It would be difficult to find anyone in the modern Virginia Wine industry with seven degrees of separation from the “Father” of the modern Virginia industry Gabriele Rausse.
Already recognized with lifetime achievement award from the Virginia Wineries Association and similar accolades from the Virginia Vineyards Association, Rausse is much more than a thirty-five year veteran viticulturalist, he is a treasure and an active participant in today’s industry.
Rausse first arrived in Virginia, from his Italian homeland, in 1975 on a short assignment for the Zonin family wine company to evaluate the vineyard potential of a winery location in Barboursville.
After arriving and finding the site very suitable, Rausse served as the founding winemaker of Barboursville Vineyards. During this time he was encouraged by the state secretary of agriculture not to encourage others to plant grapes because tobacco was the future of the Old Dominion. Rausse ignored this advice.
His next assignment was to evaluate and establish a vineyard and winery near the same rolling hills where Thomas Jefferson failed to do so. Utilizing both his old world winemaking techniques and his new world understanding of wine growing, Rausse created Simeon Farm (now known as Jefferson Vineyards). He became well known for sharing his time, intellect and charm.
Exceedingly humble, Rausse has mentored at least three generations of Virginia winemakers including his own two sons Tim and Peter.
Today, in addition to running his eponymous winery, Rausse serves as the Assistant Director of Gardens and Grounds of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation’s Monticello. It was in this role, where I see Rausse continue to push the envelope. For a number of years, Monticello produced a very small quantity of Sangiovese from vines Rausse nurtured on the property. I have been lucky enough to taste this wine on several different occasions. The idea of tasting a wine grown on TJ’s property grown by the “Father” of the wine industry makes it even sweeter.
Continuing to share his knowledge, Rausse today serves as lead faculty for Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Viticulture and Enology program. He has also served as adjunct faculty for the University of Virginia’s Travel and Learn Program.
In his spare time, he also serves as the consulting winemaker to a handful of Virginia wineries as well as a sought after vineyard consultant.
As one noted, “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.”
While Gabriele Rausse Winery is not open to the public, if you call Gabriele or one of his sons would be happy to show you their family’s efforts to keep the Virginia wine business forward.