October is Wine Month in Virginia, but there's more than the grape harvest to toast in Charlottesville. This quintessential Virginia town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the place Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe called home. Today, University of Virginia students roost here along with residents attracted to its rich cultural history. Here are a few things to do in and around Charlottesville:
Mosey around Monticello : Allow a generous amount of time to spend at Jefferson's estate home (above) and gardens. Jefferson was a fan of fine European wines but believed that American wines could be just as good. He made several unsuccessful attempts to grow them here. Today, the Jefferson Vineyards is on the original 1774 vineyard site and produces a variety of quality wines.
See land of more presidents : Ash Lawn-Highland, the former home of Monroe, and Montpelier, the former home of Madison, are nearby. Ash Lawn-Highland is adjacent to Monticello, while Montpelier is a short drive away in Orange, Va.
Go to school : The University of Virginia offers free guided tours daily of its Jeffersonian influences, including the Rotunda, which Jefferson designed but did not live to see to fruition. If you have time, check out the university's renowned art museum.
Drive near mountains : Just west of Charlottesville lies the entrance to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. The road winds past rolling hills, waterfalls, panoramic mountain views and more. The road gets a bit crowded this time of year, but you can hike in the park, too.
Sip Kluge champagne: The Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard is noted for its sparkling vintages created using traditional methods. Wine critics praise its SP Rose 2004. The winery has tastings and a gourmet food shop. Call 434-984-4855 for hours.
More information: virginia.org