The Essential Guide To Virginia's Monticello Wine Region

When Thomas Jefferson first envisioned a robust Virginia wine industry, while we believe he probably thought those wines would be well regarded in his home state and country, it’s hard to imagine he thought that in the twenty-first century, not only would those wines be well regarded in the US — with many labeling the region our country’s next Napa Valley — but that those wines would also be available on the market of one of the most discerning wine cities in the world: London.

Charlottesville Wine Map Guide
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In our first article about Virginia wine, we highlighted the state’s northern region, home to winemaker Jim Law and many of his pupils, and a region that is quickly making a name for itself for high-end wines. Now we’re going to travel south to the University of Virginia and the state’s other well-known region surrounding the area of Charlottesville, where Jefferson made his home and first tried to plant vines on his property of Monticello.

In addition to being one of our country’s great college towns, Charlottesville has always been home to a passionate population of farmers and foodies who champion local products and are leading an agrarian renaissance. It’s the perfect setting for the emergence of a high-quality wine region. Currently 32 vineyards can be found within a 30 mile radius of the city.

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Jefferson Vineyards

The first stop on our tour of Charlottesville area wineries is to the winery that bears our founding father’s name: Jefferson Vineyards. Founded in 1981, Jefferson Vineyards is now one of the oldest in the region and a standard bearer for what is possible. The vineyard and winery are rich in history and attached to the area Thomas Jefferson believed had such potential when he first laid out his winery plans 250 years ago. In fact, all of the vineyard’s grapes are grown in planting locations that Thomas Jefferson deemed ideal for growing vines in 1774. If you’re looking for a great red wine, try the vineyard’s Cabernet Franc.

Blenheim Vineyards

Following our trip to Jefferson, we’ll stay in the Charlottesville zip code and head to a winery owned by one of the town’s other famous residents, Dave Matthews. When you arrive, you may encounter more visitors that are there because of Matthews’ music than because his winemaker Kirsty Harmon makes great wine, but don’t let that dissuade you. The winery is creating some very delicious and inventive wine, especially white, and embraces Matthews’ passion for sustainability. The tasting room actually requires no electricity whatsoever to light it in the summer. Besides, almost everyone we know has had a Dave Matthews Band phase during at least one point of time in their life, so just embrace it. We’re big fans of the Viognier.

Virginia Wineworks

After leaving Blenheim, head 7 miles down the road and pay a visit to Michael Shaps and Virginia Wineworks. Shaps, who operates this custom crush facility and also makes a wine here under his own name, is one of the state’s most highly regarded wine makers. Trained in France, Shaps actually splits his time during the harvest between Virginia and Burgundy, making wines in both locations. While all of the wines under Shaps own label are terrific, what we truly love about WineWorks is their fantastic boxed wine. Looking for a sustainable and value conscious way to give consumers high-quality wine for less, Wineworks is the first winery in the state of Virginia to package their wine in this manner. We like the Viognier and the Red Blend.

Ankida Ridge

With your box of wine in tow, head back into the heart of downtown Charlottesville and visit Ankida Ridge. While you can’t visit the actual winery, their tasting room 22 Brix, which is located near the city’s quaint outdoor walking mall, is the next best option. While the majority of wineries in Virginia work with grapes from the Bordeaux region of France, Ankida Ridge grows the two grapes born in the wine region of Burgundy: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. After sampling the Pinot, we recommend walking about a half mile down the road for a great tapas dinner at Mas.

King Family Vineyards

To the west of Charlottesville sits the sprawling estate of King Family Vineyards. This picturesque winery, which butts right up to the Blue Ridge Mountains, produces Bordeaux-style wines, such as their celebrated Meritage blend, made by French winemaker Matthieu Finot. Although only around since 1998, the winery has quickly made a name for itself not only for its wonderful wines, but also as a great place to picnic and catch a polo match, which occurs every Sunday from Memorial Day until mid-October. In addition to the winery’s Meritage blend, we recommend trying their Port-style wine named Number 7, that is produced from Merlot and aged in Bourbon Barrels for two years.

Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Taking in a polo game and drinking wine can be tiring, so help wake your palate up with a refreshing glass of sparkling wine just down the road from King Family at Veritas Vinyard & Winery. While the majority of wineries in Virginia are making red wines, Veritas is making an exceptional sparkling along with great whites.

Barboursville Vineyards

North of Charlottesville sits the largest, and most well-known vineyard in Virginia: Barboursville. Located on the former estate of James Barbour, featuring the ruins of his home that was designed by Thomas Jefferson, the winery is owned by the Zonin family, who are one of the largest producers of Prosecco in Italy, and opened the winery in 1976. Often a visit here can feel a bit more corporate than other Virginia winery visits, but the wine still never fails to impress, especially the red blend Octagon. Following a tasting, we like to grab lunch at Palladio, the Italian restaurant that sits on the winery’s property.

Early Mountain Vineyards

The last visit on our tour is to the winery that has experienced more press than any other in this region as of late due to its high profile owner, former AOL CEO Steve Case. Case and his wife Jean bought the vineyard in 2011 when it was then Sweely Estate winery, rescuing it from bankruptcy. Over the last two years they’ve begun to turn the winery around, and their Eluvium red wine blend is quite good. Plus if you see Steve, you can let him know how much you enjoyed using AIM when you were a kid.

The Wineries

Jefferson Vineyards
1353 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy
Charlottesville, VA 22902

31 Blenheim Farm
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

Virginia Wine Works
1781 Harris Creek Way
Charlottesville, VA 22902

Ankida Ridge
209 2nd Street, SW
Charlottesville, VA 22902

King Family Vineyards
6550 Roseland Farm
Crozet, VA 22932

Veritas Vineyards
151 Veritas Ln
Afton, VA 22920

Barboursville Vineyards
17655 Winery Rd
Barboursville, VA 22923

Early Mountain Vineyards
6109 Wolftown-Hood Rd
Madison, VA 22727

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