Virginia is home to over 200 wineries with 5 specific regions including:
- Blue Ridge, VA
- Central Virginia, VA
- Northern Virginia, VA
- Southern Virginia, VA
- Shenandoah Valley, VA
This weekend I had a chance to experience a few central region vineyards. We drove about 3 hours west from Baltimore and opted to stay in Charlottesville, VA. Fortunately for us we have friends who are from the area so we had locals to give us perspective on the best places to go during our stay.
We arrived in Charlottesville on Friday afternoon and found ourselves in historic, downtown Charlottesville on a hunt for cigars. We went to C’ville Smoke Shop after reading their Yelp reviews; they had a pretty decent selection of cigars and knowledgeable staff. They also had what I call “girlie” cigars- sweeter, milder options like vanilla, cherry and tropical flavors which I prefer.
We spent the evening at a local brewery that also features what else? Virginia wines. My husband opted for a beer flight and I decided to try Red Star, a rich red from local winery Veritas. Red star is a great table wine that combines Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chambourcin, and Touriga.
We started our wine country tour on Saturday with a trip to Wisdom Oak. For just $7.00 you can sample all of the wines and the tasting fee is waived if you purchase 3 bottles.
Wisdom Oak was probably the favorite of the places we tried over the weekend. I fell in love with their Vidal Blanc as well as their Petit Mensang- both sweeter, white wines. In fact, I’m pretty sure our entire party bought some combination of one or both of the wines as we all unanimously fell in love with them during our tasting . I also really enjoyed their Meritage a red blend which combines Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot.
Our second stop for the day was to Pippin Hill Farms. Immediately the view from Pippin Hill draws you in . There are sweeping mountain views and the vineyard has great indoor/outdoor seating for guests. I opted for the sparkling wine flight which included samples of 4 wines for $13. Honestly I was just lukewarm on Pippin’s selection, however the views alone make it worth the trip.
The third stop of the day was to Delfosse Vineyards where we sat outside with a small picnic which had been packed in advance. We actually skipped doing a tasting here; however since so many folks in our group enjoyed the petit manseng from and earlier stop we got several bottles to have with lunch- an added bonus was there version was 18% alcohol.
Our final stop was for starry nights at Veritas. I loved everything about Veritas and starry nights was the best possible way to end our day of tasting. The evening included a band that played everything from Hip-hop to country and just about every genre in between. The only down side to saving veritas for last was that they really had limited tastings so if you were not already familiar with their wines the event didn’t provide too much exposure to them. In spite of this, the evening was perfect and I had a chance to have there Red Star which most of the folks in our group who are familiar with the vineyard agree is their best.
Tips for planning your own vineyard trip:
Choose a region- we opted for Charlottesville as I said because we have friends from the area. The regions of the Virginia wine country are pretty spread out so unless you are planning on going to multiple regions over several days it’s best to stick with one area.
Eat! We started our morning with breakfast and also had a pretty substantial lunch. Having food on your stomach will be key to enjoying a long day of tasting. Whether you pack a picnic ( as we did), or opt to have a meal at one of your stops you will have a much more pleasurable experience with food on your belly.
Designate a driver- this probably goes without saying but it’s probably best to either designate a driver or hire one for the afternoon.
Ask a ton of questions- if we had not already been with a group familiar with the area, we would have planned many of our stops based on tips provided during our tastings. The folks who work at the vineyards know the area and are pretty helpful with giving you tips of other places to try.
Allow yourself plenty of time- most of the vineyards close around 5 pm so it’s best to give yourself an early start in order to try about 4-5 wineries. The average length of time at each stop is about 45 minutes to 2 hours if you opt to eat so plan your trip accordingly.