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Virginia's Charlottesville-Monticello named international wine region of the year

CHARLOTTESVILLE—Five Central Virginia counties have earned their place among the world’s most iconic wine regions.


Recently named the 2023 Wine Region of the Year for Wine Enthusiast’s 24th Annual Wine Star Awards, Charlottesville and the Monticello American Viticultural Area bested long-recognized international winemaking regions. The award honors more than 40 wineries in the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson and Orange.



The top 5 grape varietals produced in Virginia are

Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Vidal Blanc, and Viognier.


“The region is situated in an interesting spot in Virginia,” said Drew Harner, assistant professor of viticulture for the Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Frederick County. AREC staff educate and assist growers with best practices, backed by the latest research.


Grapes thrive in the geographically transitional space between Virginia’s Coastal Plain and Piedmont, with a desirable temperature mix.


“There’s a range of soil types as well,” explained Harner, who also works as a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist. “You get this ‘Goldilocks area’ where grape growers can work with a range of different growing conditions. They produce grapes and wines that are expressions of the conditions they’re working with, and the management practices they’re tailoring to these conditions.”


The 2022 Census of Agriculture reported Virginia’s vineyards span over 40,000 acres on 538 farms, generating $3.5 million in total market value. The rural areas surrounding Charlottesville are home to over 20% of Virginia’s vineyard plantings. A separate industry impact study said Virginia's grape wine sector generated over $6 billion for the state when considering wages, tourism dollars and other indirect impacts.


At the Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition, 58 of the 142 gold medals were presented to wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail in 2024.



Medalists include Eastwood Farm and Winery in Charlottesville, owned by Athena Eastwood and operated with family. Eastwood’s grapes are grown at two vineyards in Albemarle and Nelson counties.


“This region has been developing for decades with a large number of well-known wineries producing world-class wines,” she said. “To that extent, the award is not that surprising! There’s a lot of innovation and talent in this region.”


French “clones” perform well in the vineyards, like Eastwood’s award-winning petit manseng boasting notes of honeysuckle, pineapple and mango.


Wine Enthusiast noted a “spirit of collaboration” among the region’s winemakers.


“It’s one of the biggest things enabling growth in this area,” Eastwood said. “You can call other winemakers and talk through an approach, or how to deal with a challenge, and they are always willing to help.”


Regional wineries also encourage guests to visit other sites, and a few tasting rooms present wines from rising vintners on rotating incubator lists.

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