Ellen and David King founders of King Family Vineyards were lookingfor a business that would involve the whole family.
King Family Vineyards, just south of the tiny town of Crozet, was the newest in the area when I visited. Indeed, the tasting room was not yet finished (it has since been completed), but the winery had already produced some fine wines, including a Viognier and a Cabernet Franc of note. As I approached the vineyard in midday, I met Ellen King and her mother-in-law bouncing along the road on a tractor. Her father-in-law followed in a truck laden with grapes. "We've always worked hard together as a family," Ellen told me. "That's why we knew the name here had to be King Family." Her husband, David, and their three sons complete the cast.
For more information: Contact the Charlottesville/Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau, (434) 977-1783 or www.charlottesvilletourism.org.
Afton Mountain Vineyards: (540) 456-8667
Barboursville Vineyards: (540) 832-3824 or www.barboursvillewine.com
First Colony Winery: (434) 979-7105 or www.firstcolonywinery.com
Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery: (434) 361-1266 or www.hilltopberrywine.com
Horton Cellars: (540) 832-7440 or www.hvwine.com
King Family Vineyards: (434) 823-7800 or www.kingfamilyvineyards.com
Oakencroft Vineyard & Winery: (434) 296-4188 or www.oakencroft.com
Veritas Vineyard and Winery: (540) 456-8000 or www.veritaswines.com
White Hall Vineyards: (434) 823-8615 or www.whitehallvineyards.com
Where to Stay
In Charlottesville, the obvious choice is the Boar's Head Inn, a sprawling full-service resort where doubles in fall months range from $188 to $328 (1-800-476-1988 or www.boarsheadinn.com). Two rooms are handicap accessible, as is the main inn. Far more intimate is the Silver Thatch Inn, where innkeepers take solicitous care of guests. Prices here are similar to the Boar's Head ($150-$175;  978-4686 or www.silverthatch.com), but breakfast is included. The Silver Thatch's restaurant has earned its own awards for fine dining. Their signature Thai Steamed Mussels ($8; sold seasonally), made with red Thai curry, coconut milk, and fresh limes, won a gold star from me.
East of Charlottesville is the exclusive, Italianate-style, 600-acre estate, Keswick Hall at Monticello. The 48-room hotel/resort, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, offers any diversion you could dream of. A couple of rooms are superbly outfitted for visitors with disabilities. Guests are treated to a temporary membership to Keswick Club's private golf, tennis, and spa facilities. If you can afford the sky-high rates ($343-$685) or just want to splurge, this is truly the place to stay; 1-800-274-5391 or www.keswick.com.
Cozy inns and bed-and-breakfasts dot the area, but we found two particularly interesting. High Meadows Vineyard Inn, a Virginia Historic Landmark on the National Register, is located on a bend of the James River in sleepy Scottsville. Guests stay here for a variety of activities from bass fishing the James to biking and enjoying the gourmet dishes that come from the inn's kitchen. Seven rooms and five cottage rooms are done in period furnishings, and the absence of phones and televisions in some of the rooms ensures quiet. On the weekend, figure around $200 to $300 including multicourse dinner and breakfast; 1-800-232-1832 or www.highmeadows.com.
On the western side of Charlottesville, in Nellysford in the Rockfish Valley, the Meander Inn Bed and Breakfast has five guestrooms, each with a bath and furnished in antiques. Count Alain San Giorgio of Monaco, his wife, Francesca, and their 11-year-old daughter, Catalina, are as relaxed and fun loving as any B&B hosts ever could be. Animal life abounds on the property, and the view of the Blue Ridge is breathtaking. Rates, including home-cooked breakfast, are about $125 double--a bargain; (434) 361-1121 or www.meanderinn.com.
Atop the Blue Ridge sprawls the year-round, full-service Wintergreen Resort (rates range $129-$179;  325-2200 or www.wintergreenresort.com) where you can ski, rock climb, mountain bike, play tennis, golf, hang out at the spa, or simply relax. Horseback riding takes place down in the valley, where for $46 an hour you can enjoy a trail ride through gentle, lovely scenery. No experience is necessary--the horses know their way.
When booking accommodations, always ask about packages that can save you money.
Special in the Charlottesville area are hot-air balloon rides, which, in suitable weather, launch at sunrise and sunset. The landscape below, painted in fall colors, is awesome and the quiet drift aloft is surreal. Guests meet at the Boar's Head for an elegant adventure aboard one of Rick Behr's 10-passenger balloons (165 per person; 1-800-932-0152 or www.2comefly.com). However, for something more special, seek out Mandy Baskin, owner/chief pilot of Monticello Country Ballooning, who schedules outings in four- and six-person baskets--pilot and three or five passengers. The cost? $180 per person (packages are available). Make a reservation by calling (434) 996-9008.