Virginia is for Lovers … and is the Birthplace of American Wine, a 4-part series: the birthplace of American wine, day one – wineries, day two – wineries, and day three – cideries. Check back in 2 weeks for the next part! — EH Stafford, Managing Editor
(Part 1 of 4)
I’ve had the Monticello Wine Trail on my To Do list for a couple of years. After drinking the King Family orange wine (see my July 8th article), I decided it was time for a visit! No more procrastination, I booked a trip for Father’s Day weekend.
The Monticello Wine Trail is known as the birthplace of American Wine attributed to the first wine pioneer of the region – Thomas Jefferson. He pursued a dream of surrounding his mountaintop home, Monticello, with vineyards to make high-quality wine. He had the terroir researched and plantings tested; however, the American Revolution and then phylloxera prevented his dream becoming realized in his lifetime.
In 1835, further advancements were made by Dr. D.N. Norton. He planted a native grape (resistant to phylloxera) later named “Norton” that thrived and gained international recognition. However, in 1914 Virginia went into a statewide prohibition followed by a national prohibition in 1920 (Volstead Act) followed by the Great Depression and World War II.
In 1976, the region was revitalized when Barboursville Vineyards began planting vines.
In 1982, Monticello American Viticulture Area (AVA) was established and these wineries have been winning national and international awards ever since.
The following grape varietals are widely grown in Monticello: Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.
My approach to planning
There are currently 40 members of the Monticello AVA, so it was no small task to decide which wineries to visit in two and a half days. I reached into my network for recommendations and did some internet searches.
My style is to pack in as many as I can, while my husband likes to take it a little slower. There were six wineries that I decided were on my must visit list but made it seven with a dinner reservation.
Monticellowinetrail.com has a great “plan your visit” page that will generate a route for you based on the wineries you want to visit. Based on my selections and their locations, I split the visits into two days. Before finalizing the order of visits, I also considered food and reservations needed.
- King Family Vineyards
- Michael Shaps Wineworks
- Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
- Veritas Vineyard & Winery
- Thatch Winery (impromptu visit)
Day Two (refer to Part 3 on Aug 19)
- Barboursville Vineyards
- Early Mountain
- Michael Pippin Wineworks Extended
- Reynard Florence Vineyard (impromptu visit)
Always leave room for impromptu visits!
Most times you will find a gem along the way, so I always make a conservative schedule allowing ample time between stops. I also left Sunday without plans.
We ended up making an extra stop both days based on recommendations from the wineries we visited. Sunday, we decided to have brunch, check out University of Virginia campus and explore a few cideries (refer to Part 4 on September 2) as we were wined out.
Because of Covid I had to do extra research and make phone calls to confirm protocol at each stop. Some wineries required reservations; others offered walk-in service. None were offering “tastings” as we know it. Some offered “flights”, some “by the glass” and others just bottle service. One thing that was consistent… you MUST always wear a mask except when seated at your table. I really appreciated this! We felt comfortable and safe the entire time.
To learn more about the Wineries and Cideries we visited check out Part 2-4 in the coming weeks.
This article – Part 1: Virginia is for Lovers… And the Birthplace of American Wine
August 5 – Part 2: Virginia is for Lovers – Day One, Wineries
August 19 – Part 3: Virginia is for Lovers – Day Two, Wineries
September 2 – Part 4: Virginia is for Lovers – Day Three, Cideries
Photos courtesy Stephanie Roberts
Stephanie Roberts, WSET® Certified, is passionate about educating people about wine and all its complexities. She believes that through education comes enlightenment and approachability—elevating the wine and food experience. Stephanie is the founder of Corks & Boards, offering unique and tailored wine experiences.
Furthermore, you can schedule your own virtual wine tasting with Stephanie that includes formal education about the wine subject (such as style, region or varietal) and instruction on how to follow a formal tasting methodology. It’s a fun event for a casual Zoom with friends, Father’s Day gift, birthday, etc. Message Stephanie through Facebook or IG (@corksandboards).