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Len Thompson named Grower of the Year

Len Thompson, Virginia wine grower

Len Thompson, VVA’s Grower of the Year, at last week’s VA Wine Expo in Richmond. Photo by MA Dancisin.

On February 1, the Virginia Vineyards Association named Len Thompson of Amherst County Grower of the Year. Specializing in Chardonnay and Chambourcin, Thompson has been working his 6 acre plot since 1999.

“It’s been a wonderful trip and just been very interesting and really very thankful for the award; it’s very nice,” Thompson said, accepting the award.

According to the VVA, as an independent grower, Thompson has been an extremely active member of the Association for over a decade. He has served  two terms as vice president, two terms as treasurer, one term as secretary and a term as communications chair. Now retired from the VVA board, Thompson continues to serve on the board of the Virginia Wineries Association.

“Len Thompson is one of the unheralded heroes behind the success of the Virginia Vineyards Association. For as long as I can remember he has donated freely of his time to support the association and the wine industry. He helps other growers and aspiring growers while producing grapes that have been utilized in wines that have won awards in international competitions,” said J. Rock Stephens, chairman of the Virginia Wine Board.

Todd Haymore, VA Secretary of Agriculture, remarked, “Len’s contribution to the Virginia wine industry is unparalleled. As a grower he has not only excelled in his own right, but has not hesitated to pass that knowledge along to other growers. In addition, he has served in many leadership roles at the VVA, helping to advance the future of the Virginia wine industry for many years to come.”

Thompson and his wife Kay produce approximately 4 tons of grapes per acre which are sold to wineries across the Commonwealth, including Rockbridge, where he also works; Wintergreen; and Tomahawk Mills.

A native of Ireland, Thompson came to viticulture after a career in the Navy. He acknowledges that grape growing is a long-term project. Early years involve cultivating the vine properly to eventually bear fruit. The it’s still all up to the weather: “You can do everything right, and guess what? You can have a really bad year. Too early. Too late. Too much frost. Frost at the wrong time,” he said.

Wines produced from grapes grown at Amherst Vineyards have garnered numerous medals, including the Best of Show for the 2002 Rockbridge Heritage from the Atlantic Seaboard Winegrowers Association.