15 Virginia Wines Every Enthusiast Should Try

Most people's knowledge of U.S. winemaking is centered around Oregon and California wineries, but every state (Alaska and Hawaii included) produces wine, according to Wine Folly. While states like Oregon, New York, and even Texas have recently made it into the spotlight for their top-tier bottles and unique approaches to viticulture, some of the best wineries in the country are actually located in the Commonwealth of Virginia (via Reader's Digest).

In fact, Virginia is one of the earliest sites of winemaking in America as Thomas Jefferson — considered the first "distinguished viticulturist" in the U.S. according to Monticello.org — convinced renowned Tuscan winemaker Filippo Mazzei to help achieve his dream of cultivating old world varietals at his Monticello estate in the late 18th century (via Grapes & Grains). Today, the Monticello American Viticultural Area (AVA) remains home to some of Virginia's most renowned wineries. However, what makes Virginia special is the unique mix of grapes grown here to produce its one-of-a-kind wines.

"Varieties that do well here in Virginia include viognier, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and petit manseng, while albariño and tannat are also other promising varieties," says Kevin Sutherland, vineyard manager and winemaker at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, Virginia. Read on to discover the best Virginian wines for getting to know the Commonwealth's viticulture.

Barboursville Vineyards 2021 Viognier Reserve

Fred Reno, a renowned wine expert and host of the Fine Wine Confidential podcast (a series dedicated to telling the story of Virginia's wines), says that Barboursville Vineyards pioneered modern Virginian winemaking and finally helped realize Thomas Jefferson's dream in 1976. The winery also happens to reside near Jefferson's Monticello.

"I call it the Chateau St. Michelle of Virginia, and by that I mean Barboursville makes really high-quality wine at every price level," says Reno. "You can find great bottles as low as $15 and up to the Octagon, which is $67. They don't make bad wines, and anything from Barboursville will be really representative of what Virginia can do."

While Reno recommends trying the winery's cabernet franc as it showcases the Commonwealth's unique take on the varietal, he also suggests trying the current release viognier, which was recently awarded a double gold medal at the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. According to the winery, the 2021 Viognier Reserve ($22) is a full-bodied white that features notes of juicy bright pear and passion fruit with hints of citrus and herbs.

50 West Vineyards 2019 Ashby Gap

Located in Middleburg, Virginia, 50 West Vineyards is one of the largest wineries in the state. It's famous for producing Bordeaux-style red and white varietals and offering picturesque views of the Bull Run Mountains (via Fodor's). It's also 100% solar-powered and bottles wines made strictly with Virginia grapes. Prior to the last five to 10 years, it was common practice to augment wine production with grapes and juice from California or Oregon, as Reno explains. So, 50 West offers a truly authentic taste of Virginia.

The winery is one of several on this list that can count themselves as winners of the Virginia Governor's Cup, an annual wine competition managed by the Virginia Wineries Association. 50 West Vineyards' gold cup-winning 2019 Ashby Gap ($40) features a blend of 75% cabernet franc and 25% cabernet sauvignon. According to the winery, the bottle exhibits aromas of bramble fruit, black cherry, tobacco, and un-toasted oak for a well-balanced wine with soft tannins.

Cana Vineyards & Winery of Middleburg 2019 Unité Reserve

Another standout of the 2022 Governor's Cup, Cana Vineyards & Winery scored top marks at the competition, making winemaker Melanie Natoli the first female to win the cup (via American Vineyards Magazine). However, this isn't Natoli's first time as a trailblazer. In 2017, she was the first Virginia winemaker to be named Woman Winemaker of the Year at the 10th annual Women's International Wine Competition, according to Wine Industry Advisor. The family-owned winery is located in Middleburg and has been growing cabernet franc, merlot, norton, petit manseng, and petit verdot varietals for 10 years.

What made the winery such a standout in this year's Governor's Cup was its 2019 Unité Reserve ($65), a blend of 65% petit verdot, 29% cabernet franc, and 6% merlot. According to the winery, the tasting notes include savory hints of black olive, soy sauce, and toasted oak on the nose followed by vanilla, black plum, and herbs de Provence. This wine has been extremely popular since the results of the cup were announced, so consider trying the 2019 Le Mariage ($48) — another gold medal winner — if you can't track down the Unité Reserve.

Michael Shaps Petit Manseng 2018

Petit manseng is a lesser-known varietal that originated in the Juraçon region of Southwest France and thrives in Virginia's humid climate (via Virginia Wines). Anette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board's marketing office, says petit manseng grows exceptionally well in Virginia. "The grape loves Virginia's hot summers and is a versatile grow that can make aromatic wines that can be dry, off-dry, or sweet in style," she says. 

While this grape has historically been used for dessert wines, Virginia winemaking icon Michael Shaps and his team prefer making dry wines with the grape, which has garnered attention from names such as James Suckling and Decanter over the past few years. Beyond working with this unique varietal, Michael Shaps is famous for his chardonnay, along with other old-world-style wines that he produces under this label, according to Virginia.org. Shaps trained under some of Burgundy's best winemakers at ​​Maison Chartron et Trebuchet and has been pioneering Virginia's wine industry for nearly 30 years.

Fred Reno says that Shaps's petit manseng is an excellent introduction to the grape, as well as the breadth of what Virginia winemaking looks like. Try the current-release 2018 Petit Manseng ($35), a bottle that was a 2020 Governor's Cup gold medalist. This wine features notes of tropical fruit, a bright acidity, and a grilled flavor that's ideal for warm-weather sipping.

RdV Vineyards Lost Mountain 2017

RdV Vineyards is located in Virginia's picturesque Shenandoah Valley and is considered one of the state's best wineries (via Only In Your State). Thanks to its rocky soil and southern-exposed slopes, RdV Vineyards' estate is primed for brilliant winemaking, and its Lost Mountain wine is one of Virginia's most popular bottles, according to Wine Searcher. Rather than focusing on emulating Bordeaux-style wines or the techniques of the Napa Valley, the winery is dedicated to producing one-of-a-kind bottles that are as remarkable and distinct as the Shenandoah Valley, making this label an excellent introduction to the world of Virginia wines.

Indulge in the 2017 Lost Mountain ($160), a red blend made up of 59% cabernet sauvignon, 24% cabernet franc, and 17% merlot. The label considers this bottle "the ultimate expression" of its land and offers a depth of complexity that will continue to evolve over time, so snag one for the cellar while you're at it.

DuCard Vineyards 2020 Norton

Reno moved from Sonoma to Virginia in 2019 to explore the state's burgeoning wine scene and has become fascinated by the norton grape. He says that the grape varietal originated in Virginia before Stone Hill Winery in Missouri made it famous, so trying a few bottles is an extra-special way to explore state viticulture. Winemaker Magazine says the grape is comparable to Zinfandel which often features flavors of dark fruit, coffee, and chocolate.

"Norton requires patience and decanting — it's a serious wine," says Reno. "You sip it and ponder it, and it reminds me of what wine drinking used to be like when I first started in the business with classic Bordeaux."

Reno says one of the best representations of the norton grape in the state is by DuCard Vineyards, a highly awarded, sustainability-driven winery. Their take on norton was his personal introduction to the varietal and inspired a years-long love affair with the grape. Try the current release 2020 Norton ($35), which features aromas of wildflowers, spices, and bacon for a personality-driven bottle.

Trump Winery 2015 Brut Reserve

Yes, that Trump, but you'll want to put politics aside for this bottle. Donald's son, Eric, is at the helm of a winery that Gayot reports has produced some of the highest-rating sparkling wines in the game. Located in Albemarle county, Trump Winery claims that it is the largest on the East Coast and produces 12 types of wines at the estate. The winery has produced several award-winning wines since the Trumps acquired it in 2011, and winemaker Jonathan Wheeler has led Trump Winery to receive many 90+ scores.

The 2015 Brut Reserve ($75) is the winery's signature sparkling wine and was one of the highest-scoring wines at the 2022 Governor's Cup. It also earned a gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition as well as a silver medal from the San Francisco Chronicle. The winemaker was inspired by the vintage ​​Méthode Champenoise process and produced the sparkling using 100% chardonnay. The mineral-forward bottle features aromas of citrus, green apple, and pear and fresh acidity.

Ankida Ridge Vineyards 2021 Pinot Noir

"Generally, pinot noir doesn't do well here, but one producer who makes world-quality pinot noir is Ankida Ridge," says Reno. "They are really small and have really great people. The estate has 1,800 feet of elevation and is on the side of Shenandoah Mountain near the Blue Ridge Mountains, and their wine quality is stunningly good."

Ankida Ridge Vineyards doesn't just make excellent pinot noir for Virginia, but Distinction says that it produces some of the country's best. In fact, the winery refers to itself as "Virginia's little Burgundy." Its owners and makers believe in letting the terroir speak for itself, producing minimal-intervention wines. The winery makes everything from vinho verde-style chardonnay, dessert wines, and sparklings alongside its highly lauded pinot noir. The 2021 bottling ($52) offers bright red cherry, cranberry, and forest floor on the palate along with a punch of color and acidity for a memorable sipping experience.

Stinson Vineyards Rosé of Tannat 2021

Just outside of Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge Mountains lies the bucolic Stinson Vineyards, a winemaker-owned estate winery that is inspired by French "garagiste" wine-making traditions and produces small lot bottles. Husband and wife team Nathan and Rachel Stinson Vrooman make the wines, while Rachel's father, Scott Stinson, co-owns and operates the winery making it a true family business. They produce 13 different types of bottles on the estate, and it has become critically acclaimed for creating spectacular cabernet franc, according to Wine Enthusiast.

However, the winery has also been recognized by the Washington Post for being an exemplary representation of rosé in the U.S. Stinson's winemakers describe their Rosé of Tannat 2021 ($22.99) as being delicate and fruity with notes of grapefruit and white blossom that are met with refreshing acidity. Pulling out a bottle of Virginia rosé makes for an excellent ice-breaker at your next brunch or dinner party.

Linden Vineyards 2020 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc

Reno says you can't talk about Virginia wine without mentioning Jim Law or Linden Vineyards; he calls Law the "Yoda of wine in Virginia." The wine titan found his passion while studying in Europe and spending two years with the Peace Corps in Zaire, an experience that led him to pursue viticulture. He planted his first vines in 1985 on a section of the grounds he named Hardscrabble, and the namesake single-vineyard chardonnay is considered one of Virginia's best wines (via Decanter). This Shenandoah Valley winery is also considered one of the state's must-visit wineries for its picturesque scenery and the major role it plays in Virginia wine history, according to Trip Savvy.

Reno advises snagging a bottle of Law's current-release sauvignon blanc, as he considers it the pinnacle of Virginia's take on the varietal. He goes even further to say that Linden Vineyards' sauvignon blanc is "world-quality." Check out the 2020 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc ($36), which boasts a signature mineral acidity, aromas of ripe mango and orange zest, and a "suggestion" of pink grapefruit.

Veritas Vineyards 2019 Petit Verdot

"Petit verdot grows extremely well in Virginia, and it is grown both as its own varietal and also as a blending grape for Bordeaux-style blends," says Boyd. "Virginia petit verdots offer deep color, rich fruit flavors, and lots of tannin structure." Wine Enthusiast also claims that Virginia is one to watch for petit verdot lovers and recommends exploring the varietal with help from Veritas Vineyards.

Veritas Vineyards was founded by English husband and wife team Andrew and Patricia Hodson in the Monticello wine region. Daughter Emily is the lead winemaker and combines old-world traditions with modern technology that has led the winery to be considered one of Virginia's best by Coastal Wine Trail. The publication says the winery produces a vast portfolio of high-quality wines that are well-balanced and detail-oriented. Veritas' current release 2019 Petit Verdot ($45) features intense fruit flavors, smooth and assertive tannins, and a sumptuous finish.

Rockbridge Vineyard 2018 V d'Or

Nestled in the heart of Virginia's picturesque Shenandoah Valley wine region, Rockbridge Vineyards is a winemaker-owned destination that has received many accolades, including two "best in show" wins at the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition and Virginia Governor's Cup. In fact, two of Rockbridge's wines took home a gold medal in 2022, with the Virginia Vineyards Association naming winemaker Shep Grouse "Grower of the Year" (via Lexington).

One of those 2022 Governor's Cup award winners is the 2018 V d'Or, a dessert wine made from a blend of riesling, traminette, vidal blanc, and vignoles. Reno says that Virginia has a long heritage of making sweet wines, and this is an excellent pick for those seeking an elevated taste of Virginia wine history. Made in the style of ice wine, the 2018 V d'Or has a deep apricot color and features refreshing aromas of honey and orange.

King Family Vineyards 2019 Meritage

"You'll find fantastic meritage — Bordeaux-style blends — wines in Virginia," says Boyd. "They are highly acclaimed and bottled with the ability to age."

Look no further than the beloved King Family Vineyards to try out a Virginia-style meritage for yourself. The Monticello winery is considered one of the best in the state to visit by Food & Wine. It also says that King Family is renowned for its acclaimed French winemaker, Matthieu Finot, who is responsible for the meritage blend. USA Today 10 Best designated the winery one of the best tour experiences in 2019 as well. (The winery is also famous for its polo matches, so be sure to check the calendar if you're planning a visit).

The 2019 Meritage ($42) is a blend of ​​48% merlot, 28% petit verdot, 20% cabernet franc, and 4% malbec. You'll get aromas of bright cherry, blackberry, and spices on the nose and palate and enjoy a smooth, tannic structure for an ageable wine that's worthy of a purchase to be enjoyed now or later.

CrossKeys Vineyards ​​2019 Blanc de Noirs

CrossKeys Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery located near Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley. The first vines were planted by the family in 2001, but today, you'll find 12 different 100% estate-grown Virginia wines including award-winning red blends to canned rosè. The winery is currently working on expanding production to make its wines more accessible.

CrossKeys was a major winner at the 2022 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Competition, taking home a "best in show” out of 300 wines and "best of category" for the 2019 Blanc de Noirs (via Penn Live Patriot-News). The 2019 Blanc de Noirs ($38) is made in the traditional method from 100% pinot noir grapes. This bottle features passionfruit, raspberry, and almonds backed by notes of toasty gingerbread on the nose. It also boasts a lively acidity and a balanced finish for an ultra-drinkable wine. Virginia is one of five U.S. states that make sparkling wine, so it may also inspire an American sparkling wine tasting along the way 

Wisdom Oak Winery 2019 Nineteen

Located just south of Charlottesville on the Monticello Wine Trail, Wisdom Oak Winery is run by husband and wife team Jason and Laura Lavallee and makes small-batch bottles that are all about the details. American Winery Guide says that Wisdom Oak is focused on growing cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and viognier while sourcing petit manseng, petit verdot, and vidal blanc from neighboring vineyards.

The winery is a recent recipient of two major awards: the 2022 Monticello Cup and a gold medal at the 2022 Governor's Cup, both of which were for its 2019 Nineteen ($48), a Bordeaux-style red blend (via Wine & Country). This bottle is made from 50% petit verdot, 25% cabernet sauvignon, and 25% cabernet franc and is created to age, so be sure to decant the wine before sipping. Winemaker Jason Lavallee tells Richard Leahy that this wine is juicy, with notes of dark fruit with a plump, smooth texture that reminded Leahy of a lower-alcohol late bottled vintage porto.