Virginia is referred to as the birthplace of American wine. In 1620, after English colonists settled in Jamestown, each man was required to plant and tend 10 grapevines. When it was obvious that Virginia could produce wine, Thomas Jefferson set aside 2,000 acres near his Monticello estate for a vineyard.
Now, one of the fifth-largest wine producers in the US, Virginia’s wines tend to stay within the region, being sold through wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants and retail outlets.
A Brief Overview of Wineries In Virginia
Virginia is a landscape ranging from craggy mountains to sandy shores and is home to more than 4,000 acres of grapes, and eight AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). There are in excess of 300 wineries in Virginia, and many are located in Loudoun County. The maritime climate means that Virginia gets plenty of moisture and humidity so the grapes are resilient and robust, making the wine industry one that is both varied and nuanced.
Wineries in Virginia have become such an important part of tourism that October has been designated as Virginia Wine Month. Virginia’s wine trails can be found on scenic routes, near historic towns, making an exploration of the area a visitor’s delight.
Some of the main wine-producing regions in Virginia are:
In the Blue Ridge area, you will find the hills of Piedmont and the vineyards there benefit from cool springs and a longer growing season. The climate is well suited for hybrid grapes and making wines such as Vidal Blanc and Chambourcin.
Central Virginia is a leading wine area with more than 80 wineries. Central Virginia has a wide variety of terrains and soils allowing different types of grapes to be grown and the production of distinctive wines. You will find superb varieties of Merlot, Chardonnay and Cab Franc alongside Tannat, Gruner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc.
There are three distinct wine regions on the coast: Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads and visitors can enjoy water views and activities and fresh seafood pairings. The sea impacts the weather, the soil and, ultimately, the wine. Proximity to the ocean makes it easy for visitors to enjoy fresh fish and wine pairing.
Some of the best wineries in Virginia are found in the north. The moderate winters, rolling hills and rich soil are ideal for growing grapes.
What Grape is Native to Virginia?
The grape that Virginia is best known for is the Viognier. The most planted grape is Chardonnay, but the Cabernet Franc is also well represented. Increasingly, Petit Manseng and Petit Verdot are being used to make wines that showcase Virginia’s terroir.
The Best Virginia Wineries
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Chateau Morrisette is Virginia’s oldest winery. It is located in the Blue Ridge Parkway and is 3,500 feet above sea level. It took Chateau Morrisette a long time to find the ideal varieties of grapes but they now produce more than 75,000 cases a year. Red wines include Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot, sweet and blush includes Vin Gris and they also produce Muscadine.
Their sweet wines include apple, blackberry and cherry. This Virginia winery has an onsite restaurant that specializes in locally-sourced, organic food. Their winter opening times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11am–5pm and Sunday 12am-5pm and there is a wine and gift shop and you are welcome to bring your dog (s). The Black Dog is an award-winning wine that receives excellent reviews.
King Family Vineyards
If you love horses and wine, then this is just the place for you. Located 15 minutes from Charlottesville, this winery has a 12-acre polo field. Every Sunday, you can bring seats, snacks and your dogs and enjoy a free polo match while sipping something deliciously ‘grape-full’. The tasting room is open all year and you can sample five seasonal wines. Their hours are 10am-5.30 every day of the week. Reservations are not essential.
Veritas Vineyard & Winery
When you visit Veritas, you will be able to enjoy magnificent mountain views, welcoming staff, delicious victuals and, most importantly, exceptional wines. The Farmhouse restaurant offers a farm-to-table menu so you can enjoy a delicious and healthy meal. During summer you can sit on the terrace and enjoy a glass or more and in the winter months, the luxurious leather sofas and fireplace will have you feeling warm in no time at all.
They are open from 11am-5-pm every day of the week. Hundreds of music and wine lovers attend their Starry Night outdoor concerts which take place on the second Saturday of each month during summer.
Excellent Wineries in Northern Virginia
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The most beautiful views from the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains can be enjoyed at this winery and vineyard. The outlook from the dual-level patios is superb but you can enjoy the views just as much if you have a picnic on the grounds beneath. Bluemont provides an extensive menu of light food that can be paired with their delicious wines such as Petit Manseng or Farm Table Red.
If you wish to stay overnight, there are one- to three-bedroom cottages which have all the necessary amenities to ensure that you have a pleasant and comfortable stay.
Ankida Ridge Vineyards
If you love to get away from crowds, you will enjoy visiting Ankida Ridge Vineyards which is located remotely and deep in the mountains. So much so, that you are encouraged to download the directions to this winery in Virginia as the GPS signals may fade along the way. They are only open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm-5pm. Visitors to Ankida Ridge are blown away by the breathtaking, panoramic views and the elegant wines.
Stone Tower Winery
Visitors to Stone Tower Winery praise the tours, tastings and, of course, the wines. Owned for three generations by the Huber family, this winery spans 300 acres and offers world-class wines such as Estate Rosé, Petit Verdot and Cabernet France. Their wine tasting sessions last for about two hours and thereafter you can sit in one of the outdoor areas and take in the beautiful surroundings.
Early Mountain Vineyards
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This vineyard is unique in that they not only offer tasting flights of their own award-winning wines but a selection of wines from across the state. The atmosphere is modern but cosy, with fireplaces, a restaurant, and soft leather couches that look onto the magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The great news is that if you are planning a romantic getaway, you can stay in the guest cottage located on the property.
Virginia wineries are just one good reason to visit. Another is that Virginia is beautiful all year round, no matter what season it is. There are beaches, lakes, rivers, cities, mountains and landscapes to suit all tastes and travel aspirations. Virginia is a great place for romance and there is a slogan, ‘Virginia is for lovers’. You can spend a romantic time on the beaches, at posh resorts or you can stay at wineries in Virginia. Some wineries offer accommodation so wine enthusiasts can enjoy a restful stay only a short walk away from the vineyards’ tasting rooms.
Not all Virginia wineries are not open for wine tastings at the moment, so it is always a good idea to book in advance to avoid disappointment.