Meal To Remember
Make reservations for lunch at Palladio, the restaurant at Barboursville. While you can choose to order any two, three, or four courses ($32-$51) paired with wine, my advice would be to go for four and forget about dinner. Take your time, and savor the flavors.
Superlatives are dangerous, but I think that the lunch I enjoyed at Palladio last fall was the very best I've ever eaten. To start, roasted red peppers stuffed with tuna and capers teamed perfectly with their Pinot Grigio. Then, spinach fettuccine, served with shrimp and a full, woody Chardonnay Reserve, was followed by duck, pink and fork tender. The companion wine was a rich and distinctive Octagon Fourth Edition. For the finale, an exquisite tiramisu teamed with a sweet, fruity Phileo. This was food and wine to remember.
South of I-64
First Colony Winery, tucked away off State 20 south of I-64, is a young effort, but in 2001 it produced a very fine Cabernet Franc Reserve. Their winemaker, Jean-Michel Jussiaume, brings experience from France, Hungary, Australia, and South Africa.
Off of State 151 in Nellysford, southwest of Charlottesville, you'll find Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery, smallest of all the area wineries. Here they do everything by hand. Their wines come largely from berries and other fruits grown on the property. Blackberry Delight, a light dessert wine, is perfect with a bit of chocolate.
On to Higher Ground
Afton Mountain Vineyards on Route 631 south of I-64 is another family operation with lots of smarts. Some 15 years ago, Tom and Shinko Corpora left their cosmopolitan Washington, D.C., lives behind and bought a vineyard on the southeastern slope of the Blue Ridge. There, with their two young sons and Shinko's parents, they've built a home and a winery that combines the newest and oldest of technologies, including a gravity flow system and a wine storage cave. Particularly interesting is their Gewürztraminer (guh-VURTS-trah-mee-ner), which few of their neighbors produce.
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and I-64, Veritas Vineyard and Winery opened in June 2002 but has already produced some fine wines, including their Cabernet Franc Reserve 2001. Eight tables overlooking rows of vines invite visitors to linger.
Viticulture North of I-64
At the other end of the winery age spectrum, Oakencroft Vineyard & Winery at 20 years is the oldest of the Albemarle County wineries. Located just west of Charlottesville with vineyards overlooking a pretty lake, Oakencroft tends to be a popular stop for University of Virginia students with visiting parents.
White Hall Vineyards, tucked away on Sugar Ridge Road off Route 810, is a destination in itself. Even though you're out in the country, the winery is definitely uptown. In the sleek and spacious tasting room, you'll be guided through some dozen wines, including a Gewürztraminer, a distinctive Cabernet Franc, and a Soliterre 2001.