Early Mountain Vineyards & My New Favorite Restaurant in Charlottesville

Editor’s Note — if you’re looking for additional Charlottesville recommendations, here are some other posts to check out: 


Ever since I graduated college in 2013, I have been super lucky to have many opportunities to get back down to Charlottesville.  When we first graduated in spring 2013, my friend Jackie started law school at UVA that fall, and was always more than willing to let me come mix and mingle with UVA Law’s finest for the weekend during the three years she was working towards her JD. By the time she graduated, my sister was at UVA in grad school, and soon after she left, my friend Molly moved back to Charlottesville for a job. Over the years, friends and family have welcomed me back to town, given me a place to blow up an air mattress for the weekend, and have indulged my requests to return to our favorite college town watering holes.

A few weekends ago, in early February, I was able to take another weekend trip down to Charlottesville to visit Molly. It’s always so nice to be back in Charlottesville, especially when I can spend time with one of my best friends from college. It was also nice to have a fun trip to look forward to on the calendar—January was cold and dark, and it was nice to have a light at the end of the tunnel that included Bodo’s bagels and Virginia wine.

Like I normally do, I headed out of town after work on Friday afternoon. While the traffic from the evening commute definitely adds an extra half an hour or so, it’s nice to be able to take a trip out of town without having to take time off work—and I am usually in town by 7:30pm or so, meaning it’s still very feasible to make a late dinner in town. The past couple of trips I’ve taken to Charlottesville, Molly and I head to The Local once I drop my stuff off at her apartment. We sit at the bar and we both order burgers and a glass of bubbly. It’s quickly become “our spot”—and for good reason. The Local is one of my favorite spots in town—all their food is just so good and the service is awesome.  (It’s also funny how your perception of things change over time—when I was in college, I thought The Local was such a nice restaurant and was very expensive. While I still think it’s a great “dressy casual” spot, I’m always pleasantly surprised when our bill comes back!)


On Saturday while I was in town, Molly and I went to Early Mountain Vineyards. This vineyard is a Charlottesville-area staple, and one that has been on my list for years. It’s located in Madison County, about 40 minutes north of UVA, and owned by Steve Case, the former CEO of AOL, and his wife. I had heard great things about it from my sister and friends, and thought this would be a perfect trip to cross it off my list. (Luckily, Molly indulged me!)

Since it was going to be a frigid weekend, we decided to get a reservation for the tasting room, and I am glad we did! The tasting room was very cozy—it had exposed wood beams, gorgeous chandeliers, and a big fire roaring. It kind of felt like a ski lodge, in the best way. We both opted to do a flight—they had four available, and they change seasonally. We went with one that had all whites—a riesling, a sauvignon blanc, and two white blends. The riesling and sauvignon blanc were from other wineries, and the blends were Early Mountain vintages. We liked the riesling and the sauvignon blanc better than the wine from Early Mountain—but I did do a glass of sparkling wine from Early Mountain that was great.

Early Mountain Vineyards is known for their amazing food, and it certainly disappoint—we did a cheese and charcuterie board and a goat cheese with a cranberry compote, served with fresh baguette. Everything we ate, and the service, was excellent.

That all being said, I think I wanted to like Early Mountain Vineyards more than I did. While it was a beautiful space, the atmosphere just felt like it was lacking the fun vibe you get at some other wineries. It could have just been the day we were there, too, but most of the other clientele was older and there weren’t many other late 20s, early 30s tables around us, which I think could have livened it up a bit. I’d definitely go back to try their outdoor area when the weather is warm as I’ve heard great things, but I think for colder months, I’d stick to one of my tried-and-true favorites like King Family, Merrie Mill, or Pippin Hill.


On Saturday night, Molly and I went to check out the recently renovated Keswick Hall. About a 20-minute drive from Charlottesville, Keswick Hall is a huge luxury resort and golf course. It’s definitely a splurge-worthy place to stay, so we just stopped in for dinner.

We arrived for our dinner reservation a little early so we could check out the hotel bar—because y’all know there is nothing I love more than a hotel bar! The bar at Keswick Hall is called Crawford’s and it’s located down the hall from reception to left. It feels like a cozy library or study, with dark woods and warm fabrics. We enjoyed a glass of wine, and then took a lap through a few of the common rooms on the first floor—they had a beautiful game room anchored by a fireplace and a more modern, but still warm, drawing room overlooking the golf course. While we sat inside Crawford’s, I am sure you could easily grab a drink there and migrate to one of these spaces if you preferred.


After our pre-dinner drink, we walked the short distance over to Marigold, the Jean-Georges restaurant at the resort that opened last summer. We got a reservation, which I highly recommend. We absolutely loved this restaurant. The ambiance was amazing, it was very dimly lit with an upbeat playlist going, and the service was incredible.

Beyond that, the food was incredible—they started us off with a bread basket, and then Molly did the salmon, and I did a cauliflower dish and the tuna tartare. Everything on the menu looked so good, so I definitely want to go back—and think this would be such a nice place to be during golden hour during the warmer months as they had a lot of windows inside that I am sure catch the light in a beautiful way, and a gorgeous outdoor patio.

We basically shut the place down—add Marigold to your itinerary the next time you’re in town. And, don’t forget to ask the hostess for matchbooks!

On Sunday morning before I left town, Molly and I went to get Bodo’s bagels for a late breakfast. If you’ve never been to Bodo’s, make sure they’re on your list for your next trip to town. There is always a line out the door, but it moves quickly, and they have my favorite bagels in the world. I always get a chicken salad with lettuce on everything and a large Diet Coke.

I always am a little sad to leave Charlottesville, but luckily, it’s a quick two-hour trip from Arlington, so I can get back as often as I’d like. And, I already have my next trip to town on the calendar for April—and I am crossing my fingers for warm weather!

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