How To Learn More About Wine

We’ve discussed before how elusive-and therefore daunting-wine can feel. And, while we’ve heard from many people a desire to know more and be more confident in their choices, there seems to be a disconnect between that desire and reality. We suspect that’s because the wine industry overall seems to project an “all or nothing” stance, meaning, either you become the connoisseur or you resolve yourself for a life of ignorance. Not so! As we’ve suggested, a little knowledge goes a long way, and, for the majority of us, it’s all we need in order to fully enjoy our wine experience. While I’m sure our readers agree that this blog is the be-all, end-all to wine education, we thought it prudent to discuss the various options for learning more about wine so that you can pick and choose your own path.

1. Tastings – A good first step, and a typically low-key experience. You can find tastings at local restaurants and other venues. In New York City, Wendy Crispell organizes entertaining boat tours around Manhattan Island that feature wine and cheese pairings and discussion. With most tastings, the focus is on fun first, education second. These are a great way to meet other like-minded wine drinkers while learning about wine. Often the buzz hits after the 2ndtasting, so the learning will be more high level.

2. Classes – More formal, classes offer added structure to the wine education process. Quality programs are offered at culinary schools and wine associations around the country. You might be in class with chefs and other professionals who need the learning for their work. These classes can get into the various nuances available in wine, and the focus is on education first, fun second. Often you’ll be asked to spit out each tasting in the provided spittoon, but, surprisingly, that doesn’t stop the fun. The expectation for learning being higher, these classes are often more expensive than the traditional tasting. We have done our training at The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City; their wine program is top notch.

3. Associations – There are many wine associations open for membership. Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) is one such association. Events, discussions, and a whole community are built around the love of wine. To find an association near you, use google: a search like “Virginia Wine Association” is a good start. These associations are non-profits, so you can feel good about your membership.

4. Books & Magazines – If you find this sort of thing interesting, there is no limit to the number of books and magazines out there. We have just two that have become our staples: Oz Clarke’s “Let Me Tell You About Wine” and Jancis Robinson’s “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” Clarke’s is a beautiful picture book, short, and succinct and perfect for us when we were starting this journey. Robinson’s is a tome of detailed information and almost too much for the casual wine fancier, but it is a big help when we’re doing our research.

You’ll want to double check what sort of information you’ll be getting in a magazine or book. We don’t find one-off reviews very helpful because for most of us, we don’t care how a particular wine from a particular vineyard from a particular year rates. Instead, we like lifestyle pieces and info about regions and information that helps us make connections.

5. Websites & Blogs – Same as Books & Magazines, really. Google “Wine Blog” and you’ll find a plethora of information. Remember the source: it’s much easier to launch a blog than get your book published.

6. Practice – This is critical. You have to go out and try what you’ve learned. So, we know that 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings have peach in their flavor profile. It’s what we were told at tastings when we were up there. So, every time we taste a 2010 Riesling from that area, we look for peach. If it’s there, we go “yup!” and if not, we go “hmph.” We expect Zinfandels to be lush and fruity, so, when I tried Carol Shelton’s creamy “Wild Thing” Zinfandel, I recognized something was different. It takes practice and exposure to start to make the connections you need to have to understand wine better.

You’ve already started your wine education by reading posts like these; why not augment by adding one or more of the above suggestions to your “wine practice.” Overall, just have fun and, remember, you don’t have to know everything there is to know in order to appreciate wine. Keep it simple and put the focus on enjoyment.

Virginia Wines – Things to Know

The Virginia wines are considered to be the best spirit with lots of innovations and improvements are done and experimented. The unique taste and the fresh flavor with the sparkling give us the refreshment to our soul, mind and the body. The inception and the forward thinking is the most important aspects for the wine yard and wine preparatory working for several years in the industry to bring the optimal taste. Testing the ideal soil, propagation, climate and the orientation are done frequently. Virginia is the fifth top most places for the wine production in United States and so the owners of the wine yards are so excited to produce and give the unprecedented support in wine manufacturing.

Wines are nothing but the nectar of the grape separated from the ripped fruit through different process and fermentation. Hume Virginia wines are welcoming the customers for the special tour in the wine yard to expose and entertain the show how the crop rotations are done every year. Due to the brand selection and the good vegetation Virginia is cultivating more grapes and the wine yards are also growing constantly. “The Virginian wines raise its glasses”.

Although Hume wine is the recently started with the tour, they are the growing faster with its creativity and becoming popular with its own customers and fans. Hume Virginian wines has also opened another bigger winery manufacturing to increase the supply and to sustain in the market. They are not only unique with the taste but also have the unique goal this inspired the wine tasters pretty much. Based on this the wines are now concentrating more to introduce the different taste, blends, different flavor, freshness and special complements to the upcoming customers every year.

The qualities are extolling with the numerous findings that are emitted and sentenced typically to bring up the new Virginia wines which are rich and poured. No one can recognize where the products are originally coming from. The good consistency and perfect grape for the wine blending needs to be cropped with the right soil, water and the sunlight gives the right taste and the tender. The right weather for cultivating the grapes is the warm fall season.

The Virginia wines have received the outstanding support from the customers and the government says the businesses are opened on every November to promote its product as a whole lot. Every year the Hume Virginia wines are sending 24000 cases to the market and selling as a huge amount. For promoting more the Virginia wines are conducting several programs for the planning and execution lining up to highlight the representatives with the awarding and membership programs were considered and discussed to motivate its customers. For more information, please visit: virginia wines.

Virginia Country Inns – Affordable Virginia Getaways

‘Virginia is for Lovers’ and the perfect romantic Virginia getaway awaits near the heart of the Shenandoah Valley at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn. This is very close to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The quaint country inn provides a much needed opportunity for relaxation.

In these economic times it is a relief to to have a great escape that is both affordable and close. Regardless of whether you have the time to get away for a night or an entire weekend, the short trip from Washington DC is well worth the investment in romance and yourself.

Guests will find themselves surrounded everywhere they turn. Few Shenandoah bed and breakfast inns can boast fifty acres of grounds. The estate’s treasures include original tree plantings from 1840 and the most rare Magnolia in the country. Visitors to such a VA Inn enjoy extensive gardens, a five-acre arboretum and one of the many secluded spots on the grounds for private relaxation.

Virginia country inns are well known for their romantic atmosphere, especially when it comes to an evening of dining, where Prospect Hill exceeds all expectations. Culinary delights of the season are often prepared by Chef William Sheehan.

A dinner served by candlelight is just what is needed to leave your troubles far behind and remember what is truly valuable. The four course prie fixe dinners, available weekends and most weekdays, include a complementary wine reception and dessert.

The Shenandoah bed and breakfast experience you’ll enjoy at Prospect Hill has been shared by thousands of guests and has led to Prospect Hill’s selection as one of ‘the eight best Bed and Breakfasts’ in the Washington DC area by Bethesda Magazine.

The original eighteenth century Plantation manor home and outbuildings have been restored to thirteen individual guest rooms, each providing a private bath (some with Jacuzzi tubs) and working fireplace. These amenities blend smoothly into the room or cottage’s original decor and function. Antique furnishings complement the comfort of the pillow-topped queen and king size beds and the feeling of simple elegance.

Once you are relaxed, you will be ready to enjoy a full country breakfast in bed. Later in the day you will be treated to afternoon tea. If your romantic Virginia getaway commenced in the dining room of the manor house, you may elect the Plantation’s newest unique dining experience: a Plantation Supper Tray. Served with china, this lighter supper tray is taken in your room and includes soup, salad, a light entree, dessert, and coffee or tea. Your complementary split of wine served your first night could be reserved for this time.

No one could debate that an experience like a Shenandoah bed and breakfast weekend makes for a first rate romantic Virginia getaway. Lovers simply need to step onto the grounds and take in all the Inn has to offer. They won’t be disappointed. The opportunity to get away without having to pay for air fare or other expensive travel arrangements can be saved, while not compromising on the experience.

Thomas Jefferson’s Love Affair With Wine

Although born on the Virginia frontier, Thomas Jefferson became the most knowledgeable wine connoisseur of his age, and his tastes in wine covered the world: France, Italy, Germany, Madeira, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Hungary and, of course, America.

His interests in wine developed early as indicated by his 1769 Shadwell wine inventory: 83 bottles of rum, 15 bottles of Madeira, four bottles of “Lisbon wine for common use,” and 54 bottles of cider, an inventory that would change radically with the passage of time. Exactly when Jefferson decided to design and build his own house is not recorded, but the first mention of Monticello (which means “little mountain”) is noted in his Garden Book on Aug. 3, 1767. A wine cellar, 17 1/2 feet long, 15 feet wide and 10 feet high, was laid out near a cider room. The 28-year-old Jefferson and a 23-year-old widow, Martha Wales Skelton, were married on New Year’s Day, 1772, at the home of her father, John Wayles, and two weeks later they arrived at Monticello on horseback in a snowstorm.

It is perhaps apocryphal but Jefferson’s great-granddaughter, Sarah N. Randolph, reports that they found a bottle of wine “on a shelf behind some books” that they shared before retiring on their Monticello honeymoon night. It was the first of many bottles that he would enjoy at home with family and friends. In his account book of Sept. 15, 1772, he records liquors and bottles on hand, including “about three gallons of rum and a half hogshead [271/2 gallons] Madeira, 72 bottles of Madeira, 37 bottles of Lisbon wine, 29 bottles small beer, 10 bottles of port and 31 bottles of miscellaneous in the closet.” The year earlier he had recorded ten dozen bottles of port, so in the intervening year, 110 bottles of port had been consumed.

In November 1773, Philip Mazzei, one of the most interesting men to enter Jefferson’s life, landed in Virginia from England with his wife-to-be, her 12-year-old daughter, and ten Italian vignerons. Mazzei arrived with a plan to cultivate European grapes, olive trees and the egg of silk worms to make silk. Traveling with Virginia merchant Thomas Adams to Adams’ home in Augusta County, where Mazzei expected to establish his vineyard, they stopped along the way at Monticello to visit Jefferson.

Early the next morning, Mazzei and Jefferson went for a walk through Monticello’s hillsides, and Mazzei found the vineyard land he was looking for, a 400-acre tract adjoining Monticello to the east. He named it “Colle.” Jefferson described the land that Mazzei selected as “having a southeast aspect and an abundance of lean and meager spots of stony and red soil, without sand, resembling extremely the Côte of Burgundy from Chambertin to Montrachet where the famous wines of Burgundy are made.”

What Mazzei and Jefferson talked about on this early-morning stroll was not recorded, but it sparked a lifetime friendship and caused Jefferson to become a partner in Mazzei’s vineyard project, the first commercial vineyard venture in America. As Mazzei remembered in his autobiography, “By the time we returned home, everyone was up. Looking at Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Adams said: ‘I see by your expression that you have taken him away from me. I knew you would do that.’ Jefferson smiled, and without looking at him, but staring at the table, said: ‘Let’s have breakfast first and then we’ll see what we can do.’ “

Whether on that morning walk or later, Jefferson learned that Mazzei had grown up in a mountain village in Tuscany, Italy. As a young man, he studied medicine at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence, but was dismissed for drinking wine before taking communion on Holy Thursday. Undeterred, he went to Leghorn (now Livorno) and established a successful medical practice.
But ever restless, Mazzei left for Smyrna, Turkey, where he continued the practice of medicine for two and a half years. Bored with life in Smyrna and armed with a supply of Turkish opium and some other local products, he sailed for England in December 1755. In London he sold his Turkish goods for a sizable profit, rejected offers to resume his medical practice and made a living giving Italian-language lessons to the British gentry. With the profits from the sale of the Turkish goods, Mazzei opened a shop specializing in wines, silks, olive oils, anchovies, parmesan cheese and other Italian products that were almost impossible to buy in London.

The Renaissance of Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia is VERY easy to love.

We are often pleasantly surprised and rarely disappointed by places in the world where we travel. However, our return to the historic Richmond, Virginia area completely overwhelmed us all. Our team enthusiasm was echoed by the group who had accompanied us.

For four days, we witnessed first hand the vibrant vibe that is the renaissance of Richmond first hand for over a week. It was only enough time to know that we cannot wait to return to experience more history, art, food and wine.

We all were fortunate to participate in a private tour of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (it will reopen in the spring of 2010). The Special Collections area at the Library of Virginia provided us a rare look at some of George Washington’s original documents, along with original works by Patrick Henry. As the curator captivated us with numerous original works of our Founding Fathers, he provided a sense of their lives and their commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You can make arrangements to see items in the Special Collections with an advance appointment.

A catered luncheon at the Edgar Allen Poe Museum and tour was interesting-especially with 2009 being the 200th year celebration of his life. We also visited St. Paul’s Church, famous for Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in 1775.

These are only a few places in Richmond’s history.

We also found time to drink wine at Can Can, dine at the Hanover Tavern and experience the farmers market in Shockoe Bottom. We enjoyed a cooking class at DoubleTree, where there was a focuses on local Virginia favorites and local wine. Next, a special dinner at the cooking school, Mise en Place, with local purveyors and farmers, was a special treats for our culinary team. Everything Misen en Place presented was fresh, easy and delicious and so was the company.

We even met Buz, of Buz and Ned’s fame, by his real, green-wood smoke pit. The flamboyant Buz had slayed Bobby Flay in the barbecue competition, the Food Network’s Throw-down.

A big delight to many to wine writers was the many new and state-of the-art vineyards and wineries popping up in the greater Richmond region. One taste of the sparkling, whites and reds and we understood the reasons for the local wine popularity.

Even after a whirl wind time of l5 hour days our team did not want to leave. We even called airlines in hopes that we were bumped.

We were fortunate to have stayed in two of Richmond’s historic properties. First, we loved the quaint, old world feeling of the Linden Row Inn, a true inn in the heart of town. This establishment was like being at home with a tea and coffee room in the parlor, spacious rooms, topped of by a warm and friendly staff. Its amiable manager welcomed us in person with hot tea in the secluded court yard terrace. The next day, he gave us a behind the scenes peak at the renovated suites and fascinating history of the Linden Row Inn.

The historic Jefferson Inn, an American Landmark since l895, was without any doubt one of the finest hotels we have experienced anywhere in the world. This 5 star and 5 diamond hotel’s renowned true southern hospitality will be featured in depth in several upcoming articles.

On our last evening, we enjoyed the ambiance of the historic river district. We sadly bid a fine farewell, not good by, to the Richmond area at a very special spot called Julep’s, noted for 40 years of old fashioned warmth and new southern cuisine.

One of the beauties of the Richmond historic triangle is ease of transportation. It is a short hop off route 95 when driving, and then picturesque and easy roads help you find your way.

We came by train, plane and rented car. We loved the train, the airport was a modern joy, and Enterprise picked us up with a few minutes notice, on time, at our hotel. Yet, no car was needed to get around in Richmond. Some rode the self balancing Segways all over town one afternoon, while others walked miles to discover vintage shops and other hidden treasures in Carytown. Others visited the Virginia Historical Society. By all of us going different directions, we discovered why we need to return.

Our whirlwind and behind the scenes tours were thanks to the Richmond Visitors Bureau at

Virginia’s Surprising Wine Industry

My Marine son transferred to Quantico, Virginia last year and my wife and I were planning a trip to see him and our grandchildren soon. One of our favorite activities is to investigate wine growing in each state that we visit. My wife did live in Falls Church when her father was at the Pentagon and I have visited the Washington D.C. area many times on business. However, neither one of us knew much about the wine production of the state. Before our trip I knew some research would be needed. What I found out about Virginia’s wine industry surprised me.

Although grape growing first started in the infamous area of Jamestown in the 1600’s, the wine industry was pretty much a failure to begin with. Success finally started to become a reality in the early 1800’s. Notoriety for Virginia wines really came to light at the Vienna’s World Fair in 1873 when a Virginia Norton wine was named “Best Red Wine of All Nations”. The wine industry in the entire United States was drastically set back by Prohibition (1920-1933) and Virginia was no exception. Virginia commercial grape growing totaled only 15 acres in the early 1950’s. Since then, Virginia’s wine industry has experienced wide spread growth and now can claim over 190 different wineries in the state. Virginia is currently ranked 5th amongst U.S. states for wine production.

Virginia is divided into nine recognized wine growing regions. The Northern Virginia, Shenandoah and Central Virginia Regions have approximately 78 percent of all the wineries in the state. The Blue Ridge Highlands, Southern Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Regions account for another 17 percent of the wineries. The remaining regions, Heart of Appalachia, Hampton Roads and Eastern Virginia account for the remaining 5 percent of the state’s wineries. Annette Boyd is the Director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office. In her presentation to the Virginia Vineyards Association in 2009, Annette stated that “Total grape production was up 25% in 2008 from the previous year” and “Total grape production was up 22.8% in 2009” from 2008. The wine industry in Virginia is definitely quickly on the rise.

Virginia’s climate, topography and soils allow growers to cultivate a broad range of great grapes. The combination of these special characteristics that affect wine helps vintners create wines that are especially tasteful with food. Standard wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Virginia Norton, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Virginia Viognier is now recognized as an acceptable term among wine fanciers. Virginia Viognier wine, along with Virginia Cabernet Franc and native Norton, are fast becoming the state’s most notable wines. You will most probably find a Virginia Wine available to enjoy in many upscale restaurants.

If you like to tour various areas that produce wine, Virginia offers an extensive choice of “wine trails” to explore. Bedford County, Blue Ridge, Chesapeake Bay, Loudoun, Monticello, Mountain Road, Shenandoah Valley and Tuskie are just a few of the wine trail names. The character of Virginia abounds with American history and small scattered communities across the state that will make any wine tour you decide to try a truly enlightened experience.

I intend to try some Virginia wines when I visit my son on our next trip. I am sure that I will find one or more to my liking. I am betting, given the broad range of grape varieties found in Virginia, that you also will find one to your liking. As I always say, buy the wine that you like, store it properly in a wine refrigerator and then serve it at the perfect temperature. Your enjoyment of that favorite vintage will be enhanced.

Vacationing in Virginia

Virginia is full of history that reaches centuries back into the history of our country. There are several historical sights that can be visited throughout the year. There are also several events that take place in the month of February and are great if you are looking for something fun to do on the weekend or on your family vacation. The Mid-Atlantic Sports & Boat Show is an annual event that is held in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The event is the largest boat show in the region. You can see the latest boat models as well as other related marine equipment that you need for your boat. The convention center is new and features 150,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The Annual Polar Plunge is found on the Oceanfront at Virginia Beach as well. This event has raised more than $2.5 million for the Special Olympics in Virginia. Over 17,500 people have plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is an educational adventure you will not forget. They are one of the top ten most visited aquariums in the country. They feature 800,000 gallons of aquariums, live animal habitats, 300 hands-on exhibits, ½ acre aviary, a 1/3-mile nature trail and a 6-story IMAX movie screen.

Head down to the Shenandoah Valley for a romantic dinner at the winery for a romantic Valentine’s experience. Local chefs cater the gourmet dinner and the winemaker himself presents the wines that are served with each course. The North Mountain Vineyard Wine Maker’s Dinner is located in Maurertown. In Gordonsville, you will find the Horton Vineyards Mardi Gras and Gumbo Celebration. Dress in purple, green and gold and don’t forget your masks and hats. There will be traditional Mardi Gras games and prizes.

The Chocolate Lovers Festival is a two day chocolate celebration. Chocolate vendors sell their products to taste and purchase. There is also a chocolate arts extravaganza where the medium of choice is, of course, chocolate. Don’t miss the Kiwannis Pancake Breakfast with chocolate chip pancakes, historic re-enactments, children’s activities, craft show and the open house at the local historic by buildings. The event is held in Downtown Historic Fairfax. Visit Colonial Williamsburg for the Annual Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum. You will find furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, paintings and maps that were made or used in the early South.

Condos in Virginia

Virginia has a booming economy thanks in part to being home to the worlds largest naval base. The Federal Government is a major employer in the state of Virginia giving it a stable economy that weather the ups and downs or recessions better then many other states. Virginia is home to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. The technology industry is the second largest employer and they rely on Virginias many colleges and universities to supply their well educated workforce. If you are looking to relocate to Virginia there re many options available to you in terms of Virginia condos.

History buffs love Virginia’s Historic Triangle, composed of Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg. Travelers come from all over the country to visit the birthplace of America. Virginia was the site of the first European colony in the United States and its historic sites are a big draw to tourists. This influx of tourists make Virginia condos a great investment opportunity.

Virginia has a wildly diverse population. In recent years it has see enormous influxes of both Asians and Hispanics. Northern Virginia currently has the largest Vietnamese population on the East Coast and this influence can be seen in many of Virginias great restaurants. Virginia is known for its festivals and state fairs, and in recent years has seen many new annual traditional pop up that celebrate the heritage of it’s diverse population.

Farming is still an important industry in Virginia. Cattle, tobacco, peanuts and tomatoes are some of the states largest exports. The state has started to revitalize its poverty stricken Blue Ridge Mountain area with vineyards. Wine tastings in this part of the state are big draws and the area has seen in influx of tourists, many looking for Virginia condos to rent while in the area, who come to sample the still relative novelty of a Blue Ridge Mountain wine.

Virginia condos can put you in the heart of this diverse state. Whether you are looking to live near the military naval bases along the eastern shore, in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, or in one of Virginias booming cities there is a Virginia condo that’s right for you.

Wine a Bit in Hampton Roads: Where to Enjoy Quality Reds and Whites

I’ve heard some call Virginia “Napa East” because of the abundance of vineyards throughout the state. If you had a year, you could probably visit all of them, and if you think about Virginia wine you probably associate the central and northern regions with the most bountiful harvests. I can’t argue with you there – over the last five years we have visited a number of wineries in Shenandoah and beyond, and have been disappointed at the paucity of such places along the coast. Lately, however, times have changed.

Some may believe you don’t see as many wineries in Southeastern Virginia because the land isn’t as conducive to grape-growing as other parts of the country. In truth, there are wineries that obtain grapes from other parts of the state, and some along the Carolina coasts that do just fine. Recently, however, the Hampton Roads region of Virginia is showing more on the winery map thanks to two recent openings and an older favorite wine lovers can visit along the way.

Next time you plan a vacation in the Seven Cities – Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and on north to Williamsburg – why not broaden your palate with tastings at these wineries:

Williamsburg Winery: While the land on which the winery sits has been settled since 1607, it wasn’t until about thirty years ago that vines were planted. The Williamsburg Winery is a popular attraction on the Upper Peninsula, with enthusiasts enjoying the regular tours and tastings. Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the vintages sold here. There’s also a restaurant on-site that offers gourmet delights and pairings, and musical events throughout the summer. Tours and tastings come with a fee, and the winery is open daily except for select holidays.

Pungo Ridge Winery: Pungo is a sparsely developed area close to Virginia Beach and the North Carolina border, best known as a great place to pick strawberries and other produce in season. More recently, the Pungo Ridge Winery has opened it doors to sell a variety of wines and meads made with fruit grown on the property. From tart blackberry, sweet pear, and of course strawberry wine, one can find a bottle or two for porch sipping.

Mermaid Winery: Norfolk, Virginia’s first winery is quite unusual in that no grapes are grown on the premises. That’s because Mermaid Winery is strictly urban, located the in heart of the trendy Ghent neighborhood. All wines produced here are made with Virginia grapes, however, and you can taste and pair with a fine selection of cheeses, meats, and chocolate desserts.

No trip to Hampton Roads for the wine enthusiast is complete without a stop at any or all of these wineries. Bring home a bottle or two to remember your stay.

Presidential Sites – Visiting Charlottesville, Virginia and Jefferson’s Monticello

Welcome to another in a series of travelogue articles spotlighting U.S. Presidents historic sites. If there is one state that is most well known for having a wide array of presidents historic sites, it is Virginia. Join us as we visit picturesque Charlottesville, Virginia and the famous home of America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson…

Vibrant Charlottesville: Wine, History, And Shopping

Long one of our favorite destinations, Charlottesville, Virginia has a little bit of everything, and then some. This charming university town in the midst of Virginia wine country has been enchanting visitors for over a hundred years. Charlottesville is about two hours from Washington, D.C. but it seems a million miles away. The pace is slower, it is easier to get around, and there’s a noticeable lack of city hustle and bustle. But don’t mistake it for a sleepy little town, because there are dozens of wonderful attractions here for all ages, along with an enticing cultural scene.

The heart of Charlottesville is its historic downtown. It is perfect for walking and poking around in one of the many specialty shops. If your feet get tired, there’s a free trolley which will take a load off and transport you around downtown and points farther afield. There is a youthful vibe here, stemming from the University of Virginia which is located near downtown. The arts play a prominent role in Charlottesville’s cultural scene, and if you’re here on the first Friday of the month, you can participate in a gallery walk. On Saturdays, the City Market offers fresh produce and artisan goods grown locally and sold at the peak of freshness.

Several wineries are located here and offer tastings of some of the finest wine made in America. Try a rich, deep Virginia red wine and see what you’ve been missing! For outdoor enthusiasts, the many lakes and rivers will keep even the most avid adventure seeker satisfied. Charlottesville is awash in history. Two presidents had their homes in the area, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. The visitors center offers a Presidential Pass which provides discounted admission to both homes and other historic attractions.

Visiting Jefferson’s Monticello

Next to Mount Vernon, Monticello is the most visited presidential home in America. Thomas Jefferson, our third president, lived here both before and after his presidency until his death in 1826. His home and plantation grounds are visited by tens of thousands annually. It is largely an outdoor experience, so dress comfortably. Tours of the home are given daily but it is a good idea to get your tickets in advance, because day of visit purchases might not be available. Tours are given on a time entry system, so be sure to be on time.

If you like to stroll, or hike as it were, park your car on the outer grounds and hike the two mile trail to the house. The scenery along the way is spectacular, particularly if you are visiting in autumn. Your admission includes not only a tour of the home, but a walking tour of the garden and grounds and a plantation tour. The gardens are beautiful and the plantation provides not only an overview of life in the early 1800’s but also a perfect vantage point to view the surrounding area.

We recommend allowing between two and three hours to see everything. Weekends tend to be quite busy, so if possible try to visit during weekday mornings or afternoons after 3 p.m. Any season is ideal for visiting Charlottesville, but we have a particular fondness for fall, when the trees are in blazing bloom and the days are warm with cool, comfortable evenings.