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Wine Industry Awards Presented at VA Wine Expo

Gabriele Rausse

Gabriele Rausse receives VA Agribusiness Council's Distinguished Service award. Photo by MA Dancisin.


Kicking off the Virginia Wine Expo, the Sun Trust Presents the Governor’s Cup Grand Tasting opened with a distinguished awards ceremony highlighting some of the passionate and dedicated people who work to make Virginia’s wines the very best they can be.

Held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on the evening of February 25, this star-filled occasion was attended by approximately 300 people, prior to the grand tasting which began at 7:00pm. Preceding the night’s most anticipated award, the Governor’s Cup for Red Wine [see related article at ] several industry notables were acknowledged and applauded for excelling in their various roles.

The honorees were chosen by The Virginia wine industry, the VA Agribusiness Council and Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Todd Haymore.

First to be recognized was Gabriele Rausse. Rausse is widely acknowledged to be the “Father of Modern Virginia Wine”, and today works at Monticello, home of the original

To say that Gabriele knows and understands vineyards and wineries in Virginia is an understatement.

“Father of VA Wine” Thomas Jefferson. Rausse immigrated to the US in the 1970’s from Italy, as did Jefferson’s original vineyard manager. He helped establish Barboursville Vineyards, then opened his own vineyard in Afton. The VA Agribusiness Council, who made the award, noted that Rausse has served as consultant and mentor to over forty vineyards and ten wineries.

Mr. Rausse teaches at UVA and at Piedmont Community College in addition to his role as Assistant Director of the Gardens and Grounds at Monticello where he has planted 22 vinifera varieties in the historic vineyard.

Council President Donna Pugh Johnson, who made the presentation, said, “To say that Gabriele knows and understands vineyards and wineries in Virginia is an understatement. He has defined, challenged and lived winemaking and [has] chosen to share his experiences and knowledge with many of us who wanted to become part of the industry and help advance it. He has a gentle and quiet style, but they belie the passion and ultimate commitment he has to his passion — the hard work of a well-tended vineyard and the making of delicious wine.”

Further, she remarked, “Without Gabriele’s hard work and dedication to push ideas forward, what we know is now a leading Virginia industry of wine would not exist. He is, in many ways, the Father of the modern Virginia wine industry. It is our honor to present him with our 2011 Distinguished Service Award.”

Gordon M. Murchie

Gordon Murchie presents award at Governor's Cup ceremony. Photo by MA Dancisin.

Gordon Murchie, past president of the Virginia Wine Growers Association and former executive director of the Virginia Wineries Association, was on hand to present the Gordon W. Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award to Dennis Horton.

[Horton’s] famous experimental work has led to new popular varieties being grown in Virginia including Viognier, Norton, Petite Manseng, Tannat and others.

Horton was honored as a “wine lover and entrepreneur” [and] for his pioneering work in developing and promoting Virginia Wines. His famous experimental work has led to new popular varieties being grown in Virginia including Viognier, Norton, Petite Manseng, Tannat and others.

Horton’s home vineyard in Madison County dates to 1983, and his winery was founded in 1988. He turned to the Rhone region of southern France for inspiration, as Virginia’s summers were very warm, and our humid conditions favor grapes with loose clusters and thicker skins. According to Hilde Gabriel Lee and Allan E.

Dennis Horton

Dennis Horton was honored with the Gordon M. Murchie Lifetime Achievement award. Photo by MA Dancisin.

Lee, in their book Virginia Wine Country III, though the Norton grape is thought to have originated in Richmond, Dennis Horton retrieved some cuttings from his home state of Missouri, well known as a premier producer of the varietal, because none is thought to have survived Prohibition in any Virginia vineyards. Dennis Horton creates over 30 distinctive wines at his timber and stone winery in Gordonsville.

Ann Heidig

Ann Heidig, president of the Virginia Wineries Association, acted as mistress of ceremonies at the Governor's Cup ceremony which kicked off the VA Wine Expo in Richmond. Photo by MA Dancisin.

Mistress of Ceremonies, Ann Heidig, president of the Virginia Wineries Association, and Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore made two additional awards. Info provided by the Virginia Wine Marketing Board:

Matt Conrad, Wine Person of the Year award: The Deputy Secretary of Agriculture received the award for protecting and promoting the wine industry’s interests at both a state and local level. His enthusiasm for Virginia’s vineyards has been contagious and his work has helped Virginia vineyards build strong communications with local communities and with Virginia legislators.

Delegate Steve Landes, Legislator of the Year award:  Del. Landes, of the 25th district, received the award for his support of the Virginia Wine industry at the Virginia General Assembly. A tireless supporter of Virginia wineries, Del. Landes has a deep commitment to protecting the economic vitality of the agricultural community and rural regions within our Commonwealth.