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Monticello Wine Trail Favorites

April 21, 2010
The Virginia Governor's Cup

The Virginia Governor's Cup - on display at King Family Vineyards

In honor of spring break, a couple weeks ago we ventured down I-95 to taste some wine in the Charlottesville, VA area. The wine-growing region around Charlottesville is known as the Monticello AVA, named for the site of Thomas Jefferson’s nearby plantation where the third president first attempted to cultivate European vines.

While I think we sampled more than 100 vintages over the two days about a dozen wineries, here are some of the highlights of the trip:

  • Cardinal Point winery: west of town and up in the hills with a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge mountains, this newer winery nonetheless produces some great wines; in particular, I remember the Cabernet Franc. Although the region is famous for that variety – I believe we tasted one at every stop – this one stood out for me.
  • King Family Vineyard: head winemaker Mattieu Finot was on hand to pour our tasting and at every turn made it clear that his approach to winemaking involved a careful consideration of acidity levels throughout fermentation. Must be paying off: Mattieu’s Meritage blend won the 2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup for reds. The freshly engraved cup actually arrived during our visit!
  • Barboursville Winery: one of Virginia’s oldest established vineyards, they produce an especially exceptional set of red wines. Unlike many wines grown in the US, they bottle some reds that are particularly well suited to aging. Among these is their famous Octagon blend that the Washington Post selected to run in blind taste tests against top vintages from California and France to illustrate the evolution of the Virginia wine industry.

I’m hoping to see all of these wineries and many more at the upcoming Drink Local Wine conference (hosted by the good folks from, which will take place this year in Loudon County, Virginia (near DC) on April 25.

Do you have any favorite wines from Virginia that you’d recommend for our next visit?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Janie permalink
    April 30, 2010 1:15 pm

    I know you will only be visiting for a short time, but we wondered if you guys would be interested in checking out the Wine Country close to Tahoe? The region is called Fairplay and the wineries are very good. It’s about an hour’s drive….

    • April 30, 2010 5:16 pm

      That would be great! Is the region in Nevada or California?

  2. Janie permalink
    April 30, 2010 5:38 pm

    Sorry it’s in California – it’s the Sierra foothills. I have to warn you… friends from Texas came to Tahoe in January and we went to the same region – they went home with 17 bottles of wine! So bring space if you think you will be tempted. . .

    • May 1, 2010 5:52 pm

      California will be just fine! However, not sure how I would get 17 bottles of wine back to Maryland… still can’t ship it to ourselves, so that would mean another adventure in checked luggage.

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