From accommodations on the grounds of the state’s most storied vineyard, you can easily spend the day, a weekend or longer, exploring the Monticello AVA (American Viticultural Area) and the rich historical landscape of Central Virginia. You need not travel more than a few feet to begin that journey. The significance of the Barboursville Plantation cannot be understated. To the best of my knowledge, there are no other vineyard accommodations in the United States that lie so close to the intersection between the histories of American wine and the American nation.
Today the Barboursville property is owned by Gianni Zonin, who is at the helm of the largest family-owned wine company in Italy. After surveying the property in 1976, he soon after planted the first successfully grown vinifera in the Mid Atlantic. At the time, Zonin may not have been aware of the historic significance of that planting. He accomplished something that had been repeatedly attempted since England first colonized Virginia in the 17th century. Thomas Jefferson, whose home is nearby, invested vast sums attempting to grow grapes without success, but never failed in his belief that it was possible. So Zonin not only transformed regional wine production, but also brought to life a centuries-old dream. Largely because of Zonin’s success, Virginia now produces fine wine that can compete on a global scale.
The 1804 Inn and other Historic Lodgings
If you choose to stay at Barboursville Vineyards during your visit, the 1804 Inn offers a level of luxury that few other local lodgings can match. This classic Georgian villa was the original home of the Barbour family prior to construction of the mansion, which sits right next door. The inn contains three palatial suites that are timelessly decorated with claw-foot furniture and four-poster beds. Period artwork adorns the walls. No detail has been overlooked. Simultaneously, the rooms have been renovated with modern conveniences, but in such an unobtrusive manner that their historic character is fully preserved.
In the event that the inn is completely booked, there are several other historic lodging options on the Barboursville grounds. All of them are upscale and preserved in the same manner as the inn. The brick, 18th-century servant’s quarters has been converted into a pair of suites. It is the oldest, continually occupied building on the property. The Sangiovese Cottage is a charming little brick structure that was used as a gardener’s residence during the early 20th century. It is secluded from the other buildings and is intended for use by a single couple. A little further into the property is the 19th-century Blue Run Cottage that served as a dispensary and home for a local physician. More recently, it was the home of the Barboursville winemaker. Located very near the vineyards, the cottage has been partitioned into three lovely suites.
In any case, the lodging options provide a sense of seclusion and actually feel completely removed from the outside world. In truth, if you are feeling adventurous, there are many local options to explore. The accommodations can provide either an opportunity for solitude or a jumping off point for local discovery.
EXPLORING THE PROPERTY
After settling in, you will want to explore the grounds. Within feet of your lodgings you will find the ruins of the Barbour mansion. The property was once the estate of Governor James Barbour (1775-1842). Barbour was a friend and political ally of Thomas Jefferson, whose Monticello plantation was just 20 miles south. It was Jefferson who designed the Barbour mansion, construction of which was completed in 1822. The home was destroyed by fire on Christmas day in 1884, but its stately remains still stand on the property and have earned a place on the National Historic Register as one of America’s few true historic ruins.
From the ruins, it is only a short walk to the tasting room. Frankly, if you intend to visit only a single Virginia winery, Barboursville will give you a sense of what is possible regionally. Their highly lauded wines are among the best in the Mid-Atlantic and they have won acclaim both in competition and from wine critics around the globe.
Located next door to the tasting room and just a short stroll from the Inn is one of the regions finest restaurants. Palladio serves Northern Italian cuisine prepared from the finest local ingredients when available, but always made with the best ingredients possible. It is a fine-dining experience of the first order and one that you will want to experience whether you find lodging on or off the property. Lunch is served Wednesday through Sunday and Palladio is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday. It is strongly recommended that reservations be made at least a week in advance.
Broadening Your Exploration
There are several wineries within a short drive of Barboursville, but there are two wineries of note. Within minutes you can be at the tasting room for Horton Vineyards. Dennis Horton is something of a wine pioneer and he has experimented with a number of varietals that are now commonly grown in Virginia. As a result, the tasting experience is a bit of a smorgasbord with literally dozens of wines to choose from. It is safe to say that the tasting list has something for every palate.
Just south of Barboursville, you will find Keswick Vineyards. Set in the middle of Central Virginia horse country, the winery is surrounded by large horse farms. The property also offers a commanding view of the Southwest Mountains. Made primarily from French varietals, Keswick wines have won gold in more competitions than I care to name. There is frequently music on the weekends. In addition, the tasting room and grounds are dog friendly. It is a beautiful property and entirely worth visiting.
The nearby town of Gordonsville offers another option for local sightseeing. Gordonsville is a charming little southern town that offers a few dining and shopping options. The main thoroughfare has been recently restored. In addition to restaurants, there are numerous antique and craft shops. Just beyond the downtown area is a fun little local eatery. The Barbeque Exchange offers a very informal and inexpensive venue with a variety of regional specialties.
Also Within a Short Drive
This is Virginia’s premier wine region and many of the state’s best wineries are located within easy reach. There are at least 40 wineries within less than 60 minutes of Barboursville. For more directions and more information check out the Virginia Wine website.
The historic homes of three early-American presidents are within a short drive of Barboursville. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Ashlawn are 30 minutes south near Charlottesville. Montpelier, the home of James Madision, is 20 minutes north near the town of Orange.
In addition to the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, Charlottesville was the starting point for Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Northwest Territory. A small interpretive museum commemorating the expedition is located just outside the city in Darden Towe Park.
Charlottesville is also one of the largest locavore communities in the United States. You will find a robust restaurant community with countless options for casual or fine dining. In addition, the city offers a thriving arts and entertainment industry with many possibilities to discover live music, theater or local artists and artisans.
These are just a few of the possibilities. The 1804 Inn on the Barboursville grounds can be the centerpiece of a secluded weekend retreat or the starting point for a regional tour.
No matter how you travel, the final leg will be by car. If you are on the east coast, you are within a few hours of Central Virginia and it may make sense to drive.
If you choose to travel by air or rail, there are several options. You can fly or take the train to one of the following cities and then rent a car for the final leg.
Washington D.C.—Depending on the time of day, it is about a two hour drive to Barboursville.
Richmond, Virginia—It is about an hour drive from the Richmond Airport and slightly less from the train station. It is, however, very easy to get in and out of the airport.
Charlottesville, Virginia—Whether arriving by rail or air, plan for a 20 to 30 minute drive from Charlottesville.