Vineyards, Breweries & Cideries

Thomas Jefferson could be called the father of wine and wineries in Virginia, the first to take winemaking from the province of backyard hobbyists with a few vines to acres of vineyards and a focus on refining exceptional varietals.

Winemaking wouldn't hit its stride in Albemarle County for two centuries, in the mid 1970s. But today, after more than 35 years of winemakers intensively learning the land, light and distinct characters of generations of vines, wines from the Monitcello American Viticultural Area (named for Jefferson's home) are considered among the best produced anywhere in the Eastern United States.

Part of that award-winning excellence comes from the topography. All around Charlottesville, time and the elements have eroded ancient mountains down to rolling hills that yield wines of incredible complexity as slight variations in altitude and aspect, soil and light, create subtle differences in grapes from vine to vine. The Terroir is perfect!

The chance to work with that rich variety completes the equation, drawing to Charlottesville and the vineyards of Albemarle County some of the most accomplished and respected winemakers working today.

The result is a portfolio of wines that balance the best of Old and New World styles - bright, medium-bodied wines that pair as well with foods as they can be enjoyed on their own, all produced by small, family-run wineries that are passionate about what they do and passionate about sharing it.

If you're ready to let your tastebuds make that determination, plan your own East Coast Wine Country vacation from the many wineries listed below.

But grapes aren't the only vines winning a following in Charlottesville. Hop vines thrive in the climate (in fact, Virginia was once known as the hop capital of the world), and Albemarle County is home to small-batch breweries making handcrafted ales and lagers as well as hard ciders from the region's orchards.

A handful of these award-winning brew houses form a beer-lovers dream tour known as the Brew Ridge Trail (an homage to the Blue Ridge Mountains). The trail welcomes visitors in causal comfort, often with live music and simple but creative kitchen fare to complement the art, science and inventive spirit of this region's master brewers.