Posts Tagged ‘Blue Ridge mountains’

Charlottesville Uncorked– A Fall Week-end Sampling Blue Ridge Mountain Area Wines

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Just before Thanksgiving we had an opportunity to take a week-end off  and decided to make a quick trip  to Charlottesville, VA.   Located at the foot of the  beautiful Blue Ridge mountain range, it’s only about a three and a half hour drive from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and it’s a drive through some of  Virginia’s prettiest countryside,  ever gorgeous in the fall.  We started out by heading south over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, deep blue waters of the  Bay glistening in the sun,  picking up Rt 64 west to Williamsburg, which is a lovely tree lined drive through slightly hilly terain,  a quick stop at the Williamsburg Outlet Mall for a pair of boaters at Bass Shoes,  lunch at the  Cheese Shop in Merchant’s Square in the Colonial historic area,  one of their delicious Virginia country ham sandwiches accompanied by a  little glass of chilled white wine.  Back on the road again, by-passing Richmond, heading  into even more rolling terrain until suddenly, from the top of  a  hill,  the  peaks in the distance now reveal themselves in varying shades of blue, the Blue Ridge Mountains,  a lovely sight, and then we’re  quickly in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville, C-ville, as residents call her,  is best known for  three things.  1.)  It is the home of  UVA,  the University of  Virginia, which in 2011 once again maintained its top rating,  tied with UCLA  as the 2nd best public university in the entire nation.  2.) It is the location of  Monticello, the exquisute mountain-top estate of the 3rd president of the United States,  Thomas Jefferson, and a named UNESCO World Heritage site and 3.) It is home to Ash Lawn, home of James Monroe, 5th president of the Uunited States.  And as if that were not enough,  among others,  it is also the  home of  author John Grisham and  Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band !


A word, or 2, about UVA.   Its  gorgeous campass,  with mostly classically styled  buildings nestled into a rolling terrain,  is sited on 800 acres of  land which had been part of a 3000 acre parcel owed by James Monroe.   The original concept of the University came from Thomas Jefferson, who rated his work in designing and establishing it as the primary achievement of his life,  more important even than his presidency.  The most revered building at UVA is its first building,  the Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself,  a beautiful classical design modeled after Rome’s  Pantheon.  Fully completed only after Jefferson’s death, the Rotunda became the academic village that Jefferson had envisioned, containing the library, classrooms, faculty offices and student rooms.  Now, of course, the University is a huge affair, with an enrollment of  over 21,000 students  and a faculty of  nearly 1400– I’m sure that Jefferson would be tremendously  proud of all that has been accomplished by his successors in the last nearly 200 years.

Sunday morning,  after a relaxing brunch at Maya’s on Main Street in the C-ville’s quaint little downtown ( highly recommend the potato cakes with smoked salmon ), we set off for a day of exploration and wine tasting.  As it turned out, there was more exploration and less wine tasting.   Having driven by Ash Lawn, the home of president James Monroe, many times we decided that the time had finally come  to stop and take the tour– and so we did.  ( A little trivia on US presidents– 8 were born in the state of Virginia and 7 are buried in Virginia including  both Jefferson and Monroe.) Monroe purchased  an estate of over 3500 acres ( including the 800 that went to UVA)  adjacent  to Monticello  where his close friend Jefferson lived.  Jefferson helped Monroe select the exact location to site his future home which Monroe named Ash Lawn-Highland when it was completed about 1800. Although Monticello is a very grand home,  Monroe went in the opposite direction and built a very tasteful but much smaller home which he referred to as his “cabin castle” in the country.

The property is a now a museum owned and operated by the College of William and Mary, with house and grounds very much as they were in Monroe’s day– formal flower gardens,  a large working veggie and herb garden, numerous out buildings including the barn, icehouse, smokehouse, etc., pastures with cattle grazing, all overlooking the beautiful mountains.  It was a most interesting tour with a few bits of  great trivia: back in the day wallpaper was extremely expensive and so was not actually glued to the wall as it would be today but rather attached by tacks so that if the owner moved the wallpaper could be packed up along with the other household furnishings.  Also, Monroe was the very first president to commission his own presidential china for use during his term in the White House- prior to that  presidents  were  expected to bring their own china  Washington with them. And of course since that time ever subsequent president has commissioned his own china pattern for official White House use.  But the most interesting couple bits  of Monroe triva offered by the tour guide were  that in the very famous painting  of General George Washington crossing the Delaware, then Lieutenant Monroe is shown in the boat standing  just behind  Washington, holding the flag.  However,  at the time  Monroe had actually already reached the New Jersey shore in an entirely different boat from Washington.   And talk about making a fashion statement, a replica of the deep rose colored wedding gown worn by Monroe’s glamourous wife, Elizebeth, stands in the drawing room,  made notable by the fact that has no buttons, snaps or fasteners of any kind whatsoever — she was literally sewen into the dress for the ceremony after which the dress was taken off by re-opening the seams !

From Ash Lawn we were off to the new winery acquisition by  “The Donald”.  The former Kluge Estates Vineyard is now  called Trump  Winery, no surprise there although the primary  wines for sale are  ’07,  ’08, ’09 and  ’10  bottlings  which still carry the Kluge label.   The tasting room is very much the same, still  attractive warm woods but an additional large outdoor seating area has been added in the back and a large screen TV in the main room offers a beautiful slideshow of the vineyard through the seasons. Sparkling wines were very much the signature wines of Kluge and I’m sure will be of Trump as well.  We ordered a small cheese plate and tastings of  all 3 of the sparklings, a Blanc de  Blanc,  Blanc  de Noir and the Rose’,  favorite hands down being the elegant  and beautifully colored  Blanc de Noir.

From Trump it was on to the only other vineyard we had time for, Jefferson Vineyard,  just a few minutes away from Monticello. It is well-known that Jefferson became a great connoisseur of wine  from the substantial amount of time he spent in France  when he succeded Franklin as the  American ambassador.

Jefferson was eager to establish vineyards on this side of the Atlantic and the land on which Jefferson Vineyards stands was at one time owned by by an Italian viticulturist who was prompted by Jefferson to try his luck in Virginia.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

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

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

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 .