"We are farmers because of our awe and gratitude for the character of this earth, and we are vintners because it is natural to desire to celebrate it, and to share it." -- Gianni Zonin, 2006, Owner of Barboursville Vineyards.
Old World Traditions in the Land of Jefferson
By: Justin Stone
The story of Barboursville Vineyards is inseparable from the story of the land. The estate was first cultivated by a prominent Virginia family in the late 1700s. It grew in wealth under the stewardship of James Barbour, the son of Thomas Barbour and Mary Pendleton Thomas, who would become the 19th Governor of Virginia and later Secretary of War under John Quincy Adams. Friendship and political allegiances with his colonial neighbors James Madison and Thomas Jefferson undoubtedly meant that James Barbour was a player in the formation of the new republic. Thomas Jefferson designed the stately brick and columned main house, which was home to the Barbour family until fire destroyed the building on Christmas, 1884. Though its sloping hills and rich soils are perfect for cultivating grapes, the land had to wait another century before its character and beauty was fully revealed in a glass of wine.
The American bicentennial marked the real beginning of central Virginia’s modern wine revolution. In the spring of 1976, Gianni Zonin, heir to his family’s extensive 150-year-old wine enterprise in Northern Italy’s Veneto region, acquired the Barboursville estate. Gianni and his wife Silvana decided on these 900 acres in the heart of the Virginia Piedmont because the natural beauty and kindness of the locals reminded them of their native Veneto. The Zonins brought on Gabrielle Rausse as Barboursville’s first viticulturist, a man who remains a leading figure in Virginia wines. Together they set about reintroducing the European grapes, vitis vinifera, to Virginia and bringing to fruition a dream rooted in the earliest history of the Commonwealth. In 1979, the first bottle of wine cultivated from the ground at Barboursville was released.
Barboursville has remained true to the Italian traditions of wine and the adage that “wine is made in the vineyard.” Through the 1980s the vineyard underwent many transformations, seeking varietals that made the most of the terroir. As the fields are not irrigated, the vines must also be allowed time to mature and grapes are not harvested from new vines for several years after planting.
In 1990, the current winemaker, Luca Paschina, came to Barboursville, and for the past 21 years he has been producing wines of exceptional character and style. His wines have received numerous national awards and international recognition. Barboursville Vineyards, a place rich in Virginia history and among the very first to awaken Jefferson’s dream, is now considered to be one of the greatest treasures of the Monticello AVA.
An informative free tour is offered at Barboursville, with an educational and entertaining movie inside the Octagon Room. Guests are free to roam the ruins, the family cemetery and the picnic areas. One of Virginia’s finest restaurants, Palladio, is also on site. Their extraordinary offerings and attentive service create a memorable experience, and make it easy to spend the entire day at Barboursville, sampling, strolling, and dining.
The Zonins and Luca are committed to the belief that the reason for opening a bottle of wine is to find the most beautiful thing that can be drawn from the earth and to share it with others. This is their hope for each bottle of Barboursville wine.