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Virginia’s Barboursville Vineyards: Southern Hospitality with an Italian Accent

We’re fans of Virginia wines and the region itself and made our third visit to explore the state in October. The weather was perfect and fall foliage was just starting. We spent three nights staying at the 1804 Inn at Barboursville Vineyards, located in Central Virginia’s Monticello AVA.

This was our first visit to Barboursville, and we produced a live show with general manager and winemaker, Luca Paschina, who shared the estate’s history over a dinner he prepared for us with a selection on Barboursville’s wines.

 

Luca Paschina has been the winemaker at Barboursville since 1990.

Barboursville’s America-Italy Connection

Barboursville was the 19th century estate of Virginia’s Governor, James Barbour, a colleague and good friend of Thomas Jefferson. The two were practically neighbors- in rural Virginia that can mean several miles away which many may still say is “up the road a ways.” Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, is about a 20- minute drive near Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.

Barboursville Estate (photo from winery website www.bbvwine.com
)

Historically, Barboursville was a farming estate for sheep. Like many centuries-old farms, it changed hands over time. In 1976 Italian vintner, Gianni Zonin, acquired the estate to create Barboursville Vineyards, the only winery for the Zonin family outside Italy. This was a bold move for the Zonins, whose family dates back seven generations, and it marked a major milestone in then-sleepy Virginia wine history. The Zonins happen to be the largest privately family-run wine company in Italy. By selecting Virginia over locales like Napa and New York’s Finger Lakes to start a U.S. winery, the Zonins made quite a splash in the wine news world.

First grape plantings at Barboursville Vineyards in the 1970s
Gianni Zonin pictures at the first grape planting at Barboursville Vineyards in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Barboursville Vineyards

Luca Paschina has served as general manager and winemaker at Barboursville Vineyards since 1990. Paschina is from a Piemontese winemaking family and is doing some amazing things with Italian varietals in this area of Central Virginia, notably Fiano, Vermentino and Nebbiolo. Barboursville’s selections also include Viognier and Cabernet Franc, which both flourish in this area. Most well-known of the estate’s wines is Octagon, Barboursville’s signature Bordeaux style blend.

There is also an onsite grape drying facility to make passito.
The inn itself also offers some smaller houses. When we were there it was quiet aside from two or three other couples staying on-site. However, the tasting rooms, inside and out, were busy with day trippers enjoying wines and a light lunch from the on-site Palladio restaurant. The tasting room team did a great job managing safe social distancing. Throughout our Virginia winery visits, everyone was incredibly careful about this.

What’s left of James Barbour’s home, designed by Thomas Jefferson and destroyed in a fire.

Paschina noted that the tasting room is open every day except three holidays, and one can visit the property and the ruins of Barbour’s house, which was designed by Jefferson. Sadly, the house was destroyed in a Christmas Day fire in 1884. The estate also has some stunning gardens and a patio to relax with a glass or two of wine and gaze at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

Barboursville Harvest Toast
Luca Paschina and Fernando Franco toast the end of harvest.

On our final day at Barboursville, harvest ended as we were saying our goodbyes. Vineyard manager, Fernando Franco made the final “victory lap” through the vineyards and up to the tasting patio in the big blue harvester. Out came the cameras and a bottle of Barboursville sparkling wine which Franco sabered. Glasses were raised in celebration to toast the end of a harvest that, many local vintners admitted to us, has its challenges thanks to a frost in May which had everyone scrambling to protect the buds. Paschina made a speech and thanked his team for their hard work. What a special moment to capture and savor in the vineyards among friends!

The Connected Table Live at Barboursville with Luca Paschina.

Here are the show notes and link. You can also hear it anytime on your favorite podcast platform.

Photos not provided by Barboursville Vineyards were taken by The Connected Table.

 

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Happy 40th Anniversary to Inn at little Washington!

I once spent the right night with the wrong man at the Inn at little Washington in the 1990s. It was oh-so-right because the meal was beyond fabulous; the rooms were decorated down to the littlest detail. Even the stair railings wore pretty sleeves. The big claw-foot bathtub in our room was a sensual experience for a long soak. I was thrilled to be checking off a place I always wanted to visit on my lengthy travel and dining bucket list (thanks to my boyfriend’s credit card).  Too bad “William” passed out after imbibing  copious amounts of wine and Armagnac at our dinner and complained about the cost when we checked out. That’s a Big No No in my Code of Conduct.  We broke up soon after.

A member of Relais & Châteaux the list of awards and accolades both Patrick and Inn at Little Washington have received in 40 years could fill an entire wall, or maybe a room!

Flash forward to 2018. The Inn at little Washington celebrates its 40th year with a series a over-the-top events that guarantee an extraordinary experience for those lucky enough to snag tickets (details at this link). But anyone who stays and dines at Inn at little Washington has won the extraordinary experience lottery.

The Inn at Little Washington is a setting for romance. It’s like listening to a soft sonata after spending a work week amidst the loud percussion of the city. Forty years after opening in a former garage in tiny Washington, Virginia in 1978, Patrick O’Connell keeps a watchful eye over every detail. And that’s why he’s been referred to as “the Pope of American Cuisine.” Not King, but Pope!

Patrick O’Connell, Proprietor and Executive Chef, Inn at Little Washington. He is a self-taught chef who shared in our radio show that he once worked flipping burgers and called it a “great learning experience.”

Patrick’s vision begun 1978 is being celebrated this year as his “magnificent dream.” When we’re talking about Inn at Little Washington, it’s “go big or go home.” On  June 16 he hosted a “garden party” at George Washington’s Mount Vernon which also fêted culinary pioneers from around the world. In September he’s planned two more. Wish we were going but, alas not. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones!

But, honestly, I’ll be happy to settle in for another night (or two)  at the Inn at Little Washington for any occasion to enjoy another fabulous meal and a dreamy stay in one of the Inn’s gorgeous rooms. This time it will be with the Right Man, my husband, David.

 

Patrick told us he actually attended the original Woodstock Festival. We’re trying to envision this well-tailored chef as a hippie. INNStock will be a Day of Peace, Love & Feasting with Fireworks, of course!

September 2: Innstock. It’s not quite three days of peace, love and food. But, the town of Washington will be smoking hot with even more great food and entertainment. This event is a “family reunion” of 20+ alumni chefs of the Inn; each will prepare a signature dish at a two-hour reception that will be followed by a magnificent buffet. The evening will end with fireworks. Pow! https://www.theinnat40.com/innstock

 

Feast like a King! Patrick O’Connell is recreating one of France’s most historic, and decadent, meals at this Chateau.

September 30: For a truly decadent three-day experience, consider the “Spectacular Soirée” which will take place in France at the 17th century Château Vaux le Vicomte, just outside Paris. The inspiration for Versailles, it’s where King Louis XIV (“the Sun King”) hosted a gluttonous 6000-person feast prepared by Chef François Vatel. Only 150 guests will be able to relive this extraordinary experience which includes touring the magnificent gardens over cocktails and dining by candlelight in the grand ballroom with a feast inspired by the actual menu served to Louis XIV. Info & tickets:
https://www.theinnat40.com/chateau-de-vaux-le-vicomte

Listen to our show with Patrick O’Connell here: