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5 Weekend Escapes: Charlottesville

Just 2 1/2 hours from Washington, D.C., Charlottesville has always had natural beauty and history, with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the magnificent homes of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe nearby. Now, a burgeoning wine industry is adding new faces like Patricia Kluge, the iconoclastic socialite-turned-winemaker, who just opened a place that combines a gas station with an elegant restaurant.

What to Do
Monticello Tour
Most of Thomas Jefferson's extraordinary home is open only for tours, but you can linger in his 1,000-foot-long terraced vegetable garden, eight acres of fruit orchards and vineyards. Sangiovese wine made from Monticello grapes is occasionally available in the gift shop (931 Jefferson Pkwy.; 434-984-9822 or monticello.org).

University of Virginia Tours
The University Guide Service offers tours of the stunning Jefferson-designed Lawn and Rotunda (Pavilion VIII; 434-924-3239). Afterward, stop for a beer and a burger at the 80-year-old Virginian (1521 University Ave.; 434-984-4667).

Barboursville Vineyards
Winemaker Luca Paschina makes exceptional wines from Italian grape varieties. Go for a tour and tasting, and stay for a meal at the winery's northern Italian Palladio Restaurant (17655 Winery Rd., Barboursville; 540-832-3824).

Kluge Estate
There are no tours yet of Kluge's property, but the Farm Shop serves as a tasting room and sells estate-canned jams and topiary from the greenhouses (100 Grand Cru Dr.; 434-977-3895 or klugeestatteonline.com). There are 18 other wineries in the Charlottesville area; for more information, see monticellowinetrail.org.

Where to Eat
Keswick Hall at Monticello
Set near the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 600-acre English country manor has 48 antiques-filled rooms, formal gardens, an infinity-edged swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Chef John Brand's modern American menu includes terrific dishes like pumpkin seed-crusted duck breast. After dinner, there's brandy and snooker in the billiards room (doubles from $310; 701 Club Dr.; 800-274-5391 or keswick.com).

200 South Street Inn
Two blocks from the excellent book and antiques stores along downtown's old Main Street, 200 South Street consists of two beautifully restored 19th-century houses (one was formerly a girls' finishing school and then a brothel). Many of the rooms are outfitted with canopy beds and fireplaces (doubles from $125; 200 South St.; 800-964-7008 or southstreetinn.com).

Willow Grove Inn
Half an hour outside Charlottesville, this 225-year-old renovated plantation house is the ideal place to stay while visiting nearby vineyards. The distinguished kitchen serves Southern dishes like pecan-and-peanut-crusted rack of local lamb. On Saturday nights, a piano-and-bass duo plays hits from the '30s and '40s while guests dance (doubles from $295; 14079 Plantation Way, Orange; 800-949-1778 or willowgroveinn.com).

Where to Eat
Bizou
This downtown diner gets packed at lunchtime with University of Virginia faculty. The retro interior features red-leather booths and vintage movie posters. There's roasted chicken and grilled rib eye, but Bizou's specialty is its succulent homemade meat loaf with chipotle ketchup (119 W. Main St.; 434-977-1818).

Fuel Co.
At Patricia Kluge's new combination gas-station-restaurant-convenience-store, you can refuel your car and order an egg-salad sandwich. Fuel's dining room offers French-accented dishes like grits with duck confit; the wine list includes more than two dozen by-the-glass selections (901 E. Market St.; 434-220-0864).

Mas
Located in Charlottesville's trendy Belmont section, Mas offers authentic and moderately priced Spanish tapas, like spicy potatoes with aioli and tender grilled squid with romesco. A concrete bar runs the length of the chic industrial space; seats there look into the open kitchen (501 Monticello Rd.; 434-979-0990).

Published May 2004
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