As a fresh-faced, wide-eyed 21-year-old, I’ve recently gone public with my love of wine. I like to pretend that I’m a classier wine drinker than my friends, because I buy the $10 wines from the grocery store as opposed to the $3 bottles. I drink wine at least once a week during “Wine Wednesday” because I’m basic and proud of it. All of this has led me to bestow upon myself the title of a Wine Connoisseur. In an effort to maximize my pretentiousness, I bought a ticket to the Monticello Wine Trail Festival in Charlottesville, Virginia—a pass to unlimited wine tastings from 26 local vineyards.
The festival was held at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion on the Downtown Mall, and while there was clearly a crowd, it was not suffocating. There were several food trucks, and there was never a long wait for a tasting. Like the basic brown girl that I am, I brought my writing journal and special writing pen to document every thought I had while drinking all the wine. Below is a list of four that I liked enough to share.
Afton Vineyards is not nearly as popular as its neighbor, Veritas, but they had some pretty awesome wines at the festival. Definitely a place I will be visiting this summer.
What the Brochure Said: This dry Gewurz has a residual sugar of 0.9%. After manual harvest, the grapes were destemmed and put into a stainless steel tank at cold temperature for skin contact for six hours average. This emphasizes the amazingly floral characteristics that we love in this grape. 100% estate-grown Gewurztraminer. 346 cases produced.
What My Notes Said: A white wine for those who hate white wine.
Full disclosure: I’d never heard of this vineyard before I saw the sign. And the sommelier was really attractive, so that definitely influenced my decision to include this vineyard. But the wines were solid.
Red Table Wine
What the Brochure Said: With its new “red table” label, this soft and smooth wine is a perfect red for coming summer days. Our pairing suggestion is to lightly chill the wine and serve it with spicy barbeque.
What My Notes Said: Smooth wine. Not as sweet as I expected for a table wine. Best seller at Flying Fox.
My favorite vineyard that I’ve ever been to. In the late summer and fall, they have free polo matches where you can bring food, drink wine, and pretend like you know what is going on. It’s a blast.
What the Brochure Said: On the nose, this dry wine opens with white peach, grapefruit juice, strawberry, and a hint of watermelon. On the palate are delicate citrus notes and a bright, fresh acidity. The finish is crisp and clean. 1728 cases produced.
What My Notes Said: Hate rosé, love this wine.
I’ve never been to Barboursville in person, but this vineyard is consistently ranked as one of the top wineries in Virginia, and is considered the best in the area.
2013 Vermentino Reserve
What the Brochure Said: Vivid, citrusy aromatics with a deep, dry palate of sustained structure, excellent body, lingering minerality and finesse of finish.
What My Notes Said: I like it when the Italian sommelier says “vermentino.” He mentioned something about the Virginia terroir that makes it taste differently. One of the best white wines I’ve had.
Overall, this was a fantastic experience and a great way to commemorate my very first wine festival. However, there are some things I wish I had thought of beforehand. If you’re inspired to try out your local wine festival, or to go to the Monticello Wine Festival in Charlottesville next year, here are some tips:
- Eat a big meal beforehand. Use this as an excuse to grab brunch with friends. Our choice was La Taza in Belmont (a neighborhood in Charlottesville)—it was fantastic.
- Bring a blanket. After the tasting, we bought a couple of bottles and lounged on the grass while eating kettle corn. The blanket was key to not getting grass stains on our sundresses.
- Bring cash. Almost all of the wineries accepted cards for bottle purchases. Almost all of the food carts did not.
- Arrive a little early. We arrived on the Downtown Mall from brunch at 12:30 and there was no line, so we wandered around. When we returned at 12:45, there was a line of at least 30 people awaiting entry to the festival.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing and walking a lot. You will get drunk. Plan ahead.
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