The Undiscovered Wine Country of Virginia


A sample itinerary from the Andrew Harper Travel Office: The Undiscovered Wine Country of Virginia.

When most people think of great American wine regions, the West Coast usually tops the list. But one of the loveliest wine countries hides in the east, in Virginia, where world-class wineries ply their craft in a rolling landscape rich in colonial history.

Days 1 & 2  Start in the state capital, Richmond, with a stay at the Jefferson Hotel, “considered one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts style in existence,” according to Mr. Harper. This “palatial” hotel makes an ideal base for visiting important Civil War sites, such as the White House of the Confederacy and the Petersburg National Battlefield Park. More adventurous sorts can take a Segway tour of the historic downtown.

Days 3–5  Rent a car and drive about 90 minutes to idyllic Albemarle County, perhaps the least-known great wine region in the United States. Base yourself at Clifton Inn, built by Thomas Jefferson, or Keswick Hall, a Tuscan-style villa on a verdant golf course. Both properties feature memorable restaurants, neither of which should be missed.

You might start with a visit of Monticello, Jefferson’s iconic Palladian-inspired mansion. Here, Jefferson attempted to forge an American wine industry, unfortunately without success in his lifetime. He would be thrilled to see what the surrounding estates now produce.

Barboursville Vineyards dazzles with its Viogniers, Cabernet Francs and Bordeaux-style blends. Virginia’s most famous winery is owned by the well-funded Zonin family from Italy, and their investment has paid off. Be sure to have lunch at their renowned Palladio Restaurant and tour the ruins of Gov. Barbour’s mansion.

Nearby Horton Vineyards distinguishes itself with an unusual and delicious sparkling Viognier, and fascinating bottlings of Pinotage, Petit Manseng, Tannat and Rkatsiteli. Other wineries of note include the Dave Matthews-owned Blenheim Vineyards, where it’s worthwhile to reserve the $25 private cellar tour (barrel tastings included), and Keswick Vineyards, near the resort. A visit to Castle Hill offers a fun change of pace; it’s devoted to producing artisanal hard ciders.

In between tastings, architecture buffs will not want to miss historic sites such as Montpelier, the idyllic home of James Madison, and the Jefferson-designed University of Virginia, one of the country’s most beautiful campuses.

Days 6 & 7  Head north into Loudoun County, another fine Virginia wine center. Based at The Goodstone Inn & Estate, an elegant hostelry famed for its equestrian events, it’s easy to visit fine wineries such as Chrysalis and Boxwood, known for delicious Nortons and fine Bordeaux-style blends, respectively. There are plenty of non-vinous diversions as well, such as shopping in historic Middleburg, canoeing the Potomac River and touring nearby historic estates.

Day 8  Drive the short and scenic distance back to Washington’s Dulles Airport for your flight home.

By Hideaway Report Staff