Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery
Owners: Paul and Ruth Gorman
Winemaker: Tim Gorman
Year Established: 1985
By: Christopher Campanelli
The Gormans’ connection to Virginia wine country dates back to their purchase of property near Afton Mountain in 1985, but the dream of owning a vineyard dates to a few years before that. In the early 1970s, General Paul Gorman and his family were posted in the small city of Bad Kreuznach, Germany. This remote region of Germany was known for producing some of the world’s finest Rieslings, and those few years spent in this wine-rich region were enough to instill the dream of a family vineyard for the Gormans. Upon returning to the United States, they began searching for suitable land, and eventually found an excellent site in Afton. This established a setting for the family winery, but its realization required patience enough to wait for the next generation.
When the Gormans returned from overseas, Tim Gorman was a high school student being dragged out of bed on Saturday mornings to join his father on visits to the few existing vineyards in the region. In 1987, his dad convinced him to return home from a job in Richmond to help his architect brother John renovate the old farmhouse and tend the vines. And, as Tim tells it, “Basically, I didn’t leave after that.”
First as the vineyard manager and later as a winemaker, Tim adopted the old world philosophy on the winemaking process: “[t]he quality of the grape is the most important part of the wine.” He returned to school in 1991 to study horticulture and spent ten years focused exclusively on growing excellent grapes before moving on to actual winemaking.
Meanwhile, the rest of the family had also been hard at work. While brother John was renovating, their sister Sarah was learning all she could about the wine business, and eventually took on the role of operations manager. When Tim met and later married a fellow horticulture student named Susan, she stepped right into the family business as well, serving as the tasting room manager.
The family’s patience finally paid off in 2002 when they served their first vintage and opened the Cardinal Point tasting room. What had been a distant dream of Paul and Ruth Gorman had grown into a fully operational winery in Nelson County, Virginia.
Because the dream sprang from a personal passion rather than a career plan, the emphasis of Cardinal Point’s marketing centers upon everyday enjoyment. Tim Gorman states, “My goal is to make wines that pair well with food.” Such a straightforward goal is right at home in Nelson County, where pretensions and facades take a back seat to good craft and simple pleasures.
The name Cardinal Point itself keeps the operation mindful of its roots. Although spotlighting the state bird would make an appropriate name for a Virginia winery, it actually comes from a military readiness drill used by General Gorman in the late 1970s. The winery emblem is based on the four command points of the compass. From peacetime military procedure to Central Piedmont winemaking, the name is the perfect pivot point from the General’s past military experience into his present winemaking venture.
The development of Cardinal Point from a couple’s retirement dream to their children’s daily reality is an exciting example of what’s happening in Virginia wine country today. The Gorman family shows that award-winning wines, a personal aesthetic, and a family venture blend together quite well in Virginia. More simply put, it shows that Virginia is a place with room for dreams to become reality.