With more than 300 wineries scattered across eight distinct AVAs, Virginia has plenty to offer oenophiles. The self-proclaimed birthplace of American wine gained popularity in the 1970s thanks to a small group of pioneers producing higher-quality wines. By the 1990s, the quantity of Virginia winemakers had multiplied to 50, and the region has been on the fast track to growth ever since.
“Virginia wine is a young industry, really only just now beginning to see second-generation winemakers,” says Reggie Leonard, co-founder of Virginia-based Blenheim Vineyards’ Oenoverse wine club. “To be so young, and already so pedigreed, with so much room to learn and grow is an exciting position to be in.”
“Virginia is a great destination for wine lovers,” adds Craig Chamberlain, Wine Enthusiast’s senior tasting coordinator and Virginia wine reviewer. “You can vary from classic style Bordeaux and Rhône varietals to newer grapes to the region, such as Albariño. The wineries really take the time to educate their staff to give you an unforgettable experience. Virginia also has some fantastic restaurants with great sommeliers that really know the wines to create excellent pairings.”
So where should you begin? We asked insiders to share their favorite Virginia wineries that are truly worth a visit.
Early Mountain Vineyards
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Charlottesville, Early Mountain Vineyards boasts more than 55 acres of Bordeaux-type varietals, such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot. They also grow newer varietals, like Malvasia Bianca and Tannat.
With a philosophy driven by “making the wine the grapes want to be,” Early Mountain has gained a reputation for making wines inspired by Virginia’s distinctive terroir. Four of their wines have even won gold medals in the 2023 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition.
Between the elegant tasting room, open-air patio and meadow picnic area, Early Mountain offers both upscale and casual sampling experiences. Wines are available by the glass and bottle, and not just Early Mountain wines, either. The winery’s “Best of Virginia” program highlights a curated list of wines from vineyards all over the state. The Virginia table menu, available in the tasting room and on the patio, focuses on seasonal fare sourced from local farms.
“I was enamored the first time I visited, equally by the wines and the food. The winery is ornate,” Leonard says. “Chef Tim Moore and Sous Chef Kristen Hall create inspired seasonal, local dishes that pair so well with the incredible wines.”
During a recent visit, Leonard says he dined on bison tartare paired with Petit Manseng. “It blew my mind. A dry white wine with raw bison was one of the most eye-opening pairings I’ve had in recent memory,” he says.
Where to Eat: Reservations are recommended at Early Mountain’s on-site restaurant. The Meadow, a more casual picnic experience, offers a small menu and a walk-up bar for wine.
Walsh Family Wine
A family-owned and -operated winery situated in the rocky hills of Loudon County in Northern Virginia, Walsh Family Wine was consistently named as a favorite among our experts. “They’re incubating several compelling small-production projects [by Quartzwood, Guide Wines, Boden Young and others], which are all available in their tasting room,” Leonard says. “The music is always eclectic, the clientele tends to be diverse and the wines are exceptional.”
Stop in for a broad range of wines by the glass or bottle, like Tannat (including a carbonic version), Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonel, pét nats and more. Plan ahead to book a tour and tasting experience, which includes a one-hour tour of the vineyard and production facility and a seated wine tasting with small bite pairings ($55 per person). Alternatively, just drop into the tasting room or covered patio for flights, glasses, bottles and food. Keep an eye on the events calendar for wine dinners, music and bar takeovers featuring Virginia winemakers.
“The team is incredibly welcoming, and it feels like a house party at someone’s home who happens to have a cozy living room and a big backyard with a pretty dope patio,” Leonard adds.
Where to Stay: The winery offers three on-site properties for overnight guests ranging from a cozy apartment to a large Tudor-style home with a swimming pool. You can also secure a room at Airwell Bed and Breakfast, set in an 1860-era farmhouse. It’s a romantic and secluded spot, rated five stars on TripAdvisor.
Grace Estate Winery
On a 450-acre estate in Crozet, on the Monticello Wine Trail, this 10-year-old winery overlooks the picturesque Mount Juliet Vineyard. “Their philosophy is that wine is made in the vineyard, which means that their lead winegrower, [Robbie Corpora], and assistant winegrower, [Noe Garcia], are holding it down in the vineyard—and that intention translates to the minimal intervention in the cellar,” Leonard says. “They’re just getting started, only having the current vintage of growing/production under their belts.”
Leonard suggests trying the Grace Estate Winery red blend, the “unexpectedly savory” Sauvignon Blanc and a soon-to-hit-the-market Cabernet Franc, which are all “a true statement of terroir.” Wines by the bottle, glass and flights can be sampled in the indoor tasting room or outside on the pet-friendly patio.
And the views are not to be missed. “The massive lake along with the beautiful grounds and tasting room are gorgeous,” Leonard adds.
Where to Stay: Visit another local vineyard while finding a place to rest your head at the nearby Inn at Stinson Vineyards. This modern B&B, rated five stars on TripAdvisor, is surrounded by breathtaking mountain views.
Gabriele Rausse Winery
Many consider the viticulturist Gabriele Rausse to be the father of the Virginia wine movement. In addition to overseeing the vineyards at Monticello, Rausse also runs Gabriele Rausse Winery, a destination for serious wine lovers known for its small-production, European-style wines.
“Gabriele Rausse’s tasting room is a must-visit,” says Lance Lemon, owner of Richmond-based wine shop Penny’s and the wine delivery service RichWine. “It’s an intimate setting with no frills, but the wine is amazing, especially their line of low intervention ‘garagiste’-style wines, Vino Del Basco, made by Gabriele’s sons.”
Tastings are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis on Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Head’s up, covered seating is limited at this rustic spot.
Where to Eat: Choose from more than a dozen vendors at the Dairy Market food hall, which offers everything from Filipino and Thai to Latin American street food. Eater has named it one of Charlottesville’s essential restaurants.
Southeast of Charlottesville, Blenheim Vineyards was established in 2000 by musician Dave Matthews—arguably the region’s most famous resident. Its two vineyard sites grow Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a minimalist, sustainable approach inspired by the surrounding Piedmont landscape.
“Winemaker Kirsty [Harmon] is one of my favorites, and their approach to winemaking and ‘winetainment’ is authentic and real,” Lemon says. “The rustic outdoor picnic table setting and separate tasting room add to the laid-back vibe.”
Seated, hour-long tastings featuring five wines are available Thursday through Monday at the indoor tasting room, housed in a timber frame building nestled into the hillside. Flooded with natural light, the building’s highlight is paneled glass floors, through which guests can peer into the production facility below. Wines are also available by the glass, bottle or flight in the tasting room and in the sprawling outdoor space.
Blenheim also offers a special wine club—Oenoverse Club—that aims to build diversity and inclusion in the Virginia wine industry, says Janelle Freeman, a Virginia-based wine educator who shares her love for wine on the Instagram account the Wino Educator.
“With a stunning backdrop, the winery is also an environmental steward with a property designed to reduce its carbon footprint,” Freeman says.
Where to Eat: Sample local food trucks or order a charcuterie platter on-site. You can also head into nearby Charlottesville to try Tavola, a rustic Italian restaurant with a great wine list—it was voted the best restaurant in the city by readers of C-Ville Weekly.
Where to Stay: About 15 minutes up the road, Charlottesville is the nearest spot for hotels. The Graduate is a fun option located right on Main Street, ranked one of the top hotels in Charlottesville by U.S News & World Report.
King Family Vineyards
Yet another Monticello Wine Trail favorite, King Family Vineyards is a boutique winery in Crozet known for its award-winning wines and super-popular polo matches.
“Winemaker Matthieu Finot has a golden touch,” says Jay Youmans, a Master of Wine and owner of the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. “He makes lovely Chardonnay and Viognier. His Meritage has been one of my top 12 wines for the last 10 years in a row. The skin-contact Viognier is exotic, and his Mountain Plains red blend is amazing. King Family has one of the most beautiful settings in Virginia.”
Visitors can enjoy wine by the glass or bottle in the tasting room, on the patio or the pet- and kid-friendly lawn. Self-guided and guided tastings are available, and winery tours offer an intimate glimpse into King Family’s vineyard management and winemaking process. Sunday polo matches on the property are hugely popular along with live music events and trivia.
Where to Eat: Food trucks are on-site on Wednesdays and weekends. Otherwise, you’ll want to bring a picnic or visit downtown Crozet, where Fardowner’s is ranked one of the best restaurants in town on TripAdvisor.
Where to Stay: Home-sharing sites are typically your best bet in this rural region. The Barn at Haden is a highly-rated Airbnb conveniently situated close to many local wineries. Or drive about 10 miles toward Charlottesville’s western side to stay at the Boar’s Head Resort, recommended by Forbes.
This 100-acre vineyard in Delaplane, an hour west of Washington, D.C., sits on a steep and craggy slope ideal for growing Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Rutger de Vink, a former marine, founded RdV Vineyards in 2004 after scouring the country for the perfect site.
“The wines are as good as anything produced anywhere,” Youmans says. “Think wines that are stylistically between Napa and Bordeaux. Look for the Lost Mountain and Rendezvous blends.”
The RdV Tasting Experience, available by appointment only, includes a guided visit of the winery and caves followed by a flight of three wines. Tasting flights include a seasonal cheese and charcuterie board curated to complement.
Where to Stay: For after dinner, book a room at the Ashby Inn, highly rated by TripAdvisor and considered a hidden gem by locals and visitors alike.
Situated on the estate of James Barbour, Virginia’s governor during the War of 1812, Barboursville Winery focuses on producing European-style wines. Perched between Monticello and Montpelier (the homes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, respectively), the historic site still contains the ruins of the mansion that Jefferson designed for Governor Barbour.
The site’s present-day operation was established in 1976 by Gianni Zonin, whose family has been producing wine in Italy since the 1800s. “Excellent quality wines,” Youmans says. “They specialize in Italian grape varieties such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Fiano and Vermentino. The Octagon red Bordeaux blend is consistently good and age-worthy. Also, look for their Cabernet Franc reserve.”
The Discovery Tasting Room hosts tastings daily, where you’ll find the broadest range of current vintages, as well as Library 1821. This space houses a rotating selection of current and older vintage flights paired with seasonal dishes. Guests are encouraged to stroll the expansive grounds and visit the landmarked ruins while sipping their wine.
Where to Eat: The on-site Palladio Restaurant gives a nod to the winery’s Italian roots with a casually elegant vibe.
Where to Stay: Barboursville’s own 1804 Inn and Vineyard Cottages invites guests to fully embrace the history of this incredible site.
Veritas Vineyard and Winery
Operating since 2002 in Afton at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Veritas Vineyard and Winery is a scenic winery producing unique wines derived from Vitis vinifera (with the exception of one French hybrid). Veritas focuses on making wine with the classic Old World principles of viticulture and vinification, while using modern technology and leaning into the regional character.
“Emily Hodson is a gifted winemaker crafting outstanding wines,” Youmans says. “My favorites are the Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot and Vintner’s red blends.”
Reservations are encouraged for the tasting room, which includes an indoor dining room, covered veranda, fireside area and private picnic area. Guided and self-guided tastings are available. Other picturesque options are open to guests without reservations, including the lawn overlooking the vines. To see Veritas’s crush pad, wine cellar and barrel room, be sure to book a guided tour ($10 per person).
Where to Eat: Choose from an extensive menu of lighter fare like boards, salads and sandwiches in the tasting room, or opt for a multi-course meal with wine pairings at the on-site Farmhouse restaurant.
Where to Stay: The historic Farmhouse at Veritas offers six guest rooms with views of the surrounding vineyard. It was recently voted one of the top wine country hotels in the U.S. by readers of USA Today.
Last Updated: June 18, 2023