Charlottesville is the place where my love affair with wine began…. My friend Ann and I would get $3 bottles of Pinot Grigio from CVS and sip while we watched episodes of Forensic Files before going bar hopping. Wine was a cheap buzz and we were broke college students so drugstore vino was good enough for us! But now we’re older, wiser and less broke and our standards for wine have vastly improved. We drink $7 bottles now! And we go wine tasting- because its the classy and adult way to day drink! In the beginning of November we returned to our roots to celebrate Ann’s 30th birthday with a Charlottesville Wine Weekend.
Friday, Monti and Ann went to Early Mountain Vineyards and Prince Michel Winery before meeting me at Barboursville Vineyards. You can check out Monti’s recap of Barboursville in the treats section. Saturday we hit up 3 more wineries in the area. Its pretty simple moments like our Charlottesville wine weekend that I look forward to the most in life – good friends, good wine and good times.
Stone Mountain Vineyards
This was my and Ann’s second time at Stone Mountain Vineyards. I’ll admit, the wine wasn’t the reason for the return visit. The name isn’t metaphorical, the vineyard is set high (1700 feet) in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This makes for an incredible view, but a nerve wrecking drive up. But braving the twisty one lane gravel road is totally worth it if you ask me and Ann (don’t ask Monti!).
Just because we didn’t return specifically for the wine doesn’t mean it’s not worth sampling. A $10 tasting menu features seven wines: 3 whites, 3 reds and a rosé. The first time I visited Stone Mountain the Pinot Grigio really stood out, but this time not so much. The 2015 vintage was still crisp and drinkable but seemed to lack the fruitiness I enjoyed in the 2014 vintage. However, being able to taste the subtle difference is one of the reasons I like to revisit wineries.
Of the seven sampled wines the ones that did stand out were the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. The Merlot was paired with a sample of dark chocolate during the tasting to bring out the cocao notes. This was a very drinkable red and we bought a bottle to sip while enjoying the breathtaking view from the wrap around deck. The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was a smooth red with dark fruit flavors. We actually liked it more than the Merlot, but a bottle cost $12 more and we had a long day ahead of us!
The second stop on Day 2 of our Charlottesville Wine tour was Stinson Vineyards, a father-daughter owned and operated vineyard in Crozet. Let me start with the negatives first. The background music in the tasting room was some classic Motown (not the bad part, wait for it), when I made a reference to it the wine pourer girl replied with a slight eye roll and “I’m not a fan.” … What??! Who doesn’t like Motown? It was the Jackson 5! Thank God I wasn’t taking a sip of wine when those words left her mouth or I would have spit it out! Which would have been a shame because the wine was good. Just look over your shoulders, honey, and come refill my glass!
Tastings are $10 and consist of six wines. I’ll be honest and say that while the wine at Stinson is good, it wasn’t my favorite of the day. This surprised me since yelp is all rave reviews for this place; I was expecting to love it. Stinson prides itself on “European style wines that emphasize subtlety and complexity rather than power and super-ripeness of West Coast wines”. And that there is why I’m not raving about Stinson. I love ripe, bold, rich, lush red wines. But if subtle French style wines are your thing definitely go to Stinson and you won’t be disappointed (in the wine).
The aesthetic of Stinson Vineyard is bright, airy, and very farmhouse chic. The remodeled three car garage housing the tasting room also doubles as a market selling artisan meats, cheeses and snacks. You can enjoy grass fed beef, sausages made from farm raised pork and local produce while you sip your wine in the outside seating area (there’s plenty). We bought a bottle of Sugar Hollow White and pinot grigio sausage and enjoyed the plush patio seating.
Grace Estate Winery
Grace Estate Winery was our last wine tasting stop of the day. And in my opinion, we saved the best for last. Tasting are $9 and include both reds and whites. The reds at Grace Estate were definitely my favorite of the day. We bought a bottle of the La Gras Baril, a Bordeaux style blend with rich berry flavors, the right amount of earthiness and a smooth finish. I love blends, and this one of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat paired nicely with an outdoor fire and live music.
Here’s something to know about my friend Ann – if there’s a band she’s going to ask them to play Wagon Wheel. And once they play Wagon Wheel she’s going to ask for some other bar classic. The band playing at Grace Estate was nice enough to indulge her first request and we had a fun sing along with the other patrons.
The overall atmosphere of Grace Estate Winery was my favorite of the day with its welcoming and laid back vibe. The wine educator, Lauren, was friendly and knowledgeable and the wines were not only good but affordable. Singing along with the band and enjoying the coziness of the fire made this the perfect place to end the day.
And the fact that the winery is only minutes away from Crozet Pizza is also a BIG selling point! After the winery we stopped by for dinner and indulged in what’s been dubbed some of the best pizza in the world. Crozet Pizza is a must make pit stop during any Charlottesville wine tasting trip!
Charlottesville Wine Weekend Wrap Up
Virginia has 260 wineries, and the ones in the Charlottesville area some of the best the state (and country) has to offer. If you live on the East Coast, you don’t have to travel all the way to California for good wine, you can find it closer to home. With the majestic backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia wineries are the perfect fall destination. Virginia Is For Wine Lovers!
Have you ever been wine tasting, if so where’s your favorite place to go? We’re always looking for new places to try! Have you been to any of the vineyards/wineries we’ve mentioned, what did you think of them? Leave us a comment below and use #PrettySimpleTreats on social media to share your wine tasting pictures with us, we’d love to see your adventures!