From Virginia’s Eastern Shore To Blue Ridge Mountain Wineries — A Wonderful Trip !

by: Marlene email

From the seashore to the mountains in only three and a half hours of travel through beautiful scenery — that was the essence of our  trip from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Charlottesville, Virginia last week-end.  October is wine month in Virginia,  no better time to take a little break to follow the Monticello  Wine Trail  ( ) and to have fun visiting a few of the 25 wineries on that Trail.  Question:  What do Dave Matthews,  Thomas Jefferson and an extremely wealthy Virginia family have in common ?   You’ll see.

Visiting The Big Apple

The first stop on our trip was up Carter Mountain where we hooked up with my eldest son and family for some apple picking,  cider sipping and  hayride tripping but more on that in another post.   Carter Mountain Orchard has added a wine tasting room where we tried several different wines from the Prince Michael Winery,  including a particularly good  Chardonay.  I ended up getting a bottle of the Chardonay for a friend who is having foot surgery on Friday — if you are confined to the sofa for a week or more,  what better than a good glass of wine to liven things up.

Jefferson Vineyard

Our next stop was Simon’s Market which specializes in picnics and sandwiches for the many winery visitors in the area and is located just around the bend from Jefferson Vineyards.  We popped in for two of their cream cheese,  kalamata olive spread,  roasted peppers  and Genoa salami sandwiches to enjoy with a glass of Jefferson’s excellent Viognier out on the vineyard’s  patio,  overlooking the  beautiful views of  the vines and the Blue Ridge mountains.  Only a mile from Monticello,  this land was the site of Thomas Jefferson’s first vineyard,  planted in 1774 .  Jefferson became very interested in wines from his time in France and the winery website, ,  offers a lot of detail on the interesting history of this property.  Jefferson has a very attractive tasting room and the wines here are delicious,  especially the velvety  Cabernet Franc and their  Viognier,  which is particularly crisp and refreshing.

After a good dinner at the Boat House,  a restful night’s sleep and a late breakfast at Brodo’s Bagels,  it was off  to  a trio of wineries,  all near Monticello.  We wanted to visit the tasting rooms of  First Colony,  Blenheim and nearby Kluge.  We had thought about  Keswick Vineyards because we had read about their interesting  tradition called  “Yappy Hour” where on Sunday afternoons from noon till closing, doggie  loving customers can bring their canine pals and socialize with other dog owners.  Even though our dogs were not with us,  it still  sounded like fun but Keswick was too far away from other the three vineyards we had already decided to visit  and still depart Charlottesville by 5  pm.

First Colony Vineyard

First to First Colony.   The driveway approach to the tasting room winds around the 12 acre vineyard with the mountains as a familiar back-drop.   Once inside,  the main room is lightfilled and airy with a separate dining area for special events.   We tasted  several whites as well as the reds.  My favorite red was  the Petite Verdot and I loved the Zephyr,  a bright white wine with flavors of pineapple.   Just off the tasting room at First Colony is an elevated deck surrounded by large hardwoods dressed in their intense fall colors– a good place to rest with a glass of wine and some of the available cheeses.

Blenheim Vineyard's Tasting Room

From there to Blenheim Vineyard not far away and owned by, you guessed it,  Dave Matthews of the famed Dave Matthews Band.  The land was owned by his mother before Matthews decided to begin the vineyard and it is a family run operation.  The tasting  room is in a handsome timber-framed building which features a full glass south facing wall overlooking the vineyard and the mountains and includes a large outdoor seating area for a picnic with a bottle of Blenheim’s excellent  wine.  The most interesting part of the tasting room however is the floor– or rather,  lack of floor.  As you walk in the door,  the center portion of the tasting room floor is made of clear plexi-glass so customers can see into the barrel room below.  That’s a very unique feature in my experience and one that I’m sure everyone  “oo’s and ahs”  about — I know we were impressed.   The wines were impressive as well and we ended up with several bottles of  the spicy Cabernet Franc.

Wine And Cheese In The Garden At The Kluge Estate Vineyard

From Blenheim we were off to Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard just a few minutes  away.   The Kluge family is a very wealthy family and the vineyard and winery established by Patricia Kluge in 1999  are located on a tiny portion of their  very beautiful 2000 acre farm.  The tasting room is nestled in a grove a mature hardwood trees and features outdoor seating on the patio and in the garden area as well as indoor seating surrounded by warm hardwood paneling.  Kluge’s tasting proceedure is also unique– instead of  small pourings into commemorative wine glasses,  Kluge  has a custom upright tray with 6 slots for tall cylindrical vials.  Customers select from two tasting flights of  six wines each,  approximately $10-14/flight,  select a cheese plate  if desired and then find a quiet spot to sip and evaluate  the wines.  We picked the flight that included two of their superb sparkling wines,  a rose and three different vintages of their  “New World”   a luxurious blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot.  Needless to say,  as we left  Charlottesville and these four fine vineyards behind,  jumping  on the interstate to head back to home- sweet- home  on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore,  we were well armed with red, white  and sparking wines  for the upcoming holiday season !

P.S.   Back to the  question of what Thomas Jefferson,  Dave Matthews and the Kluge family all have in common.  The answer is of course, a love of  good wines  and the creation of memorable vineyards as testiments to  that love. See these wineries on the web at : and .

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