To read more about regional wine, see Toast Missouri Wine Country.
Set beside the Blue Ridge Mountains and within a 30-mile radius of Charlottesville, more than two dozen picturesque wineries beckon you to visit. All offer relaxed and friendly wine tastings; tours are available at some. But this is Thomas Jefferson country after all, so start your visit by going to Monticello to reacquaint yourself with the man's genius. The other must-see is the University of Virginia campus, also designed by Jefferson. The magnificent rotunda and lawn bordered by quaint faculty residences echo Monticello's classical themes. Birth of a Wine Country
Given Jefferson's reputation as a wine connoisseur and the fruitfulness of his gardens and orchards, it's ironic that he failed in establishing viticulture from which he could make wine.
Fortunately for us, the vineyards that today grace the hills of the region produce grapes that often result in outstanding wines. Overall, the ambience is pressure free and devoid of snobbery--many wineries are family owned and operated. Typical of the people you will meet is Lorraine Kendrick, a retired middle school principal and human resources director, who was tending to tasting at the Oakencroft Vineyard & Winery when I stopped there. She told me that the big question people ask her is what kind of wine they should like. "I tell them that it's a matter of their own personal taste. There is no one right wine for everyone," she says.
A Sampling of Charlottesville-Area Wineries
Starting at the northeast quadrant of an imaginary circle around Charlottesville, the award-winning Horton Cellars lies 25 miles northeast of the city, past tidy horse farms trimmed with great expanses of white board fences on U.S. 33. A state-of-the-art winery, renowned for its Norton red, this facility pours 36 wines and has ventured into producing a Viognier (vee-oh-NYAY), which Dennis Horton says is possibly their best white wine.
Just south of U.S. 33 is Barboursville Vineyards, the area's largest and most stunning. This is where you can spend serious time. In the tasting room, they pour 16 to 20 wines. Unlike the other wineries, they charge $3 for tasting, but you get to keep the glass. A short walk from the winery takes you to Governor Barbour's Mansion, the ruins of a house designed by Jefferson and destroyed by fire in 1884.