Virginia is for wine lovers, y’all!! Charlottesville Virginia has been on my list of “go and see” places for quite some time as I was vaguely familiar with its wineries, restaurants and beautiful scenery. After spending 36 Hours in Charlottesville it has officially moved up the ranks to “must visit again with husband and friends in tow and/or must buy a home and move there”. In fact, no less than two hours into my visit I was firing up the text chain and planning a return trip. I’m so thrilled to share the best things to do in 36 hours in Charlottesville!
The 36 Hours in Charlottesville giveaway is an almost identical replica to the trip I went on complete with a complimentary stay at The Clifton, the Pippin Hill Vintner’s Table for Two and gift certificates for Early Mountain, Red Pump Kitchen, The Market at Grelen and Monticello Wine Tour & Coach Co. If you are familiar with these wineries, eateries and brands then you are already excited. If you aren’t familiar then pull up a chair, sit back and let me share with you my own experience in Charlottesville, VA. I assure you that by the end of this post you’ll be wanting to plan your own jaunt to Charlottesville, free trip or not.
36 Hours in Charlottesville
Why Charlottesville, VA
Charlottesville, VA is full of award-winning wineries, inspired restaurants, charming inns, rich history and breathtaking scenery and it is so close for any East-Coasters out there! With only a 1 hour and fifteen minute flight from Charlotte, NC or Atlanta, GA you can easily visit Charlottesville for a long weekend even if you have a quick connection. In fact, you could even drive there from Upstate SC which would make for a pretty road trip in the fall. I kept telling Zach that it was just as beautiful as Napa or maybe even more so, since we love the country and rolling hills and white fences. Located along the Monticello Wine Trail, not only is Charlottesville beautiful but the wineries are world-class, the farm-to-table food scene is thriving and there are plenty of options for things to do from hiking and horseback riding to touring museums or spending the evening downtown Charlottesville.
Where to Stay in Charlottesville
I would personally recommend The Clifton, Charlottesville’s premier boutique hotel. Yes, it is the only place I have stayed in Charlottesville but I have a feeling it would be hard to beat! The decor is breathtaking and as “instagram-worthy” as they come. Full of rich jeweled tones, mixed metals, and unexpected elements there is an incredibly chic southern-meets-mid century-meets-colonial vibe. (Go ahead and trademark that one.) In fact, the newly designed digs are courtesy of the Blackberry Farm interior design team all of whom would probably just die at how poorly I described their handiwork.
The beauty doesn’t stop in the common areas, either! Each of The Clifton’s 20 newly refurbished, modern guest rooms ooze luxury and comfort. My suite was complete with a moody green velvet couch, fireplace, flat screen TV, coffee maker, claw foot tub and amenities on amenities.
Speaking of amenities, there is also a pool on-site complete with hot-tub and cabanas as well as walking trails around the grounds. For dining there is a lovely bar in addition to their signature 1799 Restaurant where you can dine in the Library, their Wine Cellar with private entrance, the exclusive Chef’s Counter in the kitchen, or on the outdoor seasonal patio. Even if you didn’t stay at The Clifton, I suggest eat at 1799 or at the very least grabbing a drink at Copper Bar.
Plus when you stay at The Clifton you get access to Charlottesville’s modern social club, Common House, which I hear is all the rage.
Things to do in Charlottesville
I couldn’t imagine a better itinerary than the one planned for us by Visit Virginia, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and Early Mountain Vineyards. If you only have 36 hours to spend in Charlottesville, I would undoubtedly spend them like we did, visiting the wineries and downtown Charlottesville. Here is a look into our trip along the Monticello Wine Trail!
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
I took a 6am flight out of GSP and checked in to The Clifton by noon. After a quick change and a mini tour of the property, we loaded into our transportation by Monticello Wine Tour & Coach Co. We then headed to Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, a boutique Virginia winery and premier wedding & events space with an unparalleled view located on the Monticello Wine Trail. To kick things off we toured the grounds with horticulturist, Diane Burns, and learned about Pippin Hill’s vineyard-to-table philosophy and how their vineyard, garden, farm and kitchen are all intertwined. We saw (and sampled) many of the fresh herbs, vegetables, fruits & flowers that would accompany our lunch.
The Vintner’s Table, aka wine maker’s table, at Pippin Hill was one of the highlights of the trip for me! After all, long leisurely meals are one of my love languages. We sat on a covered porch overlooking the gardens & vineyards at Pippin Hill and had the most incredible five course lunch complete with wine pairings.
To start, we sampled Wild American Sturgeon Caviar over a Pippin farm egg with preserved truffle and paired with a 2017 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. Next we moved on to an artisan cheese plate with an array of cheeses and pairings. My favorite pairing was the Vat 17 Cheddar with fig & juniper jam. It was paired with a 2017 Sparkling RosÃ© and honestly I could have headed home happy after that.
The next course was an unexpected pairing but soon became my favorite dish of the lunch. I don’t even typically drink Sauvignon Blanc but they served the most incredible gazpacho with cucumber brunoise, sweet romaine & savory granola and the combination of flavors paired with the crispness of the wine was intricate, savory and refreshing all in one.
After that we moved onto the fourth course which was a home run as well. How could you say no to swordfish with roasted figs & citrus pesto topped off with a Chardonnay Reserve?! I sure can’t.
Which also means I definitely couldn’t resist the fifth course, a toffee carrot cake with candied walnuts, creme frache and vanilla bean gelato paired with a 2015 Merlot Reserve.
After lunch we headed to the Bar on the Veranda at Pippin Hill with their manager and sampled a few more of their impressive wines including Pippin Hill Viognier 2017, Pippin Hill Cannon Red 2016, Pippin Hill Easton Blue 2016 and Pippin Hill Red Pump 2017.
We promptly rolled ourselves into our SUV provided by Monticello Wine Tour & Coach Co. and headed back to The Clifton to freshen up for dinner in downtown Charlottesville at Red Pump Kitchen.
(Photo by Kate Greer)
Red Pump Kitchen
Downtown Charlottesville is really unique and vibrant spot and I would have loved to spend more time there! With food on the brain and a chef’s table waiting on us, we made a beeline to Red Pump Kitchen which is right in the middle of a large promenade, or as they refer to it, a mall. It would be as if Main St. in Greenville, SC or King St. in Charleston were closed off to traffic and filled with bistro tables, benches and people strolling by window shopping. There is even an amphitheater at one end with live music!
Centrally located and with great people watching views, Red Pump Kitchen is a contemporary European cafÃ© style restaurant and bar. The open kitchen and wood-burning stove serves up the most delicious Mediterranean and Tuscan-inspired dishes.
The atmosphere at Red Pump Kitchen was a delightful combination of lively and charming. The mood, cuisine and decor were very sophisticated and contemporary while the open air seating, friendly waitstaff and ambiance were cozy and welcoming. Our chef created meal was also nothing short of fantastic. We enjoyed a bouquet from the garden, a tied up salad of sorts straight from the grounds of Pippin Hill that am, paired with an Early Mountain Pinot-Nat 2017. That delicious bite of freshness was followed by a first course of wood-fired beets with caromont chevre fonduta and hazelnut joined by a Pippin Hill Zero White 2016. For the next course we enjoyed spinach ricotta gnudi with brown butter, golden raisins and pistachios paired with a Glen Manor Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. We then went on to enjoy olive oil poached salmon with quinoa, friggitello pepper and root spinach complemented with a Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir and then a Boneless Dry Aged Short Rib with heirloom grits and a pairing of RdV Vineyards Rendezvous. The dessert was a caramel budino with cocoa nib & vanilla cream and was topped off with a Pippin Hill Bin 21.
Our plans were to head back to The Clifton to socialize at their beautiful bar but after we spent 6 hours eating that day we all turned in. The Clifton had placed these beautiful robes on our bed earlier in the day so I threw mine on, turned on a chick flick and enjoyed a full tummy from a full day of fun.
The Market at Grelen
The Market at Grelen is somewhere you could have stayed an entire day, or two! Visiting was one of my favorite things to do during our Charlottesville trip. The Market at Grelen is comprised of a 600 acre tree nursery, a European-style shop, casual cafÃ©, and event venue with miles of walking trails and a pick-your-own farm! They have horseback riding and live music and beautiful outdoor seating for wine tasting or brunch alike!
We started the morning with melt-in-your-mouth scones and coffee while touring their European-style shop. There was lighting and gifts and decor and tablescape inspiration galore and I truly wished that I wouldn’t have brought only a carry-on. Honestly I could have spent an entire afternoon in the shop alone even before making it to the cafÃ© side where snacks and treats and Virginia wine, beer & cider abound.
After we had a chance to chat with the owners, a lovely and inspiring couple, we loaded into Kubotas to tour the tree farm. I was enthralled learning about how you can ride through the farm with them, tag your own trees and shrubs and be placed on a cutting list for harvest. I feel like this is something Cooper at Home should definitely take advantage of! We also saw the beautiful overlooks where they have wedding ceremonies and even picked a few apples!
It was a gorgeous afternoon and The Market at Grelen would be at the top of my must-visit list for a day trip to Charlottesville! You could come here for breakfast, pack a picnic and hike over to Montpellier since the trails connect! Or you could come and spend your entire day looking at flowers and trees and sipping coffee and picking fresh produce! Trust me when I say that it is unbelievably dreamy!!
Early Mountain Vineyards
Our last stop of the trip was another Charlottesville winery and did not disappoint! Early Mountain Vineyards is comprised of more than 300 acres of the Monticello Wine Trail. The expansive tasting room, voted the #1 tasting room in America by USA Today, serves up not only Early Mountain wines from their own vineyards but also flights and a curated selection of wines from the best wineries in Virginia.
The interior decor is high-end and glamorous while the porches and surrounding grounds are warm and inviting. You can lounge outside on sofas, dine al fresco or walk around the grounds and find a picnic table to perch on.
We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy “The Virginia Table“, a three-course luncheon from the kitchen at Early Mountain Vineyards. We started off with a carrot & parsnip salad complimented with a 2017 Madison County Chardonnay and then moved on to chicken confit ravioli paired with a 2016 Shenandoah Valley Cab Franc. The third course was a delectable crÃ©me brulee with fresh berries and a 2017 Pinot-Nat Sparkling RosÃ©, which was my favorite wine from the trip! I was also extremely impressed to hear that everything was made in-house by their chef. Yes, even the ravioli pasta was made fresh that morning.
While we were at Early Mountain we also did a wine tasting and even were able to learn how wine was made. Specifically, we tasted the different components that go into making a RosÃ© while simultaneous learning about the wine of the Monticello Wine Trail. It was as fascinating as it was enjoyable!
I think that Early Mountain sums up what I love about the Virginia wine region. You not only have world-class wine and phenomenal tasting rooms but you also have the ability to have dinner on-site and fully appreciate wine the way it was meant to be enjoyed, with food. That is something that very few wineries in the Napa region can boast and I don’t really know of any where the experience is as rich as what I experienced in Charlottesville.
I’ll Come Back to Charlottesville
I cannot wait to take a trip back with Zach and our friends mostly because I know the guys will love it! Charlottesville has history, sports, nightlife and food everywhere you turn in addition to wineries and happy wives. What could be better?!? While I’m plotting my return you should get busy entering to win yours!
All you have to do to enter to win 36 Hours in Charlottesville is visit this website and sign up to receive their emails. You can head on over to their page for all of the details but the 36 Hours in Charlottesville giveaway is an almost identical replica to the trip I went on complete with a complimentary stay at The Clifton, the Pippin Hill Vintner’s Table for Two and gift certificates for Early Mountain, Red Pump Kitchen, The Market at Grelen and Monticello Wine Tour & Coach Co. I was so thankful to team up with all of these great businesses for this trip and I hope one of you guys wins!!
Thank you to the brand & businesses mentioned, in conjunction with Visit Virginia, for sponsoring this post!