Rather than hopping on a flight to the famed Napa or Willamette Valley, why not explore the incredible wineries of Virginia?
From award-winning tasting rooms to high-elevation vineyard sites (with incredible views to match,) there’s so much to love about Virginia wine country. You can sip wine, eat great, and even go on a hike or two in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. Or you can just stick to the food and wine. The choice is yours.
Let’s cut to the chase. Here are 5 wineries you must visit on your next Virginia wine country trip!
Ankida Ridge Vineyards
Perched 1800 feet up in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the wondrous Ankida Ridge. This family-run winery began with the Vrooman family’s curiosity to plant Pinot Noir on their retirement home property. Many thought that was an impossible task. It ended up being the birth of one of Virginia’s most esteemed wineries.
Ankida Ridge grows Pinot and Chardonnay, along with some Gamay. Ancient soils, fabulous exposures, and astonishing altitudes make these wines something to talk about. They’re fresh and exciting, reminiscent of the grapes’ French homeland in Burgundy. It’s no wonder many call Ankida Ridge Virginia’s ‘little Burgundy.’
You’ll understand this once you visit this winery and taste their ethereal wines. I will mention that visiting Ankida Ridge requires an adventure deep up into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The stunning views you’ll see along the way and when you arrive (as well as the glorious wine) makes the journey all worth it.
With Virginia roots and an Italian legacy, Barboursville Vineyards is a one-of-a-kind winery. The estate itself existed since the 18th century, owned by Thomas Jefferson’s friend and neighbor James Barbour. Both gentlemen dreamed of their estates producing vigorous grapevines, but they never found much success. Everything changed when Giovanni Zonin, an Italian from the Veneto, came along with unwavering ambition and bought the Barboursville property in 1976.
The Italian Zonin family did what the world thought impossible at Barboursville – they transformed the estate into an impressive winery and vineyard. Today, Barboursville grows Italian varietals, like Nebbiolo which they use to make their award-winning Octagon wines. I should mention that this wine (and all their wines) are made by a Piedmontese man himself – Luca Paschina.
Barboursville also cultivates other Italian grapes as well as French varietals, like the Virginia-loving Cabernet Franc. You can sip most of their wines in the winery’s beautiful library tasting room, overlooking gorgeous, sprawling vineyards.
And, what’s an Italian winery without great food to match? Don’t forget to treat yourself by making a reservation at Palladio, Barboursville’s fine-dining Italian restaurant.
Early Mountain Vineyards
If you want a winery with the whole package, look no further than Early Mountain Vineyards. It has Napa vibes, Michelin-level food, and remarkable Virginia wines. Did I mention that Early Mountain was awarded ‘Best Tasting Room in America’ in 2016 by USA Today?
Early Mountain Vineyards is an easy, breezy, and beautiful drive just 40 minutes North of Charlottesville. Once you enter the tasting room, you’ll immediately understand why it’s award-winning. It’s spacious with a mix of new and old-world charm that only gets better once you step outside to Early Mountain’s patio to take in the view of the vines.
The wines, expertly crafted by head winemaker Ben Jordan, are an exciting expression of what Virginia has to offer. Make sure you have fun and choose a flight that catches your eye. What’s super cool about Early Mountain is that their flights showcase both their wines and other Virginia wines too. From Michael Shaps wines to Ben Jordan’s eccentric wine project Lightwell Survey, you’ll be able to explore the most exciting aspects of Virginia wine, right in Early Mountain’s tasting room.
And, make sure you come hungry to Early Mountain too. Their menu, curated by Chef Tim Moore, is to die for. Even if you just order a baguette with butter and a small plate, you’ll be in heaven with every sip and bite you take.
Down windy country roads south of Charlottesville, you will find Blenheim Vineyards. Now, this winery is more than just Dave Matthew’s winery (yes, we’re talking about THE Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews band.) Blenheim rests on a historic estate that’s had a story to tell for the past 3 centuries. It’s a place that Jefferson and his wife Martha ventured often, to stare at what Jefferson called ‘the sea view.’
Now, we don’t really know exactly what Jefferson meant by ‘sea view.’ But, Blenheim’s beautiful 32-acre estate, boasting an endless sea of vines is a pretty striking view to me. Approaching the property, Blenheim does seem pretty unassuming. But, once you greet the vineyards and the winery’s magnificent tasting room, which looks like a magical mountain chalet, you’ll know that Blenheim is something special.
Kirsty Harmon leads the way in the cellar, crafting an impressive selection of wines, mostly from French varietals. You can sip them in their airy tasting room, or enjoy the great outdoors when the weather can accommodate. Blenheim has a spacious outdoor patio, making it a great destination for larger wine tasting groups.
Afton Mountain Vineyards
Views, views, views! That is Afton Mountain Vineyards, with a glass of delicious wine in hand of course.
Just South of 64, Afton Mountain Vineyards rests on the eastern side of Afton Mountain, with vines planted around 1000 feet up. Once you venture up to this cozy family-run winery, you’ll be overwhelmed by the 360 views of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountain range.
What is super fun about Afton Mountain Vineyards is their variety of vines. This winery grows 11 unique grape varieties, from Gewurztraminer to Albariño to even Tannat. This makes visiting their tasting room an exciting adventure for your palate.
Thinking of heading to Virginia for your next wine trip? If so, don’t forget to add these 5 wineries to your itinerary. You won’t regret it!