Welcome to fall — the perfect time for familiarizing yourself with local wineries. Vineyard visits are a Charlottesville staple, whether you exclusively drink Two Buck Chuck or practically consider yourself a sommelier. And luckily for University students, we happen to live in one of the best wine regions in the country. Charlottesville’s 200-day growing season and generally fertile soil make it prime grape-growing real estate. It would be a shame to miss out — and let’s be honest, whatever work you have can and will get done later, so have yourself a day at a vineyard.
So what does “having a day” even mean in the vineyard context? For those of you who have never been to a winery, it is whatever you want it to be! Most vineyards offer tastings of several of their wines between $10 and $15, all of which are led by an employee who can tell you all about the wines, their tasting notes and how they are made. If tasting is not your thing, you can also buy wine by the glass or bottle to enjoy on the vineyard property. Some also offer tours of their facilities, but each winery is different and may require reservations.
There are so many wineries to try in Charlottesville that it’s hard to find a place to start — that’s where I can help. I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to a day tour of a few of the great wineries nearby. And for those of you who prefer a cold beer, never fear — I’ve included Charlottesville breweries that are worth checking out as well.
Stop one: Blenheim Vineyards
30 minutes outside Charlottesville by car, you’ll find this charming little spot. Owned by the one and only Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band, Blenheim has a unique vibe that is best described as relaxed and rustic-chic. The tasting room itself is on the smaller side, but there is a lot of outdoor seating. Grab a glass, picnic bench and enjoy some local eats from their food truck on a Saturday afternoon.
Blenheim is open every day between 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tastings are $7 per person.
Stop two: Trump Winery
Ah, the polarizing Trump Winery. And yes, since I know you are probably wondering, this vineyard was originally owned by Donald himself but is now operated by his son Eric. Political attachments aside, the view from this tasting room lawn is hard to beat. Plus, it’s so close to Blenheim that even just poking your head in to see what Trump Winery is all about is worth the stop. They offer a full menu during lunch hours if you are in need of a snack mid-way through your day. The stone patio, wrought iron tables and clean black and white exterior give this place elegant resort vibes. Trump Winery’s more luxurious atmosphere couldn’t be more different from Blenheim, but it helps give a fuller idea of the variety we have nearby.
Trump is open all week, excluding Tuesday, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and is wheelchair accessible. Tastings are $12 per person including a souvenir glass.
Stop three: Jefferson Vineyards
The final wine stop on the tour brings you to Jefferson Vineyards, located in between Monticello and James Monroe’s Highland. With a very casual atmosphere, it makes the perfect last stop for the day. Jefferson Vineyards feels like a cozy, historic home — a great place to relax and unwind. Cozy up in an Adirondack chair, enjoy the outdoors and a bottle of yummy wine to finish off.
Jefferson is open every day between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and is wheelchair accessible. Tastings are $12 per person and include a souvenir glass.
Stops four and five: Random Row Brewing & Three Notch’d Brewing
On your way back into Charlottesville, consider stopping at Random Row and Three Notch’d Breweries for some light dinner and local craft beers. With Random Row just off Preston and Three Notch’d in the IX Art Park, either one is a great option for trying some microbrews made in our Charlottesville backyard.
Three Notch’d is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Random Row is open weekdays from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 11 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.
Use this guide however your heart desires, whether you pick one place from the list or decide to tackle the whole adventure in one day. Do it backwards, do it forwards, jump in somewhere in the middle or freestyle your own tour plan. Let this be an inspiration for your future weekends. Wineries and breweries are great for any occasion — a relaxed afternoon with friends or showing off Virginia wine culture to your parents. So, in the wise words of every alcohol advertisement ever — go forth and enjoy responsibly.