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Remembering Claude DelFosse

Claude DelFosse Virginia winery owner

Claude DelFosse, Virginia winery owner. Photo by MA Dancisin

“In France, wine is considered a food. Here it is a sin…” — Claude DelFosse

Only a Frenchman could sum up the international wine market so succinctly! Claude DelFosse, owner of DelFosse Vineyards & Winery, passed away on July 11, 2013 after a brief fight with cancer.

Located in the Monticello AVA, DelFosse Winery opened its doors in 2005 and has made outstanding wines ever since.

The vineyards are in the shape of a basin.  The steep slopes are an important factor in producing ripe, full, juicy fruit. A light-filled, modern tasting room sits at the center, guarded by a whimsical metal frog (another sign of DelFosse’s wit — “Frog” is a derogatory term meaning French person…). An auxilliary cabin looks down from the hillside.

As I tasted with him last spring, I was particularly impressed with DelFosse Sauvignon Blanc and its tart hay and grass flavor, and an older Chardonnay replete with cinnamon and that malo-creaminess I love. His Reserve d’Oriane is an intriguing blend of Petit Mansang and additional white grapes. DelFosse Meditation, a port-style wine made with Touriga and Tannat and aged 5 years, was another favorite.

DelFosse Winery VA

An ironic/iconic frog watches over the entrance to DelFosse Winery. Photo by MA Dancisin.

I had the opportunity to sample Claude’s Governor’s Cup gold-medal wine, DelFosse Meritage 2007, at the tech seminar run by Jay Youmans, MW, last June. I noted a rich purple/ruby color, and was delighted to find a full-bodied blend distinguished by notes of cherry, vanillin, and jammy black fruit.

The grapes used in this wine – Cabernet Franc 30%, Merlot 30%, Petit Verdot 20%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 20% – were grown at higher elevations, around 1100 ft. In the vineyard, “much care and handwork was employed to insure fruit separation, light penetration and shoot density to achieve optimum fruit maturation.

Luca Paschina of Barboursville Winery remarked, looking around the room full of new and old winemakers and winery owners, that, “We’re training the whole industry!” DelFosse is certainly a good example to follow.

The Viginia Wine Marketing Board has forwarded this message:

“Today, we as an industry have heavy hearts for the passing of Claude DelFosse of DelFosse Vineyards & Winery. Claude, age 73, passed away on July 11, 2013 after a brief fight with cancer.

He was born on June 27, 1940 and received his undergraduate in Math and Engineering from Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers in Paris and his graduate degree in Aeronautics from California Institute of Technology. He was known for his love of all things French, a passion for making quality Virginia wines, and for his beautiful winery nestled at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Recent accomplishments include being selected as a 2012 Governor’s Cup Case Wine (top twelve wines from the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition) for his 2007 Meritage. Claude is survived by his wife Genevieve and 3 children Laurent, Olivier, and Oriane. A celebration of Claude’s life will take place at Delfosse Vineyards and Winery on September 14, 2013 from 6-8 pm. Friends and customers are welcome to attend.”

DelFosse Winery VADelFosse Winery VA