This past weekend was my annual Fall Winery Mecca to Charlottesville Virginia. Whether it’s my husband or daughter (or anyone else for that matter) who ends up being my travel companion, there are a few rules I strictly enforce: 3 Wineries on the way down on Friday, 3 more Wineries on Saturday, Lodging on the Pedestrian Mall at the Omni or at least close like you can get at the Courtyard by Marriott and Dinner reservations made by me at the restaurants of my choice. This weekend was no different with the exception that the weather didn’t cooperate like it usually does thus my pictures are good, just not great. Here are the highlights:
As we drove up to Early Mountain Vineyards http://www.earlymountain.com/ I had a distinct sense I’d been there before. When we walked into the tasting room I was less sure until the pourer cleared up everything for me. This Winery used to be called Sweely until about a 1 1/2 years ago. My daughter and I had been there and as I recall the interior was very dark almost Gothic in décor. Now the tasting room is beyond lovely…light and airy along with a full service dining facility.
What I found especially fun is that after we had a traditional wine tasting, we were able to order interesting flights of wine that featured wines from other local vineyards as well. I got a “Taste of Fall” that featured a wine from Blenheim and Barboursville. We also ordered cheese, olives and charcuterie… perfect with our wine flights.
Next up Reynard Florence reynardflorence.com . It’s a very small tasting room venue and I’m not sure they want to expand their clientele, but the wines aren’t bad and for me being able to spend time with T-Ray the Corgi was all I needed. My family is totally against me dream of having a Corgi someday so when I can get a “fix” I take it!
After checking into the Omni in Charlottesville, we dined at the Downtowne Grill https://downtowngrille.com/. If Steak is what your craving, I’d highly recommend it. My Filet topped with Crabmeat and Asparagus was superb.
Our visit to First Colony Winery is the stop I’d like to highlight for Saturday. http://www.firstcolonywinery.com/
I loved, loved, loved my experience at First Colony. Upon arrival, we were lucky enough to be greeted by Bruce, one of the owners, and a precious Beagle named Dudley. Once inside the cozy and pretty tasting room (being made even prettier due to a wedding taking place that evening) we were fortunate to have Abby as our pourer. We chatted quite a bit during our tasting about lots of things, wine…not so much. That was okay though because the wine tasted good and I was far more interested when Abby told us of her husband’s recent endeavors of making small-batch chocolate bars by roasting the cacao with the machine he uses for coffee beans at his shop, Shark Mountain Coffee (www.sharkmountaincoffee.com). Although we didn’t have time to stop before coming home, the chocolate must be good because it’s featured in Fall publication of “Edible” Magazine (Blue Ridge edition). There are several features of First Colony I enjoyed such as the various scenic views available, woodsy in the back and a panoramic view of field and mountain in the front with all sorts of seating and tables for your wine drinking in enjoyment. Visitors are welcome to bring picnics, but they have a selection of cheese, crackers and other snacks as well.
Saturday night we dined at Red Pump Kitchen www.redpumpkitchen.com. and we enjoyed our meals immensely. Only opened since July, this Tuscan-style kitchen is supremely located on the Pedestrian Mall and has already received a host of positive reviews. I was especially enamored with the wall of live edibles. A closer look and a couple of questions later, I found out when they had first opened the attempt was to grow all their herbs on the wall. When that didn’t work, they opted for some edibles and mixed with a few house plant….it still looks very cool though and the mint is harvested! For an appetizer, we shared a Fennel Sausage, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Red Onion and Mozzarella Pizza (the menu told us to do it!). My entrée of Mushroom Agnolotti(that’s pasta), Butternut Puree, Parmesan Cream and Shaved Black Burgundy Truffle was delicious and while I don’t always mention my dining partner’s meal, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the Squid Tagliatelle, Clams, PEI Mussels, Bay Scallops (can you say that PD?) with Uni Butter was a pleasure as well. Check out the Red Pump Kitchen. You’ll be glad you did.
Dear readers, I encourage you to “click” on the websites I’ve highlighted or check out other Charlottesville wineries and restaurants. C-ville is a great weekend destination and while I always focus on food and drink, Virginia history and culture abounds. Please also share your thoughts about the many, many wineries in this region.