If you're looking to take a tropical vacation, you don't have to go much further than Charlottesville, Virginia, where husband-wife duo Jeff and Michelle Sanders have opened up a destination of dreams.
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Glass House Winery
Credit: Zoe Denenberg

When planning a weekend getaway in Virginia, you will find no shortage of vineyard options. The state houses almost 300 wineries, accessible via dozens of possible routes. One of the most popular routes is the Monticello Wine Trail, which strings together 30 wineries in central Virginia (the picturesque drive alone attracts visitors from across the country). Settling on just a few destinations along this Blue Ridge route can prove challenging, but one spot not to miss is Glass House Winery, a boutique winery in Free Union set just 30 minutes outside Charlottesville.

Glass House may be a winery by name, but the 15-acre property also includes a bed and breakfast, a tropical conservatory, and an in-house chocolate shop. The concept was dreamed up by husband-wife duo Jeff and Michelle Sanders, who sought to fuse his botanical background with her passion for chocolate—and, of course, their mutual love of Virginia wine.

Glass House Winery strives to create wines that reflect Virginia's terroir and regional character. According to the winery, all wines are "made solely from grapes grown on our property and in our region of Virginia." But while the bottles may be emblematic of Virginia wine country, the conservatory is a whole other story.

Attached to the winery's tasting room sits its namesake Glass House: A dewy glass-walled conservatory brimming with tropical plants and lush foliage year-round. Tables are secluded under swaths of banana leaves, with various walkways and bridges leading to more private alcoves. According to C-ville.com, owner Jeff Sanders built the greenhouse himself, creating a space where guests can escape into the tropics during the winter.

Glass House Winery3
Right: Credit: Zoe Denenberg

Visitors can snag a table in the greenhouse, an idyllic setting to enjoy a bottle of wine made from the signature Virginia grapes (Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Viognier) grown on the property's ebbing hills. You're welcome to bring your own smorgasbord of cheese, crackers, and charcuterie, or you can compose a selection of gourmet chocolates crafted by the in-house chocolatier; the flavors include Wine Cream, Cherry Chilli, and Mango Mania. The winery recommends pairing its 2021 Pink Drink Rosé—which features notes of pomegranate and strawberry—with its Raspberry Champagne chocolates.

In addition to the tropical conservatory, the property includes a lake, where guests can set up outdoor picnics and take in the staggering Blue Ridge Mountain views. Feel free to bring your pet along: Friendly dogs on leash are welcome at Glass House Winery. For the full experience, stay at the Glass House Winery Bed and Breakfast, a charming inn just set off from the tasting room that overlooks the vineyard.

Jeff and Michelle Sanders opened Glass House Winery in 2010, and they've remained committed to protecting and honoring the winery's land. "We have built Glass House Winery as environmentally friendly as possible, while keeping it a viable business, using both solar and geo-thermal energy sources, and often using materials on the grapes such as clay to keep pests away, rather than more harmful sprays," they note.

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Sounds like it's time to book that tropical vacation. Can't make it to Virginia just yet? Take a virtual tour of the winery's unique environment.