What if I told you that you could have the most amazing getaway in just 36 hours? One filled with culinary and wine adventures in rural Virginia and one that will surprise you in many ways and keep you returning year after year? I know this is possible because I just experience it myself and I am still trying to decide which part of the trip I enjoyed the most .. which it was all phenomenal. When you think about it, 36 hours is a super easy weekend getaway and just enough time to really get to know an area.
Charlottesville, Virginia is about 2.5 hours from Washington, D.C. driving and has its own airport that you can fly into if you live further out. Located along the Monticello Wine Trail and a popular destination for wine connoisseurs, once you visit you’ll be asking yourself constantly “why didn’t I go before” and “when can I go again?”
It just so happens that today is your lucky day because I am helping give a trip away to Charlottesville so that someone gets the chance to have the same experience! You can enter —> HERE! Keep reading so you can see all the exciting things I got up to and what you can look forward to!
Where to Stay:
There is no shred of doubt in my mind that the best lodging in Charlottesville IS The Clifton. This boutique luxury property is located on 100 acres of gorgeous land, offering greenery as far as the eyes can see and the ultimate privacy. The 20 rooms of The Clifton are newly refurbished and exude luxury throughout. When you walk into The Clifton, you just feel at home. You aren’t lost among hundreds of guests, everyone knows your name, there is plenty of space to enjoy the property, and staying here is going to change you. In a good way. It will make you appreciate a slower paced life, the true meaning of breathing in fresh air and reminding you how much you love nature.
The main house has this gorgeous grandeur about it without being overwhelming. It is the perfect amount of contemporary luxury and feels welcoming. Guests have seating areas, a bar, restaurant, and a pool on property.
One of my favorite parts of the Inn aside from everything else is the included continental breakfast that is so amazing!
Some of the in-room amenities:
- Samsung Smart TV’s with Premium Cable Channels
- Nespresso Machines/coffee bar
- Tivoli Bluetooth Speakers
- Malin+Goetz Bath Amenities
- Plush Bathrobes and Towels
- Free Wi-Fi
- Turn-Down Service
Things to do:
Charlottesville offers its visitors a plethora of things to do including winery visits, historical tours, culinary travel, and that relaxed vacation vibe we most likely seek for our weekend getaways. Although this trip was short, it never felt rushed and I truly got to appreciate all the places I visited.
Wineries to Visit:
I would highly recommend using Monticello Wine Tours to take you to the vineyards so you don’t have to worry about driving. During my trip I had amazing drivers in comfortable, private coaches that safely took me from my hotel to the wineries. One of the wineries was an hour from my hotel and I would not drive if I had been drinking wine. This is a fantastic way to keep you and your guests having a great time without worrying.
While there are multiple wineries along the Monticello Wine Trail, two of my personal favorite (and I have been to many) happen to be the ones I visited on this 36 hours in Charlottesville trip: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and Early Mountain Vineyards.
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill was the first winery on the tour and they blew it out of the water. I don’t want to say I am picky because that is not true… but presentation is everything. The second I stepped out of the vehicle, I could see the vineyard, tasting room and the rolling hills accompanying and that view is something special. I live in a city that allows me visions of buildings and traffic. This view alone is worth the trip.
Something I really enjoyed at Pippin Hill that I have never experienced at another winery was that I was able to get a kitchen gardens tour with onsite horticulturist Diane Burns. She walked through everything that was being grown on the grounds and spoke about the items were being used in the dishes being served (which the food is phenomenal and we will discuss that further down). You can tell y the way Diane talks and shares that she is passionate about what she does and its intoxicating to be around.
After strolling the grounds and taking in the gorgeous scenery, Executive Chef Ian Rynecki prepared a Vintner’s Table that was exquisite. The farm to table chef sources food from the garden kitchen, local farmers and fisherman, and visiting the local farmer’s markets.
I want to talk about his menu because the food and wine pairings really left me in a constant state of “wow.” A 5 course menu with pairings where the first and last dish left you just amazed at his talents. For the first course, Rynecki prepared Wild American Sturgeon Caviar on an egg with preserved truffle. Its mind blowing to think these three things paired together could cause such a sensation on the palate. This dish was Paired with 2017 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. That bit of bubbly you get with the dish truly enhances all the flavors at once.
For the second and third dishes Rynecki prepared an artisan cheese plate and an Andalusian Gazpacho! These are two dishes that you can never go wrong with. Cheese and wine are a match made in heaven and gazpacho isn’t something you find everyday, but when you do find it, you know the chef is using their talents to make you something special.
The fourth dish was a swordfish with figs, citrus pesto and Castelvetrano olives and it paired very nicely with with 2017 Chardonnay Reserve. I have to be honest and tell you that when I saw this on the menu I was uncertain. How could olives and figs work with swordfish and pesto? I was skeptical. That is a lot of flavor for one dish and to my surprise, unreal. If I didn’t have a sweet tooth, this would have been my favorite dish simply for its use of unconventional flavor pairings.
Last and certainly not least, the fifth course: toffee carrot cake. Trust me when I say, we all looked at this and thought “how is this going to work?” And to our surprise, it just does. Rynecki claims he landed his position at Pippin Hill with this recipe of his, and while I don’t have the recipe to share with you, he did tell us that he dips the carrot cake three times in toffee before serving it. Accompanying the cake was candied walnuts, creme fraiche, vanilla bean gelato, and paired with 2015 Merlot Reserve.
I can’t rave enough about the food at Pippin Hill. I have never done a Vintner’s Table before but I have to say that I highly recommend this one.
After lunch I got to experience a wine tasting with vineyard manager, Brooks Hoover. I really enjoyed Brooks’ company. Above being friendly and extremely knowledgeable, he answered every question I had about the wines, he asked me about wines I liked and I tried ones he thought I would love (and he was right) and he also challenged me to try wines that I don’t historically love but that I found enjoyable through his recommendations. Here are the wines I tried during my tasting:
- Pippin Hill Viognier 2017
Pippin Hill Chardonnay 2017
Pippin Hill Cannon Red 2016 – this was my hands down favorite wine at the winery!
Pippin Hill Easton Blue 2016
Pippin Hill Red Pump 2017
Honestly, I did not want to leave Pippin Hill because I had such an amazing time, but I will be back sooner rather than later!
Early Mountain Vineyards
The next day I got to visit Early Mountain Vineyards for my second winery visit of the trip. Early Mountain is just as gorgeous as Pippin Hill. When I arrived you could see the tasting room and it was stunning outside, which only meant the best was yet to come on the inside. When you walk in you can feel the grandeur of the room. It just may be one of the most stunning tasting rooms I have ever been to. What I loved about the tasting room was the impressive maps drawn on the wall, the versatile seating areas and the sheer amount of space available to its visitors.
Early Mountain did a wonderful tasting and even offered me a tasting like one I have never done before. I was able to taste 4 components of the 2018 Rose, and honestly, I think if you like wine, this is a great way to get an insiders taste of the process of the wine making. You can see the 4 different colors and the variety of tastes that the win goes through. I really appreciate having this experience because it was entirely new to me and something I am extremely interested in.
For the wine tasting I was able to learn about the wines and process through the hosts: Patt Eagan – Director of Sales and Maya Hood White – Associate Wine Maker and Viticulturalist. The wines we tasted are:
- Rosé 2017
Components of Rosé 2018
Five Forks White Blend, 2017
Foothills Red Blend 2016
For this tasting I favored the Rose over the others but I think that being able to really taste the components shifted my opinion of the wine. All of the wine was really amazing, but the Rose really captured my attention here (and I am not a notorious Rose drinker).
After the tasting I took a stroll through the tasting room and outdoors to see the vast beauty of the grounds where I enjoyed a glass of the Brut Sparkling Wine. The weather was truly perfect outside and I believe the Brut just fit that experience.
Early Mountain put together a fantastic tasting menu lunch experience of three courses (which was really perfect since I had done two tasting menus the day before). Once again, a chef that makes everything in house and pairs unexpected flavors that just entice your taste buds. With each new dish and pairing I kept wondering if it could get any better!
For the first course the chef did a carrot and parsnip salad. The carrots were charred and placed on top of a feta dill crema with parsnips and topped with arugula. The dish was all served cold and paired with a 2017 Madison County Chardonnay. This dish specifically would be so easy to make and I can’t tell you how much of a dining win this is. Simple yet extraordinary flavors.
For the second course, chef handmade pasta into a chicken confit ravioli with potato puree and chicken jus. This dish was paired with 2016 Shenandoah Valley Cabernet Franc. If you have never experienced homeade pasta before – prepare to have your mind blown because it is delectable! All the compliments to the chef on this dish.
Last but not least, the third course was dessert. A creme brulee with fresh berries paired with a 2017 Pét-Nat Sparkling Rose. Creme brulee in theory sounds like an easy dish but honestly, it takes skill to make it just right it needs to have that even balance of creaminess with with torched sugar on top. All kudos to the chef for not only making this dish incredible but for pairing it with the perfect wine. I wouldn’t have guessed a sparkling Rose with a dessert but this ended up being my favorite wine with lunch.
I know this is common knowledge but I have a strong preference for red wine, preferably Cabernet’s. However, I always keep an open mind with food and beverages because on occasion something surprises me. And just like that, Early Mountain surprised me with their amazing Rose selections.
The Market at Grelen:
One simply doesn’t visit Charlottesville and not make a visit to the Market at Grelen! To be fair, I had already heard of this destination and had their scones prior to arrival – so I knew in my mind they were amazing. What you don’t know is that their name can be deceiving. But not in a bad way. I thought it was truly JUST a market and I was so wrong.
The Market at Grelen is a sprawling 600 ACRE nursery with a European Style Garden Shop. 600 acres of stunning landscape offering pick your own fruits, trees, hiking trails, farm to table cafe, Virginia beer, cider and wines AND the owners are so friendly and passionate about their work.
I went on a tour through the gorgeous grounds and was able to see ALL the best views, learn about their organic fruits and even did a wine tasting with an incredible charcuterie board. I tasted the Narmada Winery Midnight during the tasting and loved it. I think it paired really well with the charcuterie selection.
The Market isn’t just a market, its a destination. I think its worth spending an hour or two here exploring.
Where to Eat:
The nice thing about this trip is that I had a complimentary and equally delicious breakfast at my hotel and did all but one meal of eating at the vineyards with their tasting menus, so there was only one void to fill and that was a dinner. I can’t stress enough how much I LOVED all the food in Charlottesville that I ate. I truly believe the city is on the brink of becoming a top culinary destination in Virginia. Mock my words, you heard it here.
For that one dinner that I dined out for, a better restaurant could not have been selected. Dining at Red Pump Kitchen was similar to the tasting menus at the vineyards because that is what the chef created (however, you do not have to do a chef’s table if you don’t want to). But – I will say, I have done these before and I can’t recommend them enough. This is where a chef can truly shine in the dishes they prepare because its not on the menu and it changes with each visit.
During this fantastic dinner there was six courses, equally different and bursting with flavor. I think in situations with tasting menus the chef really needs to come out of the door with a bang and sure enough, he did.
For the first course, a bouquet from the garden was deliver and it was paired with Early Mountain PétNat 2017. A literal bouquet of deliciousness was set in front of me and it was almost too pretty to eat. My curiosity of course got the best of me and I dived right in on this. Two bites later, I wondered if I could get myself an entire garden size plate of this creation. THAT GOOD!
For the second course (and you may laugh at me) the chef served up wood fired beets with Caromont Chevre Fonduta and hazelnuts paired with Pippin Hill Zero White 2016. So why are you going to laugh at me? Because I don’t even like beets! I despise them with every fiber of my being .. and yet I still tried them and to my surprise, LOVED THEM. This was a very strange situation for me because I truly loathe beets and always turn them down, but being that I had already been drinking wine and all the other food I had eaten was incredible, I opened myself up to trying it. And this is why you never say no and keep an open mind about food.
The third and fourth dishes were also amazing. Chef served up a spinach ricotta gnudi paird with Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and olive oil poached salmon paired with Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir 2015.
The show stopping dish on this adventure though was the fifth course, boneless dry aged short rib with heirloom grits, Pippin Hill chard and white anchovy gremolata paired with Early Mountain Rise 2015. The meat was so tender and the entire dish was a compliment in and of itself.
For the last course, dessert, chef made caramel budino with cocoa nibs and vanilla cream and paired it with Pippin Hill Bin 21 2015. Budino is an Italian dish closely resembling custard or pudding and silky smooth. It wasn’t overly rich in taste and I thought the wine was the perfect compliment.
So this is how I spent 36 hours in Charlotttesville, Virginia. I don’t think I could have planned a BETTER 36 hours anywhere if I tried.
Here is your chance to win your OWN 36 hours in Charlottesville! You can enter –> HERE.
*Disclaimer: I was hosted by Pippin Hill, Early Mountain, Visit Virginia, Red Pump Kitchen, The Clifton, Market at Grelen, and Monticello Wine Tours – but as always opinions are entirely my own.