Virginia’s 22 wine trails link 191 Virgina wineries, stretching from the scenic Eastern Shore on the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of Appalachia in the western part of the state. Virginia’s unparalleled sense of history, coupled with magnificent scenery and an up-and-coming food scene has made the Virginia wine trails popular tourism destinations.
Nine distinct wine regions cover the entire state and include six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), which are federally-recognized growing regions. One of my personal favorites is the Central Virginia region and specifically the Monticello AVA within it. The Charlottesville area is an historic showcase and a drive through the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is pure bucolic pleasure. 24 wineries are clustered near Charlottesville, so you can choose one of the four wine trails and make a fun day or weekend tasting tour. Be sure to visit Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, since he was “Virginia’s first distinguished viticulturist.”
The Northern Virginia wine region has dozens of wineries that produce every varietal made in Virginia. There are nine different wine trails just in this area so you can combine a love of wine with other interests and focus on artisanal wines, wine and food, wine and whiskey or wine and history. The region includes Virginia hunt country, many Civil War sites and George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. Skyline Drive, the Appalachian Trail and Washington DC are nearby, so this is an area that you can definitely spend a week of tasting and touring and never run out of wineries or activities.
For a complete change of scenery, visit the Eastern Shore Wine Trail. This trail runs along a peninsula that sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay and hosts three wineries in a unique coastal location. Hundreds of miles of pristine shoreline, waterside villages and the wild ponies of Chincoteague will delight beach-lovers, boaters and eco-tourist, and wine lovers will enjoy a good selection of local varietals.
Although Virginia’s wine history dates all the way back to its very beginnings when the British government required each male settler in Jamestown to plant and tend at least 10 grape vines, it has only been in the last 30 years that Virginia’s winemakers have captured the unique “terroir,” or the distinctive flavor defined by the climate and soil of the land where grapes are grown. With similar climate and growing conditions to the wine regions of Europe, Virginia produces classical, elegant old world style wines that have “barreled” onto the wine scene. Virginia also boasts a native Norton grape that produces an award-winning, rich and fruity wine reminiscent of a Zinfendel that you won’t want to miss.
Virginia wineries are attracting talented new winemakers and opening state of the art facilities. Localities host hundreds of wine and food festivals each year and wine tourism draws over a million visitors annually to our beautiful state. Don’t be left out – plan a tour of any of Virginia’s wine trails then swirl, sniff and sip your way to pleasure.