Over the weekend the husband and I went down to Charlottesville, Virginia to celebrate my 25th birthday (which isn't until Tuesday, but schedules are what they are!). Despite the fact that we're both born and raised Virginians, neither of us have ever 'done' Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. And even in terms of Charlottesville proper, I've only been inside a hotel for a conference....that definitely needed to change. Here's what we did in C-ville:
Charlottesville is about a two hour drive from NoVA. We hopped in the car early and drove for down for our first stop at Monticello. It is a must see. I know the $25/person seems steep, but Monticello receives no federal or state funding. I am more than happy to give them my money to keep up such an amazing piece of history. I highly recommend the guided tours. The house tour was amazing and it's clear TJ was way ahead of his time. His entry way had prehistoric bones on display and maps of uncharted areas of the world so visitors could learn while they waited for him to appear. The husband appreciated the architecture and the mechanics of the house (self closing doors, a wine dumbwaiter in the fire place). We are used to huge, open plantation houses like Morven Park and Oatlands up here, so this was definitely different in a special way.
Of course, I can't go without mentioning the gardens. With a forty mile view, the gardens are enormous and perfectly tidy. There are rows and rows of TJ's favorite things as well as fig trees and even the start of the Virginia wine industry: lots of grape vines.
I could have just stayed in those gardens forever! Every few steps I made this poor guy stop and look at something. Plants make me really, really happy. Who knows, maybe in retirement we'll open a vineyard or a small farm. Talk to me in another 25 years.
Next up were the kitchens. I'm completely in awe of some of the smart 'technology' that was used in the colonial time period. If you look in the picture below, you'll basically see an old school stove top with burners!
The second part of the morning was spent at Barboursville vineyards north of Charlottesville. Barboursville is the US location for the Zonin prosecco brand (GREAT sparkling, amazing price) and Luca, the wine maker was so, so gracious as to give us a private tour of the 900 acres and have us as his guests at lunch. It's not every day you get to sit with the winemaker and pepper him with questions!!!
Driving through the vines made me feel so at home. A few rows in I could smell the spray used to treat the vines that reminds me of my Grandpa. It's hard to get rid of that smell after spraying rows on a Kabota all day! And come to find out, Grandpa actually sat on the Govenor's vineyard/wine board with Luca, the owner and winemaker back in the 80's when the industry first started in VA. Small world.
The Barboursville restaurant, Palladio by itself is amazing. The chef has even been invited several times to cook at the James Beard House! Luca himself works so hard to ensure only the best is served. He also told us Palladio rarely serves beef, preferring bison because of the healthy, low fat content which is absolutely fascinating! For lunch I ordered the vegetarian (a great test of how good a chef is) and was blown away by the perfect zucchini tart that arrived in front of me. The husband ordered the opah (fish) and could not say enough about how amazing it was! We would have tasted eachother's...but we finished it all. Ooops!
And the wines...where to even begin? We tried the gamut of wines and sparkling options and it is truly safe to say Barboursville crushes the competition. The Viognier, which is Virginia's official state grape, was the best I have had yet! More of a red person? The Octagon reserve was the best red I have ever tasted. Ever. What a treat!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for an amazing birthday.
After a gorgeous cherry gelato for dessert, we hopped back in the car and headed for downtown Charlottesville. We planned our stops around the Design*Sponge city guide, although we only did the Downtown Mall area since we were there for the day. Even though we were honestly a little disappointed by the shopping (I know, we are really, really spoiled since we live in and around several historic districts with great shopping), the downtown area is very pretty. Still full from lunch, we only grabbed an iced coffee and gelato (yes, another one) before heading back North. If only we had the appetite to stop at the great recommendations from friends!
For my fellow DC/Metro area readers, please head down South for this fabulous city sometime this summer! And for you out of state-ers, Charlotesville is definitely worth your time if you're already spending the week in the Commonwealth!
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.