The Monticello American Viticultural Area is the 26th largest in the U.S., dwarfing regions like Sonoma and Napa Valley. It's home to more than 25 wineries and encompasses about 1,250 square miles. Intimidating? No. Navigating it is easy, as the majority of the wineries lie within 15 miles of Charlottesville.
You'll taste a staggering array of wine varieties here, from international grapes like Viognier to Bordeaux-style blends to native grapes like Niagara to sweet fruit wines made from blueberries or pears. No one wine type stands out as best, but plenty of wines show promise.
Please note that prices, hours of operation and wine availability can often change. We recommend that you call ahead before you go.Horton Vineyards
Tasting Fee: Free
Though this winery, housed in a faux Tudor castle surrounded by vineyards, produces 50 different wines, it's known for its Viognier. In the tasting room you'll discover a range of varietals, from Chardonnay to Touriga Nacional to succulent pear and apple wines. Some of Horton Vineyards' efforts are more successful than others. Decide for yourself which wines are best in the tasting room, where every wine produced there is poured.Jefferson Vineyards
Hoping to start a commercial wine industry in the colonies, Italian winemaker and industrialist Fillipo Mazzei planted grapes on this winery's grounds in 1774, with the help of Thomas Jefferson, who invested in the new company. In 1981, the property's new owners resurrected the vineyards, and today the winery produces 12 wines from 25 acres and has one of the region's most consistent track records; standouts include good to very good Viognier and a Chardonnay Reserve. The tasting room is a friendly spot with a copper-topped bar and a shaded deck out front, where visitors can spread a picnic lunch; visit Simeon Market across the street for deli sandwiches, salads and pastas.Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard
Winery founder Patricia Kluge, who runs her own venture capital and money management firm, wanted to help raise the winemaking bar in Virginia. So in 1999, she began planting vines on part of her 2,000-acre estate in Charlottesville, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and she's been expanding her business ever since. Today Kluge, and her husband, William Moses, who is now CEO of the winery, own 220 acres of vines and a chic winery, tasting room and gourmet-food shop selling artisanal cheeses, salmon cakes and espresso. Visitors can try any of the 10 wines in the tasting room for $10 to $12, including two Bordeaux-style blends and four sparkling wines.Barboursville Vineyards
Named after James Barbour, a former governor of Virginia, and owned by the large Italian concern Zonin, Barboursville is one of the few regional operations to combine consistent quality with volume output and widespread marketing. Winemaker and general manager Luca Paschina specializes in Italian varietals; the Alba, Italy, native makes good Pinot Grigio, Viognier and Chardonnay and good to very good Cabernet Sauvignon for Barboursville. Beyond the winery, the 900-acre estate, set among rolling farms and curving roadways lined by woodlands, houses 150 acres of vines and the brick remains of Barbour's house—a Thomas Jefferson-designed structure that burnt down on Christmas Day in 1884. There's also an excellent Italian restaurant, Palladio, which serves seasonal dishes; past specialties have included homemade pumpkin ravioli and fall-off-the-bone veal shanks.
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