The Montpelier Wine Festival is an annual event that takes place in early May on the grounds of James Madison's Montpelier. A variety of wineries are on hand for tastings, and there is live music Saturday and Sunday and various interactive events planned.
Details About the Montpelier Wine Festival
The two-day event is hosted by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and James Madison's Montpelier. The festival is held in a field on the grounds of Montpelier. It takes place in early May, typically the first weekend of the month.
Each year showcases various local wineries who come to do tastings and sell the current vintages. Current-year and prior participating wineries include:
- Jefferson Vineyards: Family-owned vineyards where Thomas Jefferson and Philip Mazzei began the American wine revolution
- Lazy Day Winery: Offers 100% estate-grown wines at the family-owned winery in Amherst County
- Matttaponi Winery: Family-owned winery that originally got its start as a Christmas tree farm
- Peaks of Otter Winery and Orchards: Six-generation family farm with creeks, ponds, fruit trees, and lots of grape vines
- Rockbridge Vineyard: Located in the heart of Shenandoah Valley Wine Country; lots of Civil War battlefields, caverns, antebellum plantations, and more
- Oak Crest Vineyard and Winery: Wine-making dates back to the 1950's with a notable preference for Bordeaux-style red and Rhine-style whites
Guests can also participate in "The Most Marvelous Hat Contest". This gives participants an opportunity to don a unique, attention-getting hat. There is judging in specific categories:
- Largest hat
- Most creative/unique hat
- Best wine-themed hat
- Super silliest kid's hat
- Overall most marvelous hat
Other events include a corn hole game, barrel train rides for the kids, and mansion tours are available at the Visitor's Center. There is also a stage that will feature live music both days throughout the festival.
For 2018, tasting tickets are $25 at the gate, while designated driver and youth tickets for ages 13-20 are $5. Children 12 and under are free. Advance tickets may be available prior to the event, so be sure to check the Orange County Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or website. Remember that photo ID is required for admission.
Parking is on a donation basis, and the $2 or so fee goes to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
James Madison's Montpelier and Festival Location
The annual event is held at Montpelier which was the home of former President James Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison. The historic estate is located in Orange, Virginia, and features historic buildings, beautifully landscaped grounds, and over eight miles of walking trails.
The grounds are available for tours starting at 10 a.m. every day, with the property open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. As the festival does not start until 11 a.m., you can get in a tour of the mansion and then head to the wine festival when it begins.
Is the Montpelier Wine Festival Worth Attending?
If you're interested in Virginia wineries and happen to be in the general area, the Montpelier Wine Festival can be a great family outing since there are activities for adults and kids alike. At $25 a head for adults, it's quite reasonable when compared to some larger wine festivals elsewhere in the country.
Visiting Is Recommended
According to Charlottesville Wine and Country Living, the festival was voted in the "best of" for the 2015 Readers Choice Awards for Virginia Wine Lover magazine. They love this festival for more than just the prestigious Virginia wines being poured throughout the weekend. It's a fantastic family event with plenty of picnic space and great activities like kite-flying and horse-drawn wagon rides.
Charlottesville UnCorked recommends this festival as it's well-organized and the traffic flow is smooth. They do recommend bringing your rain boots if there was a recent rain. You can also bring your own chairs to enjoy the gardens and enjoy the festival at a more leisurely pace. If you're a hiker, they recommend hitting the Montpelier Trails to explore the historic grounds and then finish off the day with some wine tasting.
Award Winning Wines Featured
Some attending wineries are also medal winners in Virginia's prestigious Governor's Cup Awards. For example, you'll find Jefferson Vineyards, who took gold medals in 2017 for their 2012 Meritage and 2014 Petit Verdot.
What Sets Montpelier Wine Festival Apart
All the wineries in attendance are local and tend to be family owned, unlike some larger festivals that offer up much bigger wineries with large production outputs. This gives traveling wine lovers a cool opportunity to learn about local wines they're likely not familiar with while helping support the local economy. And, for locals, with almost 30 years in existence, the Montpelier Wine Festival is a beloved community event people look forward to every year.