Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards should be on everyone’s list to visit. The atmosphere is relaxed yet interactive. When I was there it looked more like a day at the beach where folks brought blankets and chairs to relax and enjoy an afternoon of live music. There were families with kids and dogs playing and enjoying life together. Every Sunday from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., they have local musicians performing on the veranda. You can wine, dine and unwind while enjoying live music. The winery is open every day of the week except Mondays so make sure you plan your visit on one of the days they’re open.

The winemaker creates distinguished boutique wines and they offer a farm to table menu with wine pairings. I decided to try their 2017 Petit Verdot which was truly magnificent. It was even one of the prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup Case winners in 2020. This award is one of the most stringent wine competitions in the country where hundreds of area wines are judged by a panel of experts. The blend is 100% petit verdot, which is a hard grape to work with but the winemaker perfected this full bodied and flavorful wine, and the aroma is intoxicating. You’ll notice notes of cherry, vanilla, toast and milk chocolate and then you’ll taste red plum, chocolate, pomegranate and cigar ash. My favorite wine was their 2017 Bin 21 dessert wine. It’s a blend of chambourcin and brandy and on your nose you’ll breathe in dark cacao, clove, black cherry and toffee. You’ll taste black cherry, cigar ash, toasted coconut and prune. It’s truly a delightful wine that warms your insides.

Now it’s time to head off to our next winery on the Monticello Wine Trail. My brother and sister-in-law told me about one I’d never been to before, Mount Ida Reserve which is on 5,000 acres of rolling hills. It’s located in Southern Albemarle County, which is in the heart of Virginia wine country and a Fall foliage destination. It’s the perfect backdrop to your next afternoon with friends and/or family. They’re open 7 days a week and offer food as well as small batch wines and innovative craft beers expertly paired with seasonal menus. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, yet refined. I sat outside sipping on a glass of their port style chambourcin wine which had hints of raisins, smoky dried figs & spices—a wonderful smooth and flavorful Fall day choice.

Now we’re off to our final winery on the Trail, Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton, Virginia. The views at this winery are one of my absolute favorite. They not only have a large vineyard, there’s also a large pond on the property. While I was walking around I could hear the faint sound of a train chugging along. Afton is open Thursday through Sunday only so plan accordingly.

After a long day of lounging and sipping wine, I finished the day by having dinner at the charming Ivy Inn Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia. I started with the local Rag Mountain Smoked Trout that was the tastiest smoked trout I ever had. It was thinly sliced and arranged on the plate, drizzled with an apple horseradish cream and decorated with edible flowers and micro-greens. It looked like art, like a flower arrangement but tasted incredible. The Crispy Sweet Potato Empanadas were out of this world. For my entree I ordered the Pumpkin Ravioli which was unbelievably delicious–like Halloween and Thanksgiving all wrapped up in generously filled raviolis. I finished it all off with a piece of “Mom’s” Carrot Cake that was even better than the one my own mom used to make.