Go to any corner of the country and ask what the State Slogan for Virginia is and most everyone will respond correctly with “Virginia is for Lovers”. Only a few stand out in my mind and during my youth, I lived all over the country. The truth is, our neighbors to the east have a wide variety of things to do and many things to love about it…especially wine. (Pictured above: @jcpphoto on instagram. Winery tastings today with @dr.dermatic! @hillsboroughwine #virginia #virginiawine)
Here at The Greenbrier we get our fair share of guests visiting from all over, including Virginia. Any night I’m working on the floor it is almost certain I’ll be asked: “Is Virginia wine any good?” Asking a wine professional this question could yield the answer “Is there any wine that isn’t?” Truth be told Virginia is a small gem in the world of wine. Some of the areas of the state are very unique and of course quite beautiful as well.
Recently our team adventured on a road trip to a wine show in Shepherdstown, WV. From there we continued our adventure to Leesburg, VA. Only ever reading about the area and never having been there, I was astonished by how many vineyards were along the way. This little area is known as the Middleburg American Vinicultural Area, or AVA for short. Comprised of nearly 230 acres under vine, 24 wineries, countless little B&B’s, and miles of beautiful winding backroads. Settled early on, due to its proximity to D.C., many of the classic varietals have been tamed quite well over years. The well-draining soils coupled with the moderate seasons set the stage for some great juice to find its way to the bottle. Boxwood Winery is a great example for the area. At Boxwood, they only focus on growing a handful of the classic varietals on their sustainable estate. Boxwood’s red blends, Topiary and Trellis, are so balanced and well made you might be brought back to the old-world sipping on one. Rappahannock Cellars is another beautiful piece of property in Middleburg AVA. The Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc they grow and produce are some of the finest examples of what Virginia wine is truly capable of. If you are in the area and need a break from the road or the wine, there is also plenty of local Mead and Bourbon being made around the Middleburg area as well.
On another recent day trip from Lewisburg, I found myself in Charlottesville, VA. A neat little town I’m sure most are familiar with. Good eats are plentiful around town, with a variety of shopping, and an area dotted with vineyards and wineries. The nearby Monticello Wine Trail is a fun way to explore this backcountry wine region. Named for President Thomas Jefferson’s home estate, the Monticello AVA has been dubbed “The Birthplace of American Wine”. President Jefferson was one of the very first to take on viticulture in the area, having small success at first but ultimately meeting failure after many challenges. Today, through experienced vinicultural practices and new age research, the AVA is one of the most thriving in the country. To the south of the Monticello Estate, you will find Blenheim Vineyards. Designed in part by Dave Matthews (yes of the band) this property has one of the most enjoyable views from the tasting room you’ll find anywhere. With a glass floor, you can see into the winery operation below and a back porch that overlooks the entire estate. Accompanied with the great view, the wine selection has something for everyone. The selection available is super approachable and well made.
Continuing on, right down the road you will find the Trump Winery. Feel how you may about the namesake, but this is one beautiful property. Surrounded by vineyards and other farmed crops, a luxury Bed and Breakfast is nestled into the valley. Expertly crafted wines add to this dramatic landscape taking you away to a small corner of the Sonoma Valley. A vibrant tasting room is set into the vineyard, making this a must-see along the trail. Situated to the North of Charlottesville by about 30 minutes you will also find Barboursville Vineyards. Established by Italian immigrant Gianni Zonin over 40 years ago, the old school European practices shine through right to the glass. Producing multiple white and red Italian varietals like Barbera and Vermintino, it’s easy to see why so many awards have been won. The always delicious and age-worthy “Octogon” is a wonderful Bordeaux blends that I feel elevates the status of Virginia wine among the best. One of the fastest growing segments of the industry is well represented in the area as well, considering this is Cider country. Swing into Bold Rock or Castle Hill Cidery for a change of pace and enjoy palate cleansing craft cider.
There is plenty to explore and love about the wines of Virginia, for the most part right in our back yard. I’ve stumbled into the few places mentioned by chance, but I encourage you to go online and visit www.virginawine.org. The resources are endless with ideas, maps, and links to every vineyard. Any time of year, a little road trip into the state for “Wine Lovers” is always a good idea.
– Ron Maggliochetti, Director of Wine & Fine Dining at The Greenbrier Hotel. HashtagWV #110. February 2019.