Virginia wine pioneers

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by Jim Raper

The modern Virginia wine industry has been buoyed for nearly three decades by three unlikely pioneers — Felicia Warburg Rogan, Gabriele Reuse and Jacques Resht.

Felicia Rogan

was a New York socialite who moved to Charlottesville when she married John Rogan, the late owner of the Boar’s Head Inn. She founded Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery in 1983, and in less than a decade had earned the unofficial title of “Virginia’s First Lady of Wine.” In 1985 she was appointed by Gov.

Charles Robb

to the Virginia Wine Grape Growers Advisory Board and was unanimously elected its first chair. In 1995, the state gave her its highest industry award for “Outstanding Achievement for Support of the Wine Industry.” She announced earlier this year that she was retiring and closing her winery at the end of this year.

Gabriele Rausse

, a viticulturalist from Italy, was sent by the Zonins, a winemaking family, to start Barboursville Vineyards near Charlottesville three decades ago. He has since become an independent consultant for grape growing and winemaking and has helped with the startups of dozens of wineries in Virginia. He serves as associate director of gardens and grounds at Monticello, where he revived vineyards planted by Thomas Jefferson, and he operates his own boutique Gabriele Rausse Winery.

Jacques Recht

, a Belgian oenologist, was sailing around the world on a catamaran he had built when he ventured into the Chesapeake Bay and had a chance meeting in 1980 with Carl Flemer, the owner of a large commercial nursery and vineyards on the Northern Neck. As it happened, Flemer needed a winemaker to launch his Ingleside Vineyards, and Recht agreed to give him a hand, at least for a few weeks.

Those few weeks turned into 25 years, during which Recht moved from Ingleside’s winemaker to winemaking guru for the entire state. He has been a consultant to numerous wineries, including Oasis, Oakencroft and Tarara, and for the past several years has been the winemaker for a small winery, Athena Vineyards, which is near Wicomico Church on the Northern Neck.

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