Plan a Girlfriend Getaway to Virginia's Wine Country
There are few things more fun or more elegant than a trip through Virginia wine country.
Make the most of your trip to the Virginia wine country by following our guide of where to stay, eat, sip, and play during your visit to Charlottesville, Virginia. The toughest decision you will have to make is which wineries you will tour during your trip; there are over 30 in the area. Don’t forget to pack your closed-toed shoes for farm tours and vineyard close-ups and layers for breezy nights, plus a picnic blanket for an alfresco lunch between winery tours. And if you plan to visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, make sure to order your tickets online before arriving, to avoid standing around all day waiting for your group to be called.
Wine, Dine, and Unwind
Let's be honest: The only two real requirements for a girlfriend getaway are girlfriends and wine. So why not plan a vacation right at the source? Charlottesville, Virginia, isn't just one of the country's oldest wine regions—it's also one of the most fun, with unexpected tasting experiences, a homegrown food scene that's increasingly diverse, new accommodations, quirky activities (snuggling baby goats!), and the good-times vibe of a quintessential college town. Because Thomas Jefferson helped start the whole thing back in 1774, it's practically our civic duty to partake. What are you waiting for? Grab your corkscrew—it's time to get away with your girls.
Embrace Charlottesville's collegiate atmosphere. The Graduate Hotel, which opened last summer, does dorm life one (hundred percent) better, with free Wi-Fi; Malin + Goetz toiletries; and distinctive decor that incorporates plaid carpets, needlepoint pillows, and an antique library card catalog repurposed as a front desk. Bonus: The on-site coffee shop serves local favorite Mudhouse Coffee Roasters brew, along with craze-worthy pastries from MarieBette Café and Bakery. The hotel's rooftop bar and restaurant, Heirloom, debuted in May. If sorority-style sleepovers are more your group's speed, you can find a vacation rental with your ideal location, a communal lounging space, and hyper-specific extras like a saltwater swimming pool and baby grand piano. Just remember to avoid booking during The University of Virginia's home-game weekends or you and the gang might have to sleep in your car. The Graduate Hotel, rates from $129 (doubles) in the off-season or $299 in September; graduatecharlottesville.com. Rental properties, rates from $135; staycharlottesville.com
Feasting on small plates will spare everyone the agony of splitting an itemized bill. At Mas, the no-reservations, industrial-chic tapas spot in Belmont, shareable plates skew simple, organic, and earthy, and the wine list is heavy on Spanish bottles and sherries. Downtown, the unmarked but can't-miss Alley Light promises all the terrines, tartares, and rillettes you girls can take down together. Just locate the alley in question, look for the gas lamp and wine barrels out front, and settle yourselves by the fireplace in the restaurant's cozy lounge. mastapas.com; alleylight.com
As for lunch, you'll find that it goes more smoothly when you plan ahead, especially for picnics. With 48 hours' notice, you can swing by Salt Artisan Market on Thomas Jefferson Parkway for a custom-packed parcel of BLTs, Kite's ham sandwiches, and Brie. Or hit Timbercreek Market in town for funky fromages sourced by the award-winning Flora Artisanal Cheese, as well as organic, house-made charcuterie from meats raised on Timbercreek's own farm 7 miles away. saltcville.com; timbercreekmarket.com
Insider tip: If all the wine tasting leaves you reaching for the Advil, we hear there's no better remedy than JM Stock Provisions' ham biscuit (a freshly made buttermilk biscuit with their award-winning tasso ham, plus honey and house-made hot sauce) or the all-day breakfast offerings at ACE Biscuit & Barbecue. (Try ACE's Ol' Dirty Biscuit: fried chicken, smoked pimiento cheese, sausage gravy, and dill pickle.) stockprovisions.com; acebiscuitandbarbecue.com
Follow the Trail
Our dream list for an ideal day on the south side starts at Gabriele Rausse Winery, where local legend Gabriele Rausse has opened an intimate, glass-walled tasting room surrounded by woods. Besides helping launch several of the county's top wineries (and training a whole generation of vintners), Rausse has served as the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello and made wine from the fruit of vines planted by Thomas Jefferson himself. Try these wines: the exceptional Dry Rosé and the smooth, balanced Nebbiolo Reserve. gabrieleraussewinery.com
Farther down the road is Blenheim Vineyards, one of the only area wineries with a female head winemaker (Kirsty Harmon, a onetime student of Rausse). Peer into the production facility through the timber-frame tasting room's glass-panel floor, savor views from the sunny patio, or stay on the lookout for hometown boy and owner Dave Matthews. The wines to try: Painted Red (with notes of cracked pepper, crushed raspberry, and tea leaf) or the oak-aged, Tropics-tinged Viognier. blenheimvineyards.com
Next, make a stop at Michael Shaps Wineworks, where the small-batch, single-estate wines accumulate awards the way some of us amass earrings—all while remaining attitude free. (See the refillable 64-ounce wine growlers.) Try these wines: a dry, full-bodied 2014 Petit Manseng, chosen for the 2016 Governor's Cup Case, and the 2012 Raisin d'Être, a white dessert wine. michael shapswines.com
It's worth saving time for a sunset sip of sparkling Blanc de Blanc and a predinner snack at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, which was dreamed up by the folks behind Charleston's chic Zero George Street boutique hotel. It's a breathtaking space with farm-to-table food pairings and a vast veranda overlooking the beautiful Blue Ridge foothills. pippinhillfarm.com
Have Your Own Fun
Explore the weekly City Market, a 100-vendor extravaganza, and the boutique-and-cafe-packed Downtown Mall. Also check out the up-and-coming Belmont neighborhood southeast of downtown, home to some of the hippest restaurants (Mas, The Local, Lampo) and indie businesses like Blanc Creatives, makers of hand-forged cookware. charlottesvillecitymarket.com; blanccreatives.com
Seek out a pop-up tasting of inventive small-batch recipes from Potter's Craft Cider, which often stations its Airstream tasting room at the entrance to the Route 151 Brew Ridge Trail corridor in Greenwood and hosts a weekly Saturday cider garden in Charlottesville's IX Art Park. potterscraftcider.com
Speaking of offbeat arts spaces, how about spending an evening parked on a blanket across from a freestanding one-car garage downtown? At The Garage, you might find a live band performing, an art exhibition opening, an indie film screening, or even a communal letter-writing session. A grassy hillside directly facing the door provides the stadium-style vantage points for all intrepid aesthetes. thegaragecville.com
Finally, make an appointment to play with baby goats at Caromont Farm in Esmont, or join Caromont for one of its Goatapalooza weekends. caromontcheese.com