Ever since opening its first small tasting room in 1980, Barboursville Vineyards came to be known for producing wines focused on their enjoyment at the dinner table with family and friends. The opening of Palladio Restaurant, nearly 20 years later, represented the distillation of a lively fame for very attractive hospitality, sustained by year after year of legendary Guest Chef feasts. But the inevitability of the restaurant was clear from the beginning, in the winegrowers’ selection of wine grape varieties which would flourish in this new terroir, so that the resulting wines would be the best the ground could give.
The resolve to create the restaurant thus awaited only the moment which would demand it, which came with the discovery of Octagon. In the early 1990s and mid-1990s, the indisputable anchoring of leading red Bordeaux varietals — Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, leading ultimately to Octagon — produced that moment, to create Palladio Restaurant by 1999, as an informal, gracious, and irrefutable proving ground for the wines. With this mission, Palladio also introduced two concepts which are now widely familiar: a kitchen’s own garden, with select produce specified by the Virginia-born Executive Chef, Spencer Crawford, and the menu degustazione, composed for every meal by Sommelier Alessandro Medici of Bergamo, Italy to give a seasonally rotating frame for appreciating selected wines with ideal pairings.
Within two years, Palladio was rated by the critic John Mariani as “one of the finest and most authentic Italian restaurants in the United States.” It has entered every shortlist of the best in the region, and the best nationally among winery restaurants, including Food & Wine’s Top 10 in America. At the same time, if it is remarkable for any restaurant to flourish so vigorously for 20 years, it has only been what had been expected for it, as the vineyard’s wines became finer and finer, and as the restaurant could draw on vintages of beautifully advanced age, to prove beyond doubt their great longevity in bottle. It isn’t so strange that Palladio is 20 years old. Ever searching and selecting the finest ingredients, ever attuned to what’s fresh, contemporary, and authentically regional, Palladio owes very little to fashion, but as much as possible to the beautiful and timeless.