wasn’t able to visit but don’t let that stop you – and do email me if you do and let me know your thoughts.
Their tasting room is open every day.
Veritas is owned by an English couple, Andrew and Patricia. Their first vintage was in 2001. This is very much a family winery as all three of their children also work for the business. I didn’t have time to do a tasting but I did drive through their beautiful property.
Veritas offers two wine flights for tasting – a classic and a reserve. They are open for tastings every day and also have a bed and breakfast, The Farmhouse.
15. Trump Winery
Trump Winery is actually the largest Charlottesville winery so I thought I better put them on the list. I didn’t get a chance to visit but it is a very successful winery.
How to Plan Your Monticello Wine Trail Visit
The Monticello Wine Trail is made up of more than 30 wineries, all of which are in within 25 miles of Charlottesville. The easiest way to visit wineries is of course to drive. However, this does mean that someone has to be the driver and can’t swallow the wine.
Many of the wineries are so close to Charlottesville that it would be possible to take a uber taxi there and back as well as potentially inbetween (few are walking distance from each other due to the size of most vineyards). Do note that cell signals can be patchy in some areas of the Monticello Wine Trail.
Another option is to hire a driver for the day. The Charlottesville tourism office has quite a few links to different types of drivers.
For most of the available options, it will be necessary to have a sense of where you would like to visit. If you like the sound of the wineries I visited in this article I would suggest the following to ensure you spend more time tasting than in the car:
- Combine the wineries closest to Monticello – Jefferson Vineyards, Gabriele Rausse Vineyards, Blenheim Vineyards, Wisdom Oak Winery, Pippin Hill
- Combine the wineries near Crozet – King Family Vineyards, Stinson Vineyards, Afton Mountain Vineyards, Veritas Vineyards
And no matter what option you choose don’t miss an evening visit to Michael Shaps Wineworks Extended. It is actually in Charlottesville and walkable from the city centre.
Things to do in Charlottesville that aren’t wine tasting (exactly)
1. Cider Tasting at Albemarle Ciderworks
Albemarle began as a cidery in 2009. Prior to that, it was an apple farm without the cider. The farm grows over 200 different varieties of apples. What I found most interesting about Albermarle Ciderworks is that they approach cider like wine in that they make single varietal ciders as well as cider blends.
Albemarle makes cider in a process that resembles winemaking. Yeast is added to the juice and they generally don’t add any sugar. This results in dryer cider with alcohol levels between 7 and 10%.
Albemarle’s signature apple is the pippin and their Royal Pippin cider has a wonderfully clean, fresh taste. It is made from 100% Albemarle pippin apples. Their Jupiter’s Legacy cider contains a blend of between 20 to 30 apple varieties for a dry, smooth cider experience.
If you’re after a slightly sweeter cider try the Virginia Hewes Crab. If that isn’t sweet enough try Albemarle’s best selling Pomme Mary, their sweetest cider of all.
The latest from Albemarle is Harrison. Harrison cider is made with dabanatt apples which are more european in style and contain some tannins.
The Albemarle Ciderworks tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday 11-5.
2. Visit Monticello
You can’t go to Charlottesville and not visit Monticello, the former home of Thomas Jefferson and the building on the back of the US 5 cent coin or nickel. Monticello means little mountain in Italian. Monticello was Jefferson’s home from 1770 until he died in 1826.
Today Monticello is a UNESCO site. It is the only house in the United States to receive a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
When you arrive at Monticello, park at the visitor’s centre. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour as it is necessary to take a shuttle bus from the visitor’s centre up to Monticello itself. Most tickets include a guided tour of inside Monticello.
After the tour, it is possible to explore the beautiful grounds. The West Garden provides the view that can be seen on the nickel coin. There are also guided tours of the grounds available as well as tours that delve into more detail about slavery and the property. Finally, don’t miss seeing Thomas Jefferson himself. An actor who plays Thomas Jefferson regularly pontificates by the pond.
Monticello is open most days but that can vary across the seasons so do check their website. Same day tickets can be purchased at Monticello but to avoid disappointment I would suggest booking online ahead of your visit.
3. Visit the University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson also designed the University of Virginia – he was a busy man! The university was founded in 1819 and the beautiful Rotunda is the signature building on campus. It is on the lawn outside the Rotunda that graduation ceremonies are held. A lucky few receive one of the dorm rooms which borders the lawn.
The Rotunda building itself is open to all and free to visit. There are areas for studying as well as spaces to hold meetings. Jefferson envisaged this to be the hub of the University. The gardens behind the rotunda are lovely and are also free to visit.
In April of 2020 a beautiful water memorial was opened in a tribute to the enslaved labourers at the university. Key events in the history of the University as well as facts about the use of enslaved labourers are engraved into the fountain.
4. Farmers Market at IX Art Park
IX is 24 hour free mural and sculpture art park in Charlottesville. It was created to allow locals to celebrate their creativity and to encourage community collaborations. It is home to Virginia’s first immersive art exhibit, The Looking Glass, and every Saturday almost 60 local vendors participate in the IX Art Park Farmers Market.
5. Visit The Wool Factory
This lovely space is home to several small businesses working together. Selvedge Brewing is a craft brewer and has a great casual restaurant. For a more upmarket dining experience head to Broadcloth. The Workshop offers coffee and wine all day long.
The Wool Factory has also worked with a local winemaker to develop a range of Virginia wines. I was particularly impressed by their sparkling wine which was developed by a French winemaker using the traditional method. It is made from 100% Virginia chardonnay grapes. The range also includes a petit manseng and a cabernet franc.
The Wool Factory is the perfect place to come and sample Virginia wine. In addition to their own wines, The Workshop also sells many other local wines that can be purchased and then drunk in the lovely big outdoor area. They also offer an ever changing selection of wines by the glass.
I had a wonderful dinner from Selvedge and sat outside enjoying local wine and the great atmosphere at The Wool Factory.
6. Carter Mountain Orchard
Carter Mountain Orchard offer pick your own fruit opportunities, concerts, a giant Country Store filled with some fantastic home made treats and one of the best views in Charlottesville all year round. It is deservedly famous for its delicious apple cider donuts.
There is a wine shop and a cider cellar that both offer tastings and retail. There is plenty of outdoor space so it is simple to buy a bottle of something, grab some glasses and sit down and enjoy the amazing views.
How to get to Charlottesville, Virginia
If you’re travelling from overseas the closest International airport is Washington DC Dulles International.
If you’re travelling from within the United States, Charlottesville airport has good connections with several major US airport hubs. Amtrak train routes also run through Charlottesville and connect with many of the main metropolitan areas on the East Coast.
The centre of Charlottesville, particularly the pedestrianised area, is very walkable.
I enjoyed everything I ate and drank in Charlottesville but I had two particular favourites. The first was Crush Pad. This wine bar/shop has a prime position on main street and offers a huge selection of wines to buy or taste plus some fantastic small plates and boards.
Crush Pad was set up by local wine expert Vincent Derquenne and the bar has such a friendly and warm feel. I arrived on my own and Vincent immediately struck up a conversation. I felt so at home sitting there trying different wines. I liked it so much that I went twice during my visit to Charlottesville.
My other favourite spot in Charlottesville was the bakery/cafe Petite Mariebette. This charming cafe is stocked with delicious french pastries as well as a fantastic brunch menu. The French blue counter offsets a light airy slightly industrial feeling design aesthetic and it all comes together to make for a very comfortable environment you won’t want to leave.
The coffee is fantastic – and I am very picky about my coffee – and every coffee comes with a delicious canele. On my first visit, I went savoury and had a breakfast bowl with an egg, avocado, fetta cheese, spinach, lentils and red onions. I tried the parfait on visit two with fantastic yoghurt and granola.
Public Fish and Oyster is a super friendly relaxed restaurant featuring well fish and oysters! There is a huge range of oysters available – I just asked them to choose a mix for me – all with their delicious cocktail sauce. Next up was grilled fish on Mediterranean grilled vegetables. Seating is both inside and outside.
The Dairy market has a mix of interesting food vendors under one roof. Chose from Mexican, pizza, Japanese, Latin American and more. I had a great dinner at the Milkman with some very tasty tuna tartare and an avocado salad that was served on half a lettuce.
If you’re looking for a restaurant with atmosphere and live music head to The Whiskey Jar on main street. Most items on the classic Southern food menu are locally sourced and the menu changes seasonally. I was a little dull and went with a classic hamburger which was delicious. Best of all I enjoyed my burger listening to some great live music.
The Local features a modern American menu that is also heavy on local sourcing. It offers a mix of american classics like caesar salad, crispy shrimp, meatloaf and pasta dishes. I enjoyed some lovely grilled salmon and couldn’t resist ordering the worth-every-calorie Brownie sundae.
If you’re hungry when you visit Monticello pop into Michie Tavern. This old time style restaurant features a buffet/cafeteria set up with chicken (fried, roasted or pulled), biscuits, black eyed peas, beetroot, mashed potato and coleslaw. Help yourself to the buffet the first time and then the staff take care of 2nds, 3rds etc and dessert.
For some more delicious pastries head to the Albermarle bakery – great cinnamon buns!
Charlottesville Boutique Hotels
I was lucky enough to stay in two boutique hotels during my stay in Charlottesville. The first was The Jeff Hotel. The Jeff has a fantastic location literally on the main pedestrianised street in downtown Charlottesville.
The Jeff is a self service hotel. This means customers receive a check in code by email before arriving. The check in code is then used to open the main entrance (on the pedestrian strip) as well as the individual room. So it feels more like an apartment than a hotel which is exactly the point. The Jeff is about allowing visitors to live like a local.
The rooms themselves are light and bright and feature a nordic style color pallet with some nice luxurious touches. My suite had a comfortable sitting room with a big suede couch as well as a large bedroom with a custom made very comfortable king sized bed. The high-ceilinged bathroom was huge with a wonderfully large walk in shower.
The suites come with a kitchenette, flat screen tv, pour over coffee, clothes steamer and a Marshall amp speaker as well as some other fun design touches.
Parking is at the nearby Water Street Garage which is a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Guests receive a parking voucher as part of their stay.
Whilst you could go and buy some food for breakfast, I highly recommend heading to the nearby Petite Mariebette instead.
NB: There is no elevator at the Jeff Hotel
If you’re more interested in the University of Virginia side of town, then look no further than The Oakhurst Inn. The Oakhurst Inn is about as close as you can get to the University after a dorm room. This unique property is spread across a cul de sac. Formerly it was the home of a university professor and three boarding houses.
In 2014, The Oakhurst Inn opened as a boutique hotel. It has 36 rooms, salt water pool and a lobby bar. The Oakhurst Inn is a 5 minute walk away and can service all of your breakfast needs – the outdoor space in the back is lovely.
The lobby bar opens up to a comfortable lounge area made for grabbing a book and relaxing. The rooms are big, bright and airy and feature what I would call a modern classic New England style design theme eg oak floorboards, simple colours etc. The bathroom is a good size with a large walk in shower and Malin & Goetz toiletries.
Last Word on Charlottesville Wineries
Charlottesville has one of the most innovative and exciting wine scenes in the world today. I’ve been lucky enough to visit wineries in areas like Montepulciano, Mclaren Vale, Stellenbosch and more and seldom have I been as impressed with what was on offer. If you’re looking for an up and coming wine region Charlottesville is the place to visit!
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Thanks so much to Visit Charlottesville and the Virginia Tourism Corporation for organising my fantastic visit to all these wonderful wineries in Charlottesville VA. They covered all of my costs on the ground eg accommodation, transport, most meals etc. I covered the cost of my flights. As always my opinions are my own.
Also, this wineries in Charlottesville VA post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.