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Not sure where to stay in wine country? How about in the winery?
Have you ever arrived at a winery so gorgeous, so idyllic, that you wished you could move in? Well, you can — for a while — at wineries with guest houses available for rent.
Whether you’re dreaming of staying on a vineyard in Tuscany or sleeping among the vines in Sonoma, you can do it. Here are a few winery guest houses worth checking out:
INMAN FAMILY WINERY GUEST HOUSE: If you love Kathleen Inman’s elegant pinot noirs and the rustic beauty of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, then consider a stay at the winery’s guest house. The Olivet Grange Farmhouse features a fireplace in the living room, wireless Internet access, a long porch perfect for gazing at the vineyards, olive trees and gardens, as well as accommodations for up to six people. Wine club members receive discounts of 10 to 20 percent depending on their level of membership. Rates range from $315 for a night to $2,000 for a week.
CASTELLO BANFI IL BORGO: The scenic hills of Siena, in Tuscany, make for a romantic backdrop for the Mariani family’s Il Borgo estate. The hilltop retreat features 14 rooms with décor that’s a blend of Old World luxury and modern amenities like sumptuous king-size beds, lotion infused with sangiovese grapes, flat-screen televisions, and rainfall showers. Outside your room, enjoy sitting by the fire in the reading room, a traditional Tuscan lunch at the Taverna, or a sunset swim. Rates from $660 per night.
VINA CASA SILVA: You’ll gain a whole new appreciation for Chilean wines, as well as South American hospitality, when you stay at the Silva family’s guesthouse in San Fernando. The luxurious little bed-and-breakfast inn that’s set in a 100-year-old hacienda offers a pool in the courtyard and seven spacious rooms — No. 4 is a favorite. When you’re hungry, take a short trip through the vines over to the Polo Club restaurant. Rates from $140 per night.
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Southern Italy for wine lovers: Wineries and vineyard staysCarla Capalbo August 25, 2020
The pool at Capofaro Locanda on the island of Salina Credit: Matteo Carassale
Any lover of Italian wine who also loves to travel will have undoubtedly visited Tuscany and, hopefully, Piedmont in their search for wonderful places to stay on wine estates. Far fewer have explored the fantastic regions of Italy’s south, below Rome. I’m passionate about these southern regions. To me, they express the most quintessentially Mediterranean aspects of Italian culture – not only for their sun and sea, but also for the rich layers of culture that have been left there by thousands of years of occupation, from the Greeks and Byzantines to the Arabs and Bourbons.
Pick any one in my selection of fabulous places to visit, each with a link to wine, and you will leave seduced by the food, wine and hospitality of the Italian meridione.
Sergio Mottura, La Tana dell’Istrice
Civitella d’Agliano, Lazio
Sergio Mottura’s winery is about 90 minutes’ drive south of Rome, at Civitella d’Agliano, in the beautiful post-volcanic landscape that characterises so much of central Italy. The estate’s headquarters are in a handsome villa in the heart of the medieval village, a short distance from its organic vineyards featuring the white Grechetto and red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo varieties, among others.
Named La Tana dell’Istrice (‘the porcupine’s lair’), the family’s spacious villa has been converted into 11 rooms for guests, without losing sight of its historical origins. The pretty dining room and well-equipped kitchens offer lunches and dinners by appointment. Children are welcome too, and will find the large swimming pool set in the midst of the vineyards irresistible. There are lots of optional activities, from wine tastings and cooking classes to day trips, as well as the chance to experience the grape and olive harvests in season. Best of all is the proximity of the Mottura family: Sergio and his sons are gracious hosts and bring this slice of la dolce vita to life.
Feudi di San Gregorio
Sorbo Serpico, Campania
Feudi di San Gregorio winery has long been a beacon of stylish modernity in the rural hills of the Campanian hinterland. Less than an hour’s drive east from Naples, the landscape changes as it begins to climb towards the upper reaches of the Apennines, the Italian peninsula’s ‘backbone’. Set on a high point above Sorbo Serpico, a few kilometres from Avellino, with stunning views of hills and vines, the winery’s central buildings were designed by the Japanese architect Hikaru Mori in 2001. She brought a pared-down, elegant aesthetic to an area best known for its rusticity. The graphic design of the late Massimo Vignelli complemented her minimalist directive and gave Feudi its unmistakable look.
Visitors can tour the cellars and vineyards, view its modern art installations, learn about the low-impact approach the winery now practises, and eat in the award-winning panoramic restaurant, Marennà. Here the food features Campanian ingredients, Neapolitan traditions and dishes that complement the estate’s wines, from the three classic local DOCGs – Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Taurasi – as well as from more recent projects, like the sparkling Dubl wines from native grapes vinified in the style of Champagne.
Il Palazzotto Residence & Winery
This extraordinary hotel in the ancient cave city of Matera is owned by the Francesco Radino winery. The winery’s estate and vineyards are located at Rionero in Vulture, about 90 minutes’ drive from Matera, where the D’Angelo family – who bought the winery in 2015 – produce organic wines from Aglianico and other local grapes.
The Sassi, as the city’s cave dwellings are called, run down through a canyon and were inhabited continuously for centuries – if not millennia – until the 1950s, when the inhabitants were moved out due to abject poverty. After careful restoration, Matera was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
The city has now been brought fully back to life, and this hotel is an example of beautiful design that enhances but does not overpower the ancient structures.
Taste the family’s wines in a spectacular underground wine lounge complete with limestone carvings and arches. If you feel like splurging, opt for one of the suites, as they occupy the most stunning spaces. The hotel is within walking distance of the cathedral, and the city’s lively central streets with their many restaurants and shops. Matera was a joint European Capital of Culture in 2019, and repays any visit with an unforgettable experience.
Guest houses at I Cacciagalli in Campania. Credit: Marcello Serra
For lovers of natural wines, this biodynamic estate in the province of Caserta (northwest of Naples) offers a stylish yet affordable place to stay with the family. The look is spare but well designed, with wrought iron, wood and pale natural fabrics setting the tone. The pool has been landscaped to look more like a small lake, and the house accommodations are set in pretty countryside.
The wines are made in large clay amphorae by Mario Basco, and he and his young family live on the property and look after the guests themselves. They grow the local varieties of this post-volcanic area, including Aglianico, Falanghina, Fiano and Piedirosso. In the restaurant, ingredients are sourced from local organic producers and meals are served in an attractive dining room.
This is a wonderful part of the country to explore, with the majestic Reggio di Caserta – a royal palace designed by Vanvitelli for the House of Bourbon and based on Versailles – not far away.
Vinilia Wine Resort
If Primitivo is your favourite grape, Manduria is a great place to find it. The sun-baked flat vineyards, often with bush vines stretching right down to the sea, have an ancient appeal to them: a testament to their Magna Grecian heritage. The landscape here is punctuated by Baroque churches, stone trulli, centennial olive trees and defensive watchtowers once used for sighting Ottoman and Saracen marauders. Manduria is 35km from Taranto and 50km from Brindisi, on Italy’s Puglian ‘heel’, and makes an excellent base from which to explore both coasts.
Vinilia Wine Resort is located here, in an imposing, early 20th-century stone castle. The handsome villa has been converted into a comfortable hotel and spa with its own Michelin-starred restaurant, Casamatta, that features modern Puglian cooking. There’s also a large pool for relaxing on hot days.
While the resort’s vineyards are situated a few kilometres away, the town of Manduria is well worth visiting and has an interesting wine museum dedicated to the culture of its native grape, Primitivo. There are fabulous beaches nearby, as well as villages and local wineries to explore.
Capofaro Locanda & Malvasia
The Tasca d’Almerita family has long been considered the royalty of Sicilian winemaking. Its headquarters are in the Sicilian heartlands at Regaleali, but in recent years its estates have expanded into other parts of Sicily. The jewel in that crown is Capofaro on the island of Salina, one of the volcanic Aeolian islands that belong to Sicily.
Capofaro is the perfect idyllic getaway for wine lovers. The 27 rooms, each with its own entrance, are built among vineyards where the grapes for the delicious dessert wine, Malvasia delle Lipari, are grown. The estate overlooks the sea, so there are beaches nearby, plus a central pool at the resort itself. The restaurant offers the best of the Mediterranean: fresh seafood, sun-nourished vegetables and the accents – like capers, olives, anchovies and wild herbs – that give Sicilian food its distinct character. The chef, Ludovico De Vivo, creates his recipes from the many cultural influences that form Sicily’s well-flavoured cuisine, including rustic peasant dishes and aristocratic food from the region’s golden age. For those who want to learn how to make them, cooking classes are available on demand. Day trips to the other islands are also available, as are tours of Salina, and yoga retreats.
Planeta. Credit: Laurent Dupont
Planeta, La Foresteria
Planeta was the first winery in Sicily with a vision to communicate the island’s viticultural greatness to a modern international audience. The Planeta family has always understood the value of Sicily’s diversity and has been enthusiastic in helping to build wine tourism on the island through its hospitality.
The winery headquarters are in Menfi, on the southwest coast of Sicily, and that’s where the Planetas have created their country house hotel (they also have seven rooms in central Palermo). La Foresteria offers 14 rooms, a stunning infinity pool, scented herb gardens and beach access.
A relaxed, country-chic aesthetic runs through the bedrooms, the large kitchen and reception rooms. There’s great food to be had, with cooking classes on offer – as well as wine tastings from all of the family’s estates. In warm weather, eat outside on the terrace overlooking the vineyards. Day trips include the Greek temples of Selinunte and Segesta, the olive groves of Belice, the fish market of Mazara del Vallo and explorations of the cultural centre and salt flats of Marsala. Planeta can also provide wine tours to its other estates at Noto and on Mount Etna.
The Argiolas family has been the leading light in Sardinian wine for three generations. It helped the world discover native grape varieties such as Vermentino and Cannonau, and has consistently won awards for its wines.
Recently, the family has enlarged its hospitality portfolio, and now offers the chance to visit the winery and vineyards… by Segway, if you dare! You can even have an aperitivo in the vineyard, to enjoy with local cheeses and salumi. There’s also an experimental vineyard of unusual native grapes on show and, in season, the chance to see the verdant olive groves.
For those more interested in food, the estate’s restaurant serves Sardinian specialities, with the possibility of getting a cooking lesson from the chef.
This travel guide was first published in the May 2020 issue of Decanter magazine.
- Wine. Barolo is the perfect destination for wine lovers. Some of Italy’s top red wines are produced in this area. The area’s most famous wine is Barolo, made from Nebbiolo grape.
- Scenery. Barolo is located in a spectacular Langhe countryside in Piedmont, between Cuneo and Asti, amid the rolling hills and the hilltop towns.
- History. There are lots of beautiful castles and well-preserved historic building in the Piedmont area.
- Food. You’ll find some of the best Italian food in this Piedmont. There are many restaurants in the area serving authentic Italian cuisine and local wines.
More Ideas for Exploring Willamette Valley
- Read my guide to the best wineries and restaurants in Oregon
- See my ideas for things to do in Oregon Wine Country besides drink wine
- See Emma’s take on visiting Willamette Valley
- See Kate’s tips for having a wellness weekend in Willamette Valleytaking your first hot air balloon ride
- See Jenn’s ideas for activities in the Willamette Valley
- See Marissa’s suggestions for what to do in the Willamette Valley
6 Of The Coolest Places To Stay In Burgundy On AirBnB
We all have idyllic visions of our ultimate wine country vacation. We’ll eat amazing food fresh from the farm, drink fantastic wine straight from the barrel, and of course stay in a really unique place. And there is no other wine vacation destination that people fantasize about more than Burgundy. There’s something about the romantic landscape, the humility of the winemakers and of course the celebrated wine that just makes the region a destination above all others. So we wondered, if we were to travel to Burgundy, where are some of the coolest places we could stay? Here’s what we found on Air BnB:
You Could Rent An Entire Castle
This castle is located in the Maconnais region, so just think of all the amazing Chardonnay you’ll drink while you lord over your incredible domaine!
You Could Take Over A Vineyard
To the east of the castle in the Maconnais region sits this incredible property that includes a vineyard! We can see it now, by the end of your vacation you’ll be tending the vines and overseeing the upcoming harvest.
36 Gifts and Gadgets For Anyone Who Loves Drinks
Pretend You’re A Traveling Vineyard Worker
Accommodations don’t get much more unique than this. Originally a traveling home for roving vineyard workers, this wagon is now firmly planted on a gorgeous hillside in a quaint medieval town. The owner recommends building a fire in the garden and opening a bottle of wine at the end of a long day of wine tasting. Sounds good to us!
You Could Captain Your Own Ship
How about piloting your own houseboat down the river as you take in the landscape, docking every once in a while to visit a vineyard and refill your wine stock? We thought that sounded pretty awesome and that’s exactly what you can do if you rent this houseboat.
Stay In An Ancient Farmhouse
Steps from this farmhouse is one of Burgundy’s most famous 30-mile bike trails, which cuts through some of the most beautiful vineyards in the Cote Chalonnaise. After a day of riding you can retire to the farm, open a bottle of wine, and pretend the house has been in your family for centuries.
Your Own Manor In The Heart Of Burgundy’s Most Celebrated Region
Want to pretend you own a manor in the heart of the region responsible for the Grand Cru Burgundies that people go absolutely nuts over? Stay here and you can. You may not actually make the wines that go for thousands of dollars a bottle, but at least you can pretend.
Best for a Sunset Tipple
Courtesy of Facebook: Deep Sea Tasting Room
Deep Sea Wine
Located on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, this oceanview tasting room is the city’s only place to sample wines directly above the ocean. Here, you’ll find a selection from Conway Family Wines by the flight, glass, and bottle. If you time it right, snag a seat on the patio before the sun goes down to enjoy spectacular “golden hour” views of the coastline and mountains while you sip.
217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 618-1185
Local’s Guide Where to Eat, Drink, Stay & Play in Virginia Wine Country
Be prepared to be wow’d as Virginia Wine Country is quickly becoming a new wine country mecca for wine snobs, foodies and those that want to be pampered. We share with you the best places to stay, eat and drink while in Virginia Wine Country.
I won’t lie to you, I’ve had Virginia Wine Country on my bucket list for longer than I’d like to admit. And recently my wish came true while visiting my in-laws in Chevy Chase, MD. My trip to Virginia Wine Country is on! And to make it a memorable wine country adventure, I enlisted some of my dearest friends, for the ultimate girls getaway weekend in Virginia Wine Country and check out its epicenter, Loudon County.
Stepping into wine country on the East Coast for the first time, you realize that there’s so much history surrounding you after all this is where much of the early American wine culture originated thanks to Thomas Jefferson. From buildings dating back to the 1700’s, to the rolling hills and sprawling country estates of Virginia Wine Country, the energy of the early settlers was calling my name. I couldn’t be more excited to visit one of the oldest, most beautiful and most-visited winery regions in the nation and to top that, share it with my group of girlfriends.
What makes this region so attractive is that you can land at Dulles International Airport (IAD) and be deep into Virginia wine country in less than 45 minutes. And if you land at Reagan International, it's only an hour-long drive from D.C. down the infamous I-95 beltway to Middleburg, in Virginia's bucolic wine country. Either airport you arrive, if you’ve never travelled about the East Coast, be prepared to pay plenty of tolls because they seem to be everywhere on the major roads, something this Californian only relates to when you cross major bridges.
Much like other wine regions in the U.S., you’ll find that there’s a couple of bigger towns that serve the region to stay in, while other small towns offer some limited accommodation options. You’ll want to book your hotel in advance to get the best selection. While this is still considered Northern Virginia Wine Country, it’s vital that you stop and stay in Middleburg or Fredericksburg, Virginia. Both towns offer easy access to the 40+ wineries scattered about in Loudon County. What’s also great about this area is that there’s plenty of options no matter how small or extravagant your budget is.
For those that desire a 5-star resort experience, book reservations for the Salamander Resort & Spa, a stately inn set on 340 idyllic acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll need to book well ahead during high season (late June to mid-August). While you could easily spend the whole weekend strolling the resorts’ impeccably-manicured grounds (or testing your culinary skills at the on-site cooking studio), don’t lose track as to why you came to this area as there are plenty of historical sites, fantastic eateries and more than 250 local wineries to explore.
If you want to save some money, you can stay in Leesburg, Virginia or Frederick, Maryland as many of the big hotel chains have properties in these towns. If you have the opportunity to visit in September or October, you’ll absolutely love the fall colors as the Fall season completely transforms the region. The wineries and tasting rooms will be less busy, allowing you to feel like you own the place. Plus the hotel rates will drop.
You cannot leave the area without booking reservations and having dinner at Dutch’s Daughter in Frederick, Maryland- total hidden gem and wow, the food is amazing. Named after the owner’s father who got the name while serving in the Army, the restaurant looks and feels like many of the iconic country estates! For dinner, I loved the French Onion soup, Prime Rib & Broiled Lobster Tail, but there’s something about $1.00 Mimosa’s and Blood Mary’s for brunch that could make me visit this place during my visit to the area. Advanced reservations are a must!
You know you're in the country at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, where horse-drawn carriage rides and picnic lunches pepper tastings of Burgundian-style chardonnays and crisp Rieslings. Perhaps this is where Thomas Jefferson fostered his love for nature. I could have sworn I heard the hills whispering words of wisdom from our founding fathers. Then again, maybe it’s just that I am suddenly so relaxed and removed from my busy life in the city that I feel rejuvenated and inspired to sit back, have a chilled glass of wine in hand and watch the day go by. Heck, I don’t even know where my phone is anymore. Either way, Greenhill Winery & Vineyards offers a welcomed pastoral respite and evocative wine. With plenty of different types of tasting experiences, you’ll see why I made this #1. Why this is at the top of my list of recommended tasting rooms in Virginia.
If you are up for a drive on the road less travelled (we’re talking gravel roads, so leave the Lamborghini at home), then point your Google directions towards Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg, Virginia. Situated on over 200+ acres on top of Hogback Mountain, what’s great about Stone Tower Winery is that it has two separate venues in case you are traveling with the kiddos or your pooch. Well-behaved kids and leashed dogs are welcomed in the Harvest Barn, while the 21+ crowd gets to hang at the Tower View Tasting Room which makes you feel like you are in a warm and comfortable ski chalet with quite the majestic view of Virginia Wine Country below. You’ll find yourself wanting to stay most of the day here after enjoying the Signature Estate Experience.
What sets Bluemont Vineyard apart from the others is how small the property feels- and the different types of special events they host. From Yoga in the Vineyard, to fun-filled wine tasting & craft-making projects to their annual fireworks-watching extravaganza, you’ll have plenty of events you’ll want to fill your calendar with. Sitting just above the Great Country Farms, Bluemont Vineyard is also one of the few viewpoints where you can see some of the Washington, D.C historical monuments from their hillside deck. So be sure to raise a glass (or two) to the founding fathers as you sit back and soak in the sun, the amazing vistas and rustic ambiance.
You are probably starving by now, so before or after your visit to Bluemont Vineyard, be sure to stop by what will feel like a huge step back in time, the Bluemont General Store. From farm-fresh produce, made-to-order sandwiches and all the cool things you find in a country general store, be sure to stop by and say hello. There’s picnic tables to enjoy a country lunch or to cool off with an ice cream cone for the kiddos.
If you are looking for a stunning hidden gem in Middleburg, then be sure to make reservations for Boxwood Estate. Proprietor John Kent Cooke, former owner and president of the NFL Washington Redskins, is an admirer and collector of French wines. It is no wonder that Mr. Cooke is producing some of the best wine in the area. His completely sustainable 26.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, have drawn together an All-Star team who are committed to making premium red & white wines in the Bordeaux tradition, but with their own, distinct Virginia expression. I had a case of Boxwood Rosé shipped home for sipping by the pool. My girlfriends will absolutely love it!
What sets 868 Estate Vineyards in Purceville, Virginia apart from the others on the Loudon County Wine Trail is that it has its own white tablecloth Grandale Restaurant that delivers farm-fresh, local gourmet food right at the winery. So if you care to linger a little longer after your Premiere Wine Tasting, then head on over. I had the hamburger with Applewood-smoked bacon and white cheddar- delicious! If you are traveling with a large group and just want to sit back and relax in Virginia Wine Country, 868 Estate Vineyards is your ultimate destination with their rolling hills, vineyards you can take a hike in and so much more. You can make reservations in the summer time for their picnic tables, purchase a few bottles and instant soiree with the girls!
Nearly across the country road from 868 Estate Vineyards, you’ll discover Breaux Vineyards. Known as one of the longest-running, family-owned wineries in Virginia Wine Country. Situated on a 400-acre estate on Short Hill Mountain, the property produces 13 different varietals with Nebbiolo being their signature wine. You’ll enjoy sipping your glass of wine out on their veranda, overlooking all the vineyards and surrounding hillsides.
Aspen Dale Winery offers a more rustic experience, with paddock homes to goats and miniature horses. I think my friend (who is a yoga instructor when she’s not practicing law) was checking out the goats for one of her classes. For $10 you can enjoy six wines, each accompanied by a small bite. The value here is refreshing. In Sonoma & Napa Valley, tasting fees are 3X-4X the price. I’m pleased we stopped in and will return again. I hear there are occasional live, folk music concerts held in the barn.
For dinner, head to the historic Red Fox Inn & Tavern, where oak tables, stone fireplaces, and beamed ceilings set the backdrop for hearty American classics like crispy half-duck with sautéed asparagus or bourbon-glazed salmon. The Red Fox has been a mainstay for the community since 1728. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the oldest fox hunting club in America, the Piedmont Hunt, is based in Middleburg. The Red Fox is stately, established and the perfect choice after a day of wine tasting and strolling through vineyards. Were it not for my Virginian friends, I am doubtful I would have stumbled upon such a gem.
We got up early the next day, procured an on-the-go breakfast from Market Salamander and began the scenic two-hour drive towards Charlottesville, Virginia. Much like Loudoun County Wine Trail, the roads are lined with vineyards, horse farms and pastoral estates. There are so many things to see along the way that it's best not to rush. It isn’t every day you find yourself on the hollowed ground of our founding fathers and civil war heroes.
En route to Charlottesville (in Central Virginia Wine Country), be sure to swing by the Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of both Battles of Bull Run. On this stretch you will see signs for Highways named after James Madison and James Monroe as well as the Mosby Heritage Area. This area is named for John Mosby, a confederate guerrilla who harassed Union troops. I’m learning that the Civil War is still a big deal in Virginia. You can even get tickets to attend Civil War reenactment ceremonies and civil war-themed summer festivals.
Next up, on Route 20, close to Montpelier is Barboursville Vineyards whose eponymous vineyards and winery specialize in European varietals. Here you can sip on world class wines and have an Italian feast at the ever popular Palladio Restaurant. We loved the Carpaccio, Sweet Pea & Ricotta Ravioli and Tiramisu in Due Modi. While Palladio has a full bar, I opted for rehydrating, cold ice water. If you can still walk after lunch, go checkout the nearby ruins of the Barbour Mansion. If the quarter mile walk sounds daunting, there is a parking lot up at the mansion.
Just before entering Charlottesville, you’ll want to make another stop at Monticello, the private home of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s brilliance is reflected in his iconic country mansion, which he designed. Many of his inventions are on display at Monticello and the gardens are worth exploring. If you want to turn your two-day weekend into three days of bliss, maybe you can book a room at the Inn at Monticello. You will certainly get a feel for the times in this manor house dating back to the 1800’s. Should you decide to stay, dine at the quaint, historic Ivy Inn. I didn’t get a chance to stay on this trip, but I heard from plenty of locals that the Spring Carrot Soup, Rag Mountain Trout and Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp are incredible.
Charlottesville, Virginia oozes with history and charm. Home to the University of Virginia and nearly 50,000 people, it holds a special place in the heart of Virginia. I love the way the streets buzz with people of all ages and walks of life (students, families, intellectuals, artists, foodies, wine geeks and high-society drop outs). Over the years, Charlottesville has developed and become one of the leading places to visit in the area, with 8 breweries, 30+wineries, incredible eateries and epic trailheads to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. Upon arrival, I couldn’t help but marvel at the greenery and vintage buildings.
Many people visit Charlottesville specifically for the Monticello Wine Trail. Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s vision of grape growing and winemaking, 35 wineries have come together to provide entertainment and creative wine tasting experiences. Locals are a huge part of the economy in Virginia and you will find unique and authentic things to do at every turn. You may want to check out the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival held annually the first week of May.
There are plenty of choices of where to stay in Charlottesville. The trick is finding the right place to suit your needs. With all the competition, room rates tend to be reasonable. A friend of my in-laws insisted that we stay at the prestigious Oakhurst Inn (and paid for it because he is a professor at UOV), so off we went. Worth noting (because the others in my group mentioned them) are Keswick Hall at Monticello, The Clifton Inn and the Boar’s Head Resort. Any one of these luxurious estates would be a great choice to add as one of your overnight destinations.
It’s a lot of work to absorb so much history and circumstance. After the exciting drive and checking in to our swanky digs, I was definitely ready for some local beer and cider. A few of my friends wanted to go wine tasting, so we split up and planned to meet later to compare notes and have dinner at the exotic Sultan Kebab Authentic Turkish Restaurant.
I’m sure you have heard of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but have you ever heard about the Brew Ridge Trail? Thought not. Music for my thirsty ears, I decided to set off on a well-trodden path to explore craft brew. The only snafu is that The Brew Ridge Trail is mostly in Nelson County, about a 45-minute drive from Charlottesville. I will have to save that expedition for next time. Not to worry, there are 8 fantastic breweries right here in Charlottesville. I am about to blaze a Brew Ridge Trail of my own!
Draft Taproom. I stopped by the digital self serve taproom, more out of curiosity than anything else. The busy space has over 60 draft beers and ciders, which you can purchase by the ounce. In many ways this is a beer lovers dream come true. I must be old school because, while I liked the energy in the room, I enjoy the banter of the bartender as he (or she) pours my beer for me. This system is genius and ensures that not one ounce of beer is sampled without payment. Not so sure I like that either. Great place to hang out with friends. Open 7 days a week.
Beer Advocate listed Reason Beer as one of the best new breweries in the country. For that reason, I had to check it out. Hands down, Reason Beer is the best brewery in Charlottesville. Brew master, Mark Fulton and his team have crafted some of the most flavorful and perfectly balanced craft beers. There are many reasons to drink Reason Beer.
No frills, just locals at Champion Brewing Company. I tried the sampler and loved everything I tasted. They have some creative options (like the Spring Ale that is brewed wit lavender and coriander) and everything is done really well. The laid back atmosphere, outdoor seating, friendly bartenders, good music and food trucks always make it a great place to hang.
My wine centric friends texted and let me know that they were having a blast at King Family Vineyards. This family owned winery, located 15 minutes from Charlottesville (in Crozet) is a stop not to be missed. In fact, if you only go to one winery, go to King Family Vineyards. The winery specializes in the production of ultra-premium wines that showcase the remarkable quality and terroir of the Monticello AVA. Beginning with carefully selected estate grapes, winemaker Matthieu Finot creates wines inspired by the old world, but are uniquely expressive of Virginia.
Next stop on our wine country adventure around Charlottesville was to swing by AOL founder, Steve Case’s minimalist oasis, Early Mountain Vineyards. They said they would be attending the Solstice Sundown event, before meeting me for dinner. Local band, the Significant Others, was performing on the back lawn. I could imagine them sipping on a refreshing glass of early Mountain Rosé while swaying to the beats. Not a bad way to welcome summer nights in Charlottesville.
The next day, we hit Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard as well as Veritas, before heading back to DC. Don’t worry we have a designated driver to ensure we arrive home safely.
Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard sits on a six-acre, southern facing, hillside parcel. The land is blessed with ideal soils and climate suited for their limited production, including Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot and Viognier grapes. Pippin Hill’s vineyard and surrounding gardens are part of Bundoran Farms, a sustainable agricultural community that honors the rural countryside. The vineyard master, Christopher Hill, is the most experienced and respected viticulture expert in the region. Pippin Hill has great wines (the signature Sauvignon Blanc rival Napa and Sonoma) and very friendly staff.
Our last stop of the day was Veritas. Here we enjoyed a delightful lunch on the patio and then moved inside to the tasting room for wine. Smooth, complex wines, intelligent, wine savvy staff and good food options. I loved the Fig and Brie sandwich and plan to recreate this tasty nibble back home in California. Lots of groups, young clientele with a gastro feel. Wonderful décor.
Towards the end of our exciting and much needed, weekend getaway, I learned about Cville Hop On Tours. Apparently, this is a company that will take you around to restaurants, breweries and wineries with ease. The tour guides are friendly and funny. Sometimes its’ fun to be in a group with strangers, as one never knows whom one will meet. Next time I am in Charlottesville, I will certainly give Cville Hop On Tours a try.
Waking up to see the foothills of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and touring about the Virginia Wine Country should be on your bucket let, too! With sweeping views and fresh country air, I am a fan of Virginia Wine Country. Sensing that one visit is surely not enough, I will need to return and explore all the other things to do and see in the area very soon. In fact, I’m planning a trip for the fall so I can see the colorful foliage and be part of harvest. I hope you enjoy these Virginia wine country regions just as much as I do!
Top Wineries in Walla Walla
Walla Walla is one of Washington’s best-kept secrets. Named by USA Today as the Friendliest Small Town in America! In 2018, Travel & Leisure added Walla Walla to the list of 50 Places to Travel.
Located in the southeastern Washington valley, locals and newcomers love it here where there’s an average of 300 days of sunshine, over 300 species of birds, 140 wineries to visit, and dozens of trails to hike and bike.
The picturesque Blue Mountains with rolling hills, red barns, horses and the big skies surrounding this valley are breathtaking. Locals reach out and welcome you at every turn. Walking the historic Main Street takes you back in time. You feel a more relaxed pace of life.
We decided to find out for ourselves why there is so much buzz about this town. After three days in Walla Walla, we discovered the top wineries and places to stay and dine.
Here’s our list of favorites! Can’t wait to return and explore more of this beautiful region.
TOP WINERIES OF WALLA WALLA
Top Wineries in Walla Walla
The name Walla Walla means “many waters” which come from the rivers and aquifers that result in a bounty of agriculture produce.
Gary Figgins started planting grape vines at his family homestead in 1974 and established Leonetti Cellar as the first winery in this area, followed by Woodward Canyon in 1981, then L’Ecole No. 41 in 1983. Soon after, Walla Walla was designated as one of the first official wine appellations (AVA’s) in the Pacific Northwest.
By the early 2000’s, there were about 30 wineries, and today over 140 wineries.
Many winemakers believe “…the well-draining soils, long hours of sunshine, and cool evenings produce grapes of the highest quality.”
The top wineries are known for premium red wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. However, many wineries in the area are branching out and producing a range of wines.
Our growing list of favorites below…
Good to note: be sure to check their websites for wine tasting times and events, since some of these wineries are private, by appointment only or don’t offer wine tastings.
Pepper Bridge Winery:
Their elegant and balanced wines, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, come from their sustainably farmed Walla Walla Estate Vineyards.
We had a tour with Winemaker Jean-François Pellet who is a third-generation wine grower and has a passion for making world-class wine. Now, he is a partner at Pepper Bridge Winery, and shared with us, “Pepper Bridge Winery represents the pioneering spirit of the Walla Walla Valley. Owned and operated by three families – the McKibbens, the Goffs and the Pellets, the winery is a leader in quality winemaking, innovative technology and vineyard development. For over twenty years their hard work and dedication to the Walla Walla Valley has helped define it as one of the great wine regions of the world.”
is a small winery and family owned. The name Amavi signifies love (amor) and life (vita) through their wines, which are 100% estate, 100% Certified Sustainable, and 100% Walla Walla Valley. Their focus is to improve the land, and build up the soil’s health through sustainable farming on their estate vineyards: Les Collines, Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Octave, Goff, and Summit View.
Don’t Miss! The Amavi wine tasting room extends to a terrace with sweeping views of the valley – very picturesque!
Ken and Ginger Harrison restored a century-old farmstead, working winery and estate vineyard located in the rolling foothills of Walla Walla’s Blue Mountains.
We met with Daniel Wampler, Head Winemaker who shared the story of Abeja which translates in Spanish to “bee”. He said “the name was chosen for its simple beauty and its reminder of times past when farming implied a respect for the environment and a close connection to the earth.” The 38-acre setting is idyllic with well-tended gardens, winding creeks, and scenic views.
Known for their excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Abeja wines are produced from Heather Hill and Mill Creek Vineyards as well as from the Columbia Valley.
Amy Figgins greeted us as we arrived to Leonetti Cellar at the family’s private winery. She told us the story of her family’s roots and how Leonetti became Walla Walla’s first commercial winery.
Amy is the great-granddaughter of Francesco and Rosa Leonetti who immigrated to the U.S.A. from Cosenza, Italy in the early 1900’s. The Leonettis moved to Walla Walla, bought 20-acres of land and transformed it into a bountiful farm. Fast forward to 1974, her father Gary Figgins, grandson of Franceso and Rosa, unloaded his ’67 Chevy pickup with a few hundred cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling bare root grapes that he planted on the Leonetti farm.
Amy shares “Building off the inspiration he gleaned from his grandfather’s bubbling fermentations in the dirt floor basement, the only logical thing to do to honor his family’s roots would be to name the winery Leonetti Cellar.”
Their wine mailing list is full, and many wait years to get on this list. Click here to get on the waiting list.
While on a backpacking trip in the Cascade Mountains, Nina Buty sketched out on a napkin her vision for Buty Winery. She founded Buty Winery in 2000, and has made exceptional wines from this blueprint — a Washington blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and a Sémillon-based blend that would include both Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
Nina draws upon her background in art and geology and plays a key role in developing Buty’s wines. She guides the Buty style during the evaluation and blending process for each new vintage. She works closely with Winemaker Chris Dowsett to create masterful blends and exceptional wines.
“Buty is a small, family winery,” says Nina. “My children play in the vineyards, and our growers and customers have become our friends. There is a wonderful flow and rhythm between life and work. With so few hard edges between the two, I try to be very aware of the interconnectedness of all the elements that contribute to Buty. All of the decisions that shape Buty are very intentional. Whether we are farming organically, creating wines using natural winemaking, or making decisions about pricing, we strive for balance and a sense of service and fairness.”
Walla Walla Vintners :
In 1995, Walla Walla Vintners was created by pioneering winemakers, Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson. It was the eighth winery in Walla Walla Valley, and within 20 years, Walla Walla Vintners became known for their traditionally crafted, elegant and age worthy wines. In 2016, the winery was honored as the “Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year.”
A year later, Myles and Gordy retired and welcomed Scott Haladay as the new owner. Scott and Winemaker William vonMetzger are maintaining the traditions of a family run winery. The winery is located on a beautiful plateau below the Blue Mountains, a perfect setting for a tasting or two.
Garrison Creek Cellars :
The 300-acre estate vineyard, Garrison Creek Cellars is owned and operated by the Murr family.
The property is in a pastoral setting with a high-tech winery located in a 60-ft rustic barn with massive Douglas-fir beams. Their gravity flow winery produces handcrafted wines in small lots. Each year Garrison Creek produces fewer than 1000 cases, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Visit their vineyards, winery and tasting room and you’ll be charmed!
Billo and Pinto Naravane quit their jobs in the tech industry and pursued their dream to produce ultra-premium, terroir-specific wines. In 2007, they founded Rasa Vineyards and made two wines: the 2007 Principia Reserve Syrah received a perfect rating from Review of WA Wines, and the 2007 QED received 94 points from Wine Spectator. They continue to produce world-class wines.
Each wine has a story with its own designer label and name. Don’t Miss! Ask Laurence Davidson, Tasting Room & Customer Relations Manager to tell you about Billo and Pinto’s story, and lead you through each tasting. He does a fabulous job!
Mark Ryan :
Mark Ryan McNeilly is self-taught in the craft of wine making, and founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999.
His first vintages (Long Haul and Dead Horse) were crushed and pressed in friend’s garages, barrel aged in Seattle warehouses. In 2003, he settled in Woodinville and since then his winery has grown, earning acclaim from wine-lovers and critics.
His goal? Team with Winemaker Mike Macmorran and make delicious wines that represent the vineyard, making every vintage better than the last.
Otis Kenyon :
We met Muriel Kenyon of Otis Kenyon Wine, a family owned winery with deep historical ties dating back to the 1900’s in the Walla Walla Valley. They handcraft limited quantities of elegantly structured and affordable Bordeaux and Rhone varietal wines from their estate and other proven Walla Walla Valley vineyards.
Visit the tasting room and ask to hear the fascinating story of James Otis Kenyon, grandfather of Muriel, and how Otis Kenyon Wine came to be.
Sean Boyd is the Owner and Winemaker of Rôtie Cellars. He says, “the whole point of Rôtie Cellars is to make traditional Rhone Blends with Washington State fruit.”
Madeleine Richards told us at the tasting room, “After working his first harvest at Waters Winery in 2004, Sean learned the profession in multiple positions before stepping out on his own in 2007. The non-traditional background turned out to be a perfect fit—he’s a winemaker who really knows his soils. His philosophical approach is Old World and natural, and his fingerprints are on every step of the winemaking process. He believes great wine happens mostly in the vineyard, and that his main job is to stay out of nature’s way.”
El Corazon :
For a not so ordinary wine tasting, you’ll want to visit El Corazon. Irreverent, fun and extraordinary experience! Megan, Tasting Room Manager, shared with us the story behind the wine, “In 2006, Spencer Sievers started his wine career buying 1,200 lbs of grapes and fermenting them in his apartment in Northwest Portland. With some experimentation and a passion for making terroir driven, fruit forward, vineyard and varietal specific wines, the El Corazon style was born. The next year, he moved back to Walla Walla. On his way to Kansas after El Corazon’s first crush, it hit Spencer (randomly, driving through a tunnel) to follow his heart. He picked up the phone and said to Raul, “El Corazon!” Raul said “Jefe, it’s 2AM, call me tomorrow,” and hung up. The next day, it all began.”
Castiglioncello del Trinoro, Sarteano SI, Italy
Nestled in the hills of Tuscany, this hotel is my happy place. They have a great spa to relax in, culinary classes where you can learn how to make pastas with their in-house chefs, an art gallery, and beautiful trails to go hiking — a little bit of everything. Chef Giancarla offers cooking classes on the property at their beautiful culinary academy!
Via S. Matteo, 87, 53037 San Gimignano SI, Italy
Elegant and peaceful, this is a great hotel to stay at in San Gimignano. Set in a medieval town, it’s picturesque inside and out!
Via Bellaria, 217, 53024 Montalcino SI, Italy
The most stunning villa. Elegant and homey all at once! You’ll want to spend all day by the pool with the most incredibly views.
Corso il Rossellino, 111, 53026 Pienza SI, Italy
Another amazing villa. There’s both a hot tub and a garden with unbelievably panoramic views – you’ll be eating all your meals alfresco to take advantage!
Massimo Gorelli Snc P.zza del popolo, 36 53024 Montalcino
A husband and wife duo own several shops around Montalcino. The husband oversees the linen shop, and the wife has a few hip clothing stores with lots of unique Italian designers. The linen shop is a great place to buy souvenirs- he can create anything you want from linen, from tote bags to bathrobes!
Piazza del Popolo, 42, 53024 Montalcino SI, Italy
Old (founded in 1905!), but beautiful pharmacy (be sure to walk to the back to see the view!)
GREAT spot for unique and trendy leather bags, purses, wallets, etc!
Via del Porrione, 23, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
Almost all designer vintage!
Podere Casale 64, 53026, Pienza, Italy
In good weather, there are few experiences in this world more magical than enjoying a glass of local wine, eating the farm’s sheep and goat cheese and taking in the stunning views of Val D’orcia. You can even tour the cheese farm with all of the animals, and try all of their raw milk cheeses along the way!
Via Bellaria – Loc. Villa i Cipressi – 53024 Montalcino (Siena) Italy
You can tour this estate’s beekeeping and local honey, including a tasting of all the different types they produce!