As one looks back on history, whether personal or national, there are specific days that stand out; the signing of the Declaration of Independence, V-E and V-J Day, meeting your spouse, the birth of a child. For Democracy Vineyards September 1st, 2012 is such a day.
On that overcast Saturday, a new chapter in the Democracy Vineyards story was started. Not without some drama, like the winery’s ABC permit being granted just the day before and the concrete patio being poured hours before the Grand Opening. Hurdles not withstanding, what had started as a dream to grow some grapes and maybe make a little wine took a huge step forward.
Even without a winery to call their own, Democracy Vineyards has been producing wine in others facilities via “custom crush” operation, for several years. Democracy wines can be found in retail outlets throughout the Commonwealth.
The Nelson County Tasting room is now welcoming visitors every weekend, but as the winery is not yet fully equipped, Democracy’s 2012 crush will again be with the talented Michael Shaps winemaking team at Virginia Wine Works.
The dream of Democracy started small but grew with bold thinking and then became real with bold action.
Democracy Vineyards founders, Susan Prokop and Jim Turpin, started with just an idea, a notion of a Virginia farm winery where they could start their encore career as Virginia winegrowers.
Early in the search, they targeted Nelson County with its rich agricultural lands, location near population centers and its growing number of viticultural enterprises.
In Nelson, they found a welcoming farm community and a link to Jim’s family. A somewhat distant relative was the largest apple broker in the region during the depression.
The parcel eventually chosen was home to one of the many apple orchards in the region. Most interestingly, the two orchards were separated by a small residence known as Ruby’s Cabin. For forty years, this cabin was the home of Jim’s cousin Ruby Turpin. When preparing the vineyards, a shoe from one of Ruby’s horses was found on the property. A harbinger of good fortune, this shoe has a place of honor in the Democracy tasting room.
Once the site was selected, Susan and Jim turned to longtime Virginia vineyard consultant Chris Hill to alter the apple operation to a winegrowing estate.
Hill focused the vineyards on the front portion of the parcel to take advantage of the natural drainage contours and the favorable elevation of the site. Understanding the usual wind conditions (east/west dominant), he arranged the rows to run vertically to maximize air flow between panels.
Dedicated to generating a limited quantity of its own fruit (as the vineyards are now coming online) the balance of the fruit is sourced from select Monticello appellation growers.