Best Winter Winery Recommendations
The Charlottesville area’s wineries are well established as some of the best on the East Coast. Visitors enjoy winding drives through crisp fall vistas to endlessly Instagrammable tasting rooms and, of course, some truly miraculous tastings. Lucky for all, those outings don’t need to end just because it’s gotten cold outside. Here are some of the best area wineries to enjoy this winter:
Previously First Colony, Thatch Winery sits atop a hilly estate about 20 minutes south of Charlottesville. One of the area’s hidden gems, they’ve really come into their own in the past few years, with winemaker Gavin Baum producing balanced blends that are just a little different (read: exciting) from what you’ll find in the rest of town. Their recently renovated, thatched-roof tasting room boasts two fireplaces (one downstairs in the main room, and one upstairs in the lounge), and their tasting menu is well stocked. This winter, check out their 2018 Lemberger, a meaty red that’s known locally as a polarizing wine–and one to keep on hand, if you can keep your hands off it once you get it home.
Pollak Vineyards, just off of ROute 250 west of Charlottesville, is an excellent winter tasting experience. With a roaring fireplace, lots of windows to let in the sunshine (and keep out the cold), and a warming slate of well-crafted reds, they’re a can’t-miss. With tightening restrictions, Pollak is only serving outdoors for now, but their wine and views are worth it! Their outdoor space is also dog friendly, if Fido is going a little stir-crazy during quarantine.
A must-try is the 2017 Meritage, which took a gold medal at the Virginia Governor’s cup.
Veritas Winery is worth a trip any time of year, but they’ve outdone themselves when it comes to Covid-era flexibility. While indoor tastings are not currently available, Veritas is offering full table service at reserved firepit areas, meaning you can taste, drink, and snack from their hearty tasting room menu while enjoying the leafless mountain view and your own personal fire. Or, you can dine in their pop-up restaurant with a Phase II menu, and enjoy an intimate, socially distanced multi-course meal.
Veritas is king of the Virginia whites, so you can’t leave without a bottle of at least one. For winter sipping, we like their Petit Manseng. With notes of pineapple, coconut, and wildflower honey, this complex white holds up well to frosty weather. You’ll also want to try their standout Mousseux–this lemony, toasty pink bubbly is a little sparkle of summer in a glass.
A visit to Barboursville Vineyards is always a treat, but in this weird winter of 2020, they offer a unique indoor experience–contactless tasting. The wines in their vast Discovery Tasting Room practically pour themselves! Okay, a machine pours them, but you get the gist. Taste from a list of sixteen wines without added exposure risk. (Staff are on hand to answer questions.) They also have one of the best restaurants in town, Palladio, and you can tour their Landmark Ruins, the remains of an historic, early 1800’s Palladian-style home designed by Thomas Jefferson. Don’t leave without trying the Octagon, their 2013 Petit Verdot, or their Brut Cuvée 1814. And maybe take a second trip to do a vertical tasting of their Cabernet Franc Reserve, 2012-2018.
Two words: Fire Globe. Okay, it’s one word–FireGlobe–but they’re available for reservation for groups of 2 to 8 at Afton’s Valley Road Vineyards, just $20 for a 90-minute stay. Bring a blanket and some snacks, reserve a FireGlobe, and taste away. For a private indoor tasting experience, parties up to 10 can reserve The Lodge in two-hour time blocks. As for the wines, we like their silky Torn Curtain, a Chambourcin, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc blend, or their ‘17 Destana–and be sure to ask for the story behind this crisp white’s name.