In all reports of Virginia wines, Barboursville Vineyards is a name that leads the way. A long name, with a very long history (originally settled in the mid 1700s), the vineyard is Virginia’s most highly awarded winery, with its premium wine, Octagon featured on wine lists throughout the state.
On this Saturday in September the tasting room was packed. Historic both inside and out, the large wooden tasting room was arranged differently from other wineries I’ve visited. With 22 different grape varieties and blends to taste, guests are led around a circuit from left to right to each tasting station, in order to taste from white to red.
Barbourville offers free tours of the winery every hour (no appointment required). Our guide, Bill was probably the most entertaining and animated hosts I’ve encountered.
Bill explained that the original owner, James Barber was a friend of Thomas Jefferson’s. Jefferson rarely designed houses for friends, but the Plantation house on the Barboursville property was one of only three residences he designed. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the house in 1884, but today you can visit the ruins.
As we walked around the winery production facility, Bill explained, the Jefferson history, and not surprisingly, given the era, that slave labor was used on the property. We learned that the name of their top wine, Octagon, is named after Thomas Jefferson’s favorite shape. (This all made sense also after we visited Monticello, Jefferson’s home). The winery now produces 80,000 gallons of wine a year on 5,000 acres. Its winemaker is touted as the reason for the winery’s numerous awards and accolades. Our fast talking host reeled off endless facts and quirky stories about the winery history. There is certainly a lot to say about Barboursville, and we were entertained for the hour-long tour.
The tour ended in the tasting room where we made our way around the tasting circuit. The Reserve Merlot was excellent, and we loved the Malvaxia Passito, a dessert wine.
The other reason people come to the winery, is of course the popular Palladio Restaurant. For those looking to stay on a vineyard, the 1804 Inn, a Georgian villa is also located on the property. There is so much to do and see here, and also it is a good starting point to understand the history behind Virginia’s wines.
Thomas Jefferson’s dreams of producing quality wine did not come to fruition during his lifetime, but today Barboursville thrives in producing the wines that he knew were possible – as we were reminded with a plaque on the wall at Barboursville:
“We could in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly the same, but doubtless as good.”– Thomas Jefferson, 1791
- Every hour there is a free tour of the winery and cellars. We learned a lot about wines in Virginia and of course their premium wine, Octagon during this tour. Be sure to be in the tasting room on the hour to join the tour. No reservations are required.
- Unfortunately they do not pour Octagon in the tasting room. You can buy it by the bottle for $49.
- The Palladio Restaurant I’m told is fabulous, but if you don’t have time for a lengthy meal, the Stonefire Kitchen, just two minutes away, has a fantastic selection of fresh sandwiches, soups and salads. The winery regularly has lunch and dinner events paired with their wines. Check out the events calendar before your visit to see what is happening.
- If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out the 1804 Inn or the property’s several cottages.
8/10 Overall visitor experience
9/10 Knowledge of guide
8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping
9/10 Other experiences: Restaurant, Accommodations, events
7/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff
7/10 Friendliness of staff
8/10 Signage & ease of access
8/10 Quality of the wines poured
Appointment required: No
Address: 17655 Winery Road, Barboursville, VA 22923
Tasting room hours:
10:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Saturday, 11:00am – 5:00pm Sundays.
$7 per person – Tasting of several wines at the tasting room. Includes a souvenir glass.
Good for: Small groups, history buffs, picnics, foodies
Wines produced: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Vermentino, Rosé, Nebbiolo, Brut Cuvée, Malvaxia Passito, Moscato. Octagon, their high end wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
What’s nearby: Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello is 20 miles away. James Madison’s Montpelier Plantation is 8 miles away.
District/Appellation: Monticello, Virginia
Contact for appointments: No appointments required. Tel: 540-832-3824
Date of visit: September 14, 2013