USA Today names Barboursville Vineyards as top-10 winery restaurant and hotel

By Eric Paddock, Correspondent

When travel writers for USA Today got together to think about their best wine country experiences, both culinary and restful, they put together an impressive list that stretched across America.

Places like Napa, Calif., Geneva, N.Y., Paso Robles, Calif., and Eugene, Ore., were chosen.

But there was only one place that earned a place on both lists: Barboursville, Va.

USA Today listed Barboursville Vineyards’ Palladio among its top 10 Winery Restaurants in America. Not only that, but Barboursville’s 1804 Inn also made the top 10 for Best Wine Country Hotels in America – the only instance where a single entity made both lists.

Here’s what the writers said about Palladio: “Virginia ingredients meet northern Italian recipes at Palladio Restaurant, with the duo of Executive Chef Spencer Crawford and Sommelier Alessandro Medici at the helm. A hearty meal here might include estate-raised Berkshire speck with melon, chilled green tomato gazpacho with Chesapeake blue crab, roasted Cornish game hen with warm potato salad and a seasonal tiramisu to polish it off.”

This is what they said about The 1804 Inn: “Occupying several historic plantation houses and cottages next to the National Landmark ruins of a Thomas Jefferson-designed mansion, The 1804 Inn is owned and operated by Barboursville Vineyards.

It’s a perfect base for exploring the rest of the estate, as well as the surrounding Virginia Piedmont wine region.”

It was the latest instance of national recognition for the vineyard and winery that was established in 1976 by Gianni Zonin as his first and only vineyard outside of his native Italy, where his family has been making wine since 1821.

Barboursville Vineyards is frequently recognized among the leading winemaking entities not only in Virginia, but in the nation. Its signature Octagon blend and other varietal wines have taken medals from major competitions on both the east and west coasts and received special recognition from nationally known wine critics.

For Luca Paschina, winemaker and general manager of Barboursville, it all begins and ends with the wine, though world-class dining and accommodations dovetail with the viticulture.

“We started with the 1997 and 1998 vintages to produce what we considered to be a world-class wine with Octagon, cabernet franc and Nebbiolo, and so I strongly suggested to the owners that the best way for us to promote the wine was to open a restaurant,” Paschina said.

“It wasn’t to just open a restaurant and make some money on a restaurant. We believed that when people come, they would not only find great wines, they would also find the type of hospitality you see in the old-world wine country.”

The Inn, a Georgian dwelling in two parts on the property that was once a plantation owned by former Virginia Governor and Senator James Barbour, contains three suites and was established almost simultaneously with Palladio.

All three of Barboursville’s efforts – wine making, fine dining and luxury accommodations – continue Zonin’s dedication to preserving the heritage of a remarkable farm that dates back more than two centuries.

The winemaking follows through on Thomas Jefferson’s dream that someday world-class wines could be produced in the nation he helped found, even though he was unsuccessful in his efforts to establish a vineyard on his own property just a few miles away from that of his friend Barbour.

Palladio borrows the surname of Emelie Palladio, an Italian Renaissance architect whose works and writings greatly influenced Jefferson’s own architectural endeavors, including the manor house that he designed for Barbour. That manor house burned on Christmas Day in 1884, and the ruins have been preserved on the Barboursville estate.

It is the octagon-shaped sitting room of that manor house that contributes the name of Barboursville’s flagship wine.

“It’s still a working farm,” Paschina said of the property. “So we live off viticulture, and that’s what makes the place unique.”

The recognition of Barboursville as an exceptional wine country destination is especially important and gratifying for Paschina, who has been at the helm since 1990.

“We have invested in featuring our wines in great restaurants in the U.S. and some in Europe. It puts us in front of potential customers. We have people who have come here just because they have tasted a great glass of wine,” he said.

The Palladio’s wine and food pairings that fuse northern Italian cuisine with local Virginia ingredients are accomplished by Crawford and his team in the kitchen, along with Sommelier Professionalista Alessandro Medici.

The 1804 Inn immerses clients in the property’s history – a history that is recorded in its various original dwellings.

At the top of the list is a classic Georgian villa, The 1804 Inn, that predates by a generation the construction of Governor Barbour’s mansion which it overlooks. The villa’s three suites are each named for one of the vineyard’s signature wines: Octagon, Malvaxia and Philéo.

The 18th century Vineyard Cottage, originally constructed for domestic servants, is one of the oldest dwellings in continuous occupancy at Barboursville. It is partitioned into two bedroom-sitting room accommodations and is named for two wines, the Barbera and Nebbiolo suites.

The “newest,” dating from the early 20th century, is a gardener’s cottage from the estate’s sheep-grazing days. The Sangiovese Cottage offers the scale and facilities to accommodate longer stays.

The Blue Run Cottage is a 19th century frame residence and dispensary for a physician and his family. The cottage was then Barboursville’s winemaker’s house for 30 years, and now offers three suites, named for three grapes: Pinot Grigio, Moscato and Vermentino.

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