Gabriele Rausse may not be a household name in your home, but much of the post-Jeffersonian modern success of the Virginia wine industry can be tied back to this unassuming man from Valdagno Italy. The Zonin family hired Rausse to come across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States in 1976, to start Barboursville Vineyards.
Rausse has been called the Father of Virginia's Vineyards, the Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry, and the “Godfather” of Virginia Wine. Whichever name you choose, his impact on a fledgling industry cannot be underestimated.
Following his time at Barboursville, Rausse would go on to start vineyards at the now Jefferson Vineyards in the 1980s and would consult and mentor for enumerable others, including Blenheim, Afton Mountains, and Kluge (now Trump) Vineyards. He also propagated and sold grapevines across the state, which numbered over one million by the end of the 1980s.
The Gardens and Grounds at Monticello are where Rausse is found, since 1995, where he continues his propagating skills on plant for the gardens and orchards. If you’ve been to Monticello and seen the glorious landscaping and beautiful gardens, you’ve seen his handiwork.
In 1997, he started his own wine label—Gabriele Rausse Winery. Gabriele’s sons, Tim and Peter, have been involved in the winemaking since 1997. The wine has been sold at local shops and some other wineries around the Charlottesville area for decades but within the past several years a modern open-air looking tasting room has been opened. If you visit the tasting room on Carters Mountain Road, you have a good chance to see the Rausse sons pouring wine, making homemade bread, and of course talking about the wines that they have crafted.
The wines made by Gabriele Rausse Winery and their new non-sulfite wine label, called Vino Dal Bosco (“Wine from the Woods”), are all sourced from Virginia vineyards, some of which are owned or leased by Rausse, and others are purchased.
For Virginia wine month, City Vino will be celebrating the event by conducting a tasting of wines from Gabriele Rausse Winery this Friday October 22 and Saturday October 23.
One wine we will be featuring is the 2020 Malvasia Bianca. The wine is a dry white, made from the Malvasia Bianca grape, which was sourced from Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison County, VA. This is a stainless steel-fermented and aged wine, and features bright notes of citrus and honeysuckle. This wine will pair beautifully with a chair on the porch, as well as with light fish dishes and something with a bit of spicy heat.
Another featured wine is the 2018 Chardonnay Reserve which is made with grapes harvested from Mount Juliet Farm in Albemarle County. The fermentation was started in stainless steel tanks and then, once one-third complete, moved to oak barrels to complete and age. The wine has been aged in a mix of used French oak barrels of which one-third were new, one-third three years old, and the remainder were neutral oak. There was no malolactic fermentation in this wine, so do not expect the wine to have that buttery quality that many west coast Chardonnays have. Due to its oak aging, it is suggested that a good pairing would be with a dish prepared with a cream sauce.
Next up in our Rausse tasting is the 2020 Cabernet Franc, which a single-variety wine with grapes sourced 33 percent from Baer Ridge Vineyards in Rockingham County, and 67 percent from Turk Mountain Vineyards in Albemarle County. The wine was aged for 10 months in all neutral French oak barrels. Neutral oak barrels have been used enough times that there is no oak flavor left to be imparted in the wine. They are used because the porous barrels will allow some evaporation and, in its place, little bits of oxygen into the wine. The barrels are ‘topped off’ periodically to replace the evaporated wine to control the amount of exposure to oxygen.
Enough wine geekiness, this wine has lovely dark fruit on the palate, with a medium body. This is a wine to pair with meats or poultry and soft cheeses.
Last up on our Virginia wine month tasting is the Non-Vintage Rosso Table Wine. This wine has no vintage because parts of it come from more than one vintage. The grapes were sourced from Mount Juliet Farms, in Albemarle County, and Piggott Vineyards, in Amherst County. This is a blend of 50 percent Merlot, 40 percent Cabernet Franc, and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Forty percent of the wine was aged in stainless steel and 60 percent was aged in neutral French oak barrels, for 12 months. The wine is intentionally styled to be a brighter and less tannic wine then most Bordeaux or Meritage blends, making this a lovely, easy drinking table wine. For pairings, we suggest game meats and hard cheeses.
Make the most of Virginia Wine Month and visit your favorite wineries, visit Gabriele Rausse in the woods, or come to City Vino to taste and buy Virginia-made wines. Cheers!