Jamestown's Colonial settlers are believed to have made the first wine in Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson is touted as the father of American viniculture, but only in the past 30 years has the Commonwealth's wine industry truly come into its own. The number of wineries here has grown from fewer than 10 in the 1970s to more than 130 wineries in the Charlottesville area alone. As you drive through the state, keep an eye out for grape-cluster signs on the highway, which identify nearby wineries, or visit the Virginia Tourism Web site for free "wine trail" maps. The Monticello Wine Trail connects 22 area vineyards, including the Jefferson Vineyards (www.jeffersonvineyards.com), located on land where Thomas Jefferson himself grew grapes. Virginia is becoming well known on the national oenophile radar for its viogniers, and for vintages from vintners like Kluge.
For more information on Virginia vineyards and wineries, contact the Virginia Wineries Association (800/828-4637 www.virginiawine.org) or the Jeffersonian Wine Grape Growers Society (434/296-4188 www.monticellowinetrail.org), sponsor of the Monticello Wine Trail.
Among central and western Virginia's more popular wineries are Barboursville Vineyards, near Charlottesville, and Château Morrisette Winery, on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the southern part of the state.
Barboursville Vineyards. This vineyard between Charlottesville and Orange was the first in the state to grow only vinifera (old-world) grapes. The grapes were planted in 1976 on the former plantation of James Barbour, governor from 1812 to 1814. His house, designed by Thomas Jefferson, was gutted by fire in 1884; the ruins remain are open to visitors for self-guided tours. 17655 Winery Rd., near intersection of Rtes. 20 and 23, Barboursville, VA, 22923. 540/832–3824. www.barboursvillewine.com. Tours free; tastings $5. Tastings Mon.–Sat. 10–5, Sun. 11–5.
Château Morrisette Winery. With the Rock Castle Gorge nearby, this winery has spectacular surroundings. Tastings allow you to sample the 10 different wines produced here. 287 Winery Rd. SW, off Rte. 726, west of Blue Ridge Pkwy. at milepost 171.5, Meadows of Dan, VA, 24091. 540/593–2865. www.chateaumorrisette.com. Tour and tasting $5. Mon.–Thurs. 10–5, Fri. and Sat. 10–6, Sun. 11–5.
Kluge Estate. Established in 1999 on the same ridgeline as the birthplace of Virginia viticulture at Monticello, Kluge is making world-class whites, reds, and rosé in its 2,000-acre vineyard on Carter's Mountain. Grapes are harvested by hand and most of the wines are made in méthode traditionelle. Taste one of the chardonnays, a blanc de blanc, or a Bordeaux blend at the estate's Farm Shop, which also offers food and wine pairings. 100 Grand Cru Dr., Charlottesville, VA, 22902. 434/977–3895 or 434/984–4855. www.klugeestateonline.com. June–Oct., Sun.–Tues. 11–6; Wed.–Sat. 11–8.
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