Along the Virginia Wine Trail

Drinking and eating in the Jefferson tradition

Keswick Vineyards won "Best White Wine in the U.S." at the Atlanta International Wine Summit with its first vintage, a 2002 Viognier Reserve. And it continues to rack up the medals, at the 2011 San Diego International Competition the 2010 Verdejo, another Virginia niche varietal, won a platinum medal and "Best Verdejo" award.

"It’s taken Virginia awhile to realize we’re not California," said winery co-owner Cindy Shornberg. "It’s been eye-opening all across the state. Our goal was to make a good red wine, and now we’re winning awards for that."

"Reds are tough in Virginia because of the weather," said Kirsty Harmon, winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards, a gorgeous property owned by musician Dave Matthews.

She described them as "softer reds" as we gazed out windows from the tasting bar atop a hill that overlooks grapes in the making. Beneath our feet, wines aging in American, French, and Hungarian oak barrels are visible through a glass floor.

Equally gorgeous, Pollak Vineyards too claims national and international awards: gold and silver medals from the Dallas International, San Francisco, and California Cabernet Shootout competitions.

The Zonin family operates nearby Barboursville Vineyards, along with 11 wineries in Italy, so it is no surprise to find some Italian reds among the vineyard’s 15 varietals and 21 types of wine.

The climate here is similar to the Piedmont region of Italy, notes Carter Nicholas, sales manager.

Octagon, their signature brand, is a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot, and scores big points in both regional and worldwide tastings.

The 830 acre-large Barboursville harks back to its Jefferson-based roots with ruins of the circa-1820 mansion designed by the former president. Mostly destroyed by fire in 1884, the estate’s servants’ quarters did survive.

The Zonins use the historic home when they visit, but otherwise let out The 1804 Inn’s three suites and three other cottages as exquisitely appointed accommodations for overnight guests.

Click here for more information on where to eat and sleep.

— Chelle Koster Walton, Snooth


Chelle Koster Walton is a regular contributor to the food and travel sections of the Miami Herald, Tampa Tribune, Naples Daily News, and dozens of other regional and national newspapers, magazines, Web sites, guidebooks and apps.