Working on a cruise ship, I’ll admit, I’ve lost touch with reality. My typical workweek includes about 4 port days, which include beaches, good food, and/or museums. In other words, my job is a normal person’s vacation. When I am actually on vacation (on break between contracts), as I am now, I don’t know what to do with myself! My family recently relocated from Texas to Virginia, so I’ve been treating my new “home” in Charlottesville like a port, exploring a little bit at a time. I will share some of my experiences in a series of “Virginia Vacation” posts!
Virginia wine has really taken off, and most of the vineyards in the Charlottesville area offer surprisingly good tastings and spectacular mountain views. In about a month and a half, I’ve visited 7 wineries/vineyards, and hope to try a few more before I return to work! Here they are, in alphabetical order.
Early Mountain Vineyards, located in Madison, VA, was voted one of the best tasting rooms in the area. The wine was good, but there were no standouts, in my opinion. The views were nice, but not as impressive as some of the other vineyards. They did, however, have a beautiful building, an outdoor patio, full menu, and live music. It is definitely a nice place to spend an afternoon.
Grace is one of the closest wineries to our new house, so it is a convenient stop! The staff is friendly and informative, and the wine is to my liking. The lightly oaked Chardonnay, crisp Rose, and red blend Le Gras Baril are some of my favorites. I’ve had two tastings at Grace this season, one with just my mom, during which we were the only customers and were greatly entertained by our pourer, and one with a group of 9 family members with very different taste in wine! I hope to make it to Friday Evening in the Vineyards soon, so I can enjoy extended open hours, live music, and local food trucks!
The weekend after Thanksgiving, I stopped at Jefferson for a Classic Tasting. The tasting room, originally a horse stable, was too crowded, so we went to the winery tasting room, a new, larger space that is used on busy days or for events. The Merlot was my favorite wine in the tasting, but I ended up having a glass of Reserve Chardonnay while we sat outside on the tree deck. It was a little too cold to be comfortable, but the setting sun and view of Carter’s Mountain was wonderful.
King Family, in Crozet, is a local hot-spot. The wine is great, especially Roseland, a white blend, and Crose, a dry rose, but the Blue Ridge Mountain views, large patio, picnic space, and polo field make it extra special. My first visit this fall was on a warm, sunny Saturday. We brought sandwiches, purchased a bottle of wine, and sat outside with my dog. There were multiple groups picnicking, lots of dogs, and plenty of children playing around. My next visit was on a rainy weekday with a friend from out of town. The atmosphere was very different, but no less pleasant. We enjoyed a Classic Tasting, which in my opinion is the best overall tasting in the area, and had a helpful conversation with our pourer about other recommended stops.
Pippin Hill has a beautiful, rustic tasting room and a covered patio. They also offer a full lunch menu featuring vegetables grown in their garden. I have been there twice for lunch, and treated myself to a tasting on my second visit. Standouts on the wine list are the Viognier and Petit Verdot. The food menu changes seasonally, but I highly recommend the sliders! My opinion of Pippi Hill was greatly enhanced during my last visit, when I met my future husband at the bar. Unfortunately, we did not exchange information, so the engagement is not happening anytime soon!
Stinson is another nearby vineyard, so I have been on multiple occasions. The first time was with a large group of family members, so we were taken to the back room for a private tasting. My favorite of the 6 wines was the Chardonnay. Until this year, I was convinced that I did not like chardonnay. I now realize that I just don’t like California style chardonnay. It is too buttery and oaky for me. Virginia chardonnay is more crisp, but not as harsh as a sauvignon blanc. The tasting room is small, but there is lovely outdoor seating, making it a great destination on a sunny day.
I stopped at White Hall after a brewery and before Stinson, so my palate was used and abused! I ended up doing the normal tasting as well as the Reserve. The overwhelming favorite of my group was the 2014 Merlot, and our pourer, Phil, brought us an older bottle that we were able to taste and take home. Phil also answered numerous questions about the business side of things, such as what percent of grapes the vineyard sells and the ongoing effects of drought years. My aunt and uncle, wine connoisseurs who recently relocated from California, especially enjoyed the conversation. If you are interested in expanding your knowledge and understanding of wine, White Hall is an excellent place to visit.
While I don’t believe vineyard hopping is helping me adjust to the real world again, it is certainly keeping me entertained! Check back soon for more tales of my Virginia Vacation.