A behind-the-scenes journey, from Thomas Jefferson’s first attempts to grow and harvest grapes to the successful viticulture scene in Virginia today. What has changed? How do the grapes (and the winemakers!) cope with our climate? And the soil? What do we do best? Taste a variety of local wines as Gabriele Rausse, “the father of Virginia’s wine industry,” talks and shares tasting tips with Monticello’s neighboring winemakers.
Gabriele Rausse, Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello; Kirsty Harmon, Winemaker & General Manager at Blenheim Vineyards; Chris Ritzcovan, Winemaker at Jefferson Vineyards.
Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello
Gabriele Rausse, director of gardens and grounds at Monticello, first grafted Jefferson’s 1807 wine varietals for Monticello in 1984. Eleven years later, he joined the staff as assistant director of gardens and grounds. Rausse, a native of Vicenza, Italy, graduated with a degree in agricultural science from Milan University. He worked first for the Tenuta Santa Margherita winery outside Venice and in 1976 was invited to Virginia to begin what is now Barboursville Vineyards. Rausse, “the father of Virginia wine,” has helped start more than 40 vineyards and 10 Virginia wineries. He was nominated as the Virginia wine industry’s Man of the Year in 1996.
Winemaker & General Manager, Blenheim Vineyards
Born in the Netherlands, Kirsty has spent a majority of her life in Charlottesville. After graduating from the University of Virginia in 1998 with a degree in biology, Kirsty developed an appreciation for wine through a job that allowed her to apprentice with famed Virginia winemaker Gabriele Rausse.
After making wine for several years in Virginia, Kirsty graduated from U.C. Davis with an M.S. in Viticulture and Enology in 2007. After graduation, Kirsty spent six months at Domaine Faiveley in Nuits St. Georges, France as a recipient of the 2007 Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Scholarship, in 2008 she worked as a harvest intern at Craggy Range Winery in New Zealand as a recipient of the Dough Wisor Memorial Scholarship. Kirsty joined Blenheim Vineyards as winemaker in June of 2008.
Winemaker, Jefferson Vineyards
Growing up amongst a family of gardeners and home winemakers, Chris learned at an early age to appreciate the natural world and it’s richness. After graduating from the University of Virginia, his path lead to Jefferson Vineyards where he found his true calling and joined the winemaking team in 2007. Upon being appointed Winemaker in 2013, Chris has continued the tradition of crafting award winning wines and has won prestigious medals in the country’s top competitions.