Central Virginia is home to beautiful scenery, terrific hospitality, intriguing history, and a variety of worthwhile activities, including a visit to one of many Charlottesville wineries. While you might find more than 30 wineries within a 25-mile radius of Charlottesville proper, this article includes only Charlottesville wineries that are within the city limits, making it even easier for you to plan your winery tours with minimal transportation between venues.
Taking a few moments to learn about the history of wine-making in Virginia is deserving of consideration. Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, once resided at Monticello, an estate (and terrific historic landmark worth visiting) in Central Virginia. He sought to develop wine in this region of the United States that would compete against the Old World wines with sensational acclaim, recruiting researchers to learn about the terroir and environmental factors that would impact Charlottesville wineries. While his dreams of producing high quality wine in Virginia did not come to fruition in his lifetime, he would surely be proud of the accolades received by Charlottesville wineries that have been earned in more recent history. Because of Jefferson’s distinct vision, wine making in Virginia has progressed wonderfully over centuries.
Not a wine connoisseur? No worries! Enjoy a wine tasting, where you pay a set price to sample a number of varietals. You may generally be a fan of reds when enjoying a grilled steak or rich pasta dish, but when you have the opportunity to sample a taste of one of the popular white wines produced at Charlottesville wineries, such as Viognier (the state grape of Virginia) or Chardonnay, your opinion may be swayed. Virginia has been an up-and-coming wine growing and producing region for some time now, receiving awards and accolades from many top wine festivals, and many winemakers are hopeful you’ll find a new favorite vintage to sip and savor from their Charlottesville wineries.
A tasting is a great way to learn about the different varietals offered by Charlottesville wineries, as well as interact with staff on site. At many of these smaller wineries, you’ll find the tasting room staff may often be owners, family members, or longtime friends of the proprietors! Whatever their background, they are likely very familiar and also passionate about their wines, so feel free to ask any questions or share comments. If you’re friendly enough, they may even give you some great suggestions on where to get the best dinner around after you’re finished with wine tasting!
Charlottesville Wineries: Wineries Not To Miss
Gabriele Rausse Winery
A hidden gem, Gabriele Rausse may be difficult to find, with its tasting room nestled deep in the woods, but it is worth the trek. Frequent visitors recommend their smooth Cabernet Franc and lively Viognier. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the staff is very knowledgeable about pairing and wine notes. You can even enjoy a food pairing at Gabriele Rausse, where wine varietals are paired with delicious pasta, prepared vegetables, grilled cheese, and more. These unique tastings offered until 1pm. Wine tastings are $12, while the food & wine pairings are $18 per tasting.
Craving a wine from one of the more established Charlottesville wineries, but unable to make the trip? Gabriele Rausse has distribution through restaurants and retail shops across the region, including Northern Virginia, Richmond, Roanoke, Virginia Beach, and Washington, D.C.
First Colony Winery
Offering generous hospitality and an “elegant atmosphere”, you can easily spend your day enjoying a smooth glass of wine and taking in the beauty of First Colony Winery. They even offer cooking classes, trivia nights, and other events on their property that aren’t commonly found at most Charlottesville wineries.
The winery is a popular wedding venue, hosting many celebratory affairs on their remarkable grounds offering abundant outdoor seating. First Colony is the only winery in the United States with a thatched roof, which the owners installed with imported Turkish water reed in 2013 to resemble a 17th century European country farm house. They offer a notably delicious Rosé, perfect for a spring or summer afternoon, or really any time of year: because, Rosé All Day!
First Colony is open from 11:00am to 6:00pm seven days per week. Full wine tastings are $15 each. Call ahead to see if winery tours are available, as they are dependent on staffing.
Iconic musician Dave Matthews is not only a revered singer-songwriter, but also the owner and designer of this special winery. While Matthews is not local to Virginia, having grown up in South Africa, his band formed in Charlottesville in 1991 and has remained incredibly popular across the region ever since. The musician has even designed many of the winery’s labels. You’ll likely find their especially revered Painted Red, Painted White, and Roussanne are worthwhile.
With separate spaces for the tasting room and wine production facility, Blenheim is proud to be designed in a way that is minimally impactful on the environment. The property is certified Virginia Green as a “Sustainable Virginia Winery”, one of few Charlottesville wineries in the region. The winery hosts a variety of events on their property, including beautiful weddings, wine education classes, and art features, set against the magnificent backdrop of Virginia’s gorgeous country side.
Blenheim Vineyards is open from 11:00am till 5:30pm seven days per week. Wine tastings are offered at $10 per person, and wine flights are available at $10 per person for four wines.
You won’t have to travel far to find a winery that celebrates the rich history of Virginia’s wine country. Thomas Jefferson enlisted the help of Philip Mazzei in 1773 to plant European vines in what is now the land occupied by Jefferson Vineyards. Three generations of the Woodward family have overseen the production of wine here, and they have produced a number of noteworthy varietals, including a double gold medal Viognier, a Meritage Reserve, and one of Virginia’s first Petit Verdot plantings, an outlier among Charlottesville wineries. They are proud to celebrate Thomas Jefferson and believe he would be proud of their consistent, high-quality wines.
The operations at Jefferson Vineyards have expanded far beyond serving exceptional wine. You’ll find live concerts, wine dinners, and exclusive club member events. There are no private events (weddings, large parties) held at Jefferson.
Jefferson Vineyards is open daily from 11:00am until 6:00pm. “Classic Tastings” are $12 per guest and include a souvenir Jefferson Vineyards glass (you may find some wineries do not encourage you to keep the glass, but Jefferson encourages the souvenir!) and “Private Tastings” are available for groups to try 8 classic wines and 2 exclusive “library” wines for $25 per guest. Unfortunately, tours of the property are not available at this time.
Michael Shaps Wineworks
If you’re interested in trying Old World wines as well as Virginia varietals, you’ve found the right place. Michael Shaps studied to be a winemaker in Burgundy, France, and to this day owns his own prominent winery there. At his Charlottesville operation, you’ll find wines under his Maison Shaps Burgundy label that are produced and bottled in France, and imported to the United States. Cabernet Franc, Méthode Sparkling, and Rosé are notable Virginia wines, while the Burgundy label produces Pinot Noir, Pommard, and Chardonay.
Michael Shaps also operates an additional tasting room, Wineworks Extended, at their bottling and storage facility near Downtown Charlottesville. Unlike many of the Charlottesville wineries on this post, you can purchase wines on top in growlers, carafes, and glasses. The primary Michael Shaps operates from 11am until 5pm daily, while the Wineworks Extended Taproom is open from 1pm till 7pm daily. Both offer private tastings for small groups for $15 per person.
Knight’s Gambit Vineyards
A family owned property since being established in 2003, the vineyard produces Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes on over five acres of land. With an expansive covered deck and ample seating inside the tasting room as well, Knight’s Gambit invites you to hang out and enjoy the ambiance, relax, and sip delicious local wine. This is a family-friendly, cozy property where the “winery dogs” make you want to stay!
Saturday evenings are the main event at Knight’s Gambit. “Sunset Saturdays” invite guests to join them in the evenings for wine tastings, live music performances, local food trucks, roaring bonfires, and gorgeous sunsets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Weddings and special events are available at Knight’s Gambit. The winery is only open Thursday – Sunday, with varied hours each day. Full tastings are available for just $8 per person. Groups may contact the proprietors directly to arrange for private appointments during the week.
Whether you spend an afternoon visiting three or four different Charlottesville wineries with friends or relaxing for an entire day at just one vineyard on your own, may the odds be ever in your favor that you’ll find a new wine to love. After all, Charlottesville has an exceptional wine scene to explore, and Virginia is for lovers.
Charlottesville Wineries: Getting Around
As always, I would advise getting a designated driver or hiring a local car service that transports people to wineries. It is very easy to visit a few wineries in a day and many over the weekend. Have peace of mind and get a company to take care of your driving and keep you safe.
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Nice post. Early Mountain, Afton Mountain and Veritas are also well worth the visit when you’re down there.
Thanks. The only reason they are not on the list is because these are Charlottesville wineries. The other wineries you mentioned are not. But I agree – they are fantastic wineries. I have been to them all.
Fair enough – I think of Charlottesville as that broader area around it too – when I’m down there I like to visit a lot of them.