This State is for (Wine) Lovers

Things have been a little slow around here winery-wise as we prepare for our annual fall trip to Virginia wine country.  Between plans to visit some wineries over the past several weekends getting cancelled and just life in general being very busy, we figured that this would be a great time to shift gears and share our story, to explain how the East Coast Wine Couple came to be and why the Monticello region of Virginia is our wine Mecca.

THIS IS US

It was mid-May, twenty-ought-something.  We were newlyweds from southern NJ on our budget-friendly honeymoon to colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  The plan was to spend a few days doing the historical stuff, then visit Busch Gardens and spend some time on the sands of Virginia Beach.  Unfortunately, unseasonable low temperatures, near constant rain, and some scheduling mishaps left us with little to do after only three days.

So we went online to check the map for local activities.  There we saw one winery just outside of Williamsburg (which, now that I think of it, we never did visit).  Now, we both drank wine occasionally, but we weren’t “wine drinkers” yet.  We had no real tasting experience, and really didn’t know one wine from another.  But, this looked like something we would both enjoy.  The problem was, one winery isn’t going to fill the rest of our week.  We expanded the search for more wineries and discovered a cluster of them about two hours away.  The hotel was nice enough to let us cut our stay short and we packed up for a completely unplanned trip into the unknown.

WELCOME TO C’VILLE

Now, we could go on and on about Charlottesville, especially the food and the downtown walking mall.  But we’ll stick to the wine experience for now.  We set up base camp at the Comfort Inn Monticello just outside of town and spent the next few days exploring the wineries closest to the city, and then further west along state route 151.  Honestly, we were so overwhelmed by what we found and by how amazing the wine was, and we’ve been back there so many times since, that we can’t say for sure exactly which wineries we visited at that time.  But it was one of the best experiences of our lives and began our ongoing ménage à trois with wine.

Yes, our sentimental connection with this wine region certainly makes us a bit biased.  And at this time we clearly weren’t experienced enough tasters to know good from great.  However, Virginia wines have become our control to which all other wines are compared, and having tasted along half the eastern seaboard, as well as Napa and Sonoma, we can say for certain now that Virginia does make great wines.

The view from Stone Mountain Winery, well deserved after quite the drive up the mountain.

WHERE WE’VE BEEN (AND WHERE WE’RE GOING)

Over our dozen (or more) visits to Virginia, we’ve probably visited most of the wineries within 50 miles of Charlottesville, especially north along 29 and south along 151 and 29.  There are even a few breweries, distilleries, and cideries in the area that we highly recommend.  We’ll go into more specifics in our late November post.  Of course, we’ve been all over southern NJ, from the Delaware River to Cape May.  Now that we live a little further south, our local forays have been into southeastern Pennsylvania and northeastern Maryland

Our other, longer-distance trips have been to the Finger Lakes area of New York (specifically, Cayuga and Seneca), Long Island’s North Fork and Lancaster County in Pennsylvania.  As amateur wine connoisseurs, we felt obliged to fly out to San Francisco to tour Napa and Sonoma valleys.  Future plans include going further down the Delmarva Peninsula, finally touring Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and maybe head south into the Carolinas.  We would appreciate any suggestions, as well – preferably three or more wineries close to each other and a good local eatery nearby.

The barrel room at Michael Shaps Wineworks

Main Takeaways:

  • Sometimes a failed plan is just an opportunity for an unexpected adventure.
  • Central Virginia is a must-do for east coast wine lovers. And with 30+ wineries (and growing) near Charlottesville, you can make it a long weekend (or honeymoon!).
  • Are you an east coast wine lover, too? Reach out to us on Twitter or Instagram with winery suggestions.