Thomas Jefferson, who no doubt penned the Declaration of Independence with a glass of fine wine at hand, can justifiably be called America’s first wine connoisseur. He was also the pioneer of Virginia viticulture, and it is appropriate that this central Virginia appellation is named for Jefferson’s home, Monticello. The AVA – the heart of which is Charlottesville - covers 1,250 square miles over four counties, including Albermarle, Orange, Nelson and Greene. The area runs along the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the best vineyards often found at elevations of 800 feet and higher. Vineyards here benefit from a natural east-southeast exposure and warm summer temperatures. Winter kill, bunch rot diseases and pest management have made careful varietal, clonal selection and vine-training systems imperative here. Growers benefit greatly from Virginia Tech’s Alson H. Smith Agricultural Center in Winchester for invaluable research. Key vinifera varieties include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and the region's award winning Viognier. French-American hybrids and the native American vine Norton still maintain a presence, and a number of exciting and ecologically suitable varietals are being planted. All signs point to the Monticello AVA earning a voice on the global wine scene.
In the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Georgia vineyards are small and few, yet the establishment of the Upper Hiwassee Highlands could bring much more.
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