Tucked behind trees, in the rolling hills south of Charlottesville, lies First Colony Winery, a solid spot in the heart of "Virginia's Napa" (the Monticello AVA).
A few minutes down state highway 20, from Monticello itself, First Colony is a nice diversion from the more-crowded "touristy" spots closer to the city of Charlottesville.
Drive down a gravel road, about a mile from the main highway, past modest homes, a few trailers, and the trees give way to open fields and vineyards. First Colony is housed in an appealing German-style building. You may see the owner, Randy McElroy, watering the plants near the entrance. He'll give you a southern-style welcome as you enter the tasting room.
Martha, the tasting room's general manager, or one of her staff will guide you through a laid-back tasting. Their wines are unique in the best sense of the term. First Colony is a member of the esteemed "Meritage club." To use the name Meritage for this special blend, a winery must apply for association membership. Not every Virginia winery is a member. The Meritage is fine, but the favorites are the pure Petit Verdot (First Colony is another winery that is making a straight Petit Verdot now, as opposed to blending it); Tannat, a bold red with origins in Spain, but very popular in South America, particularly Uruguay; a fantastic Cab Franc (most Virginia wineries have a Cab Franc but First Colony is one of the best); and a terrific dry rose.
Ample seating outside the tasting room: A patio near the front, and a deck in the back. The deck is enchanting - the forest and trees are at arm's length, and the deck is protected from the intense sun by an overhang. Seating options exist inside for rainy days as well.
The Charlottesville area differs from the Northern Virginia spots in price. Visitors who drive from the DC area are rewarded with good prices, and tucked away locations that are not as well known as the Barboursvilles, Hortons and Kluges, but superior in many ways.
First Colony is a staple at state-wide festivals, so if you can't make it to their spot, stop by to see them during a festival. Good hospitality, charming decor, peaceful surroundings, great wine--what's not to love? And no visit to First Colony is complete without a visit from Fritz, their "lucky" orange tabby; a rescue kitty.