In June I reported on three concurrent winemaker changes at notable central Virginia wineries — Steve Monson moving to CrossKeys Vineyards, Ben Jordan taking over winemaking at Early Mountain Vineyards, and Jake Busching becoming winemaker and general manager at Michael Shaps Wineworks.
Summer 2015 has been a time of winemaker transitions in Virginia (more so than this writer can remember in recent years).
July and August picked up where June left off… Heat. Humidity. Bottling. And, more winemaker moves.
In early July, the Virginia wine interwebs lit up when Middleburg-based Chrysalis Vineyards posted an open requisition for their winemaker position. Adding to the buzz was the hiring of a winemaker from Canada to fill the open position at Grace Estate Winery and, also the news of another central Virginia winemaker transition to be announced following harvest.
After two and a half years as the winemaker at Chrysalis Vineyards Jason Burrus accepted the position of Associate Winemaker at Loudoun County’s Stone Tower Winery. Burrus will work alongside Stone Tower winemaker, Tim Crowe, to manage the expanding vineyards and production.
After earning an MS degree in Viticulture & Enology at the University of California, Davis in 2001, Burrus honed his winemaking skills at wineries in California and Malta until he moved to Virginia in 2006 to become head winemaker at Rappahannock Cellars in Huntly.
In January 2013, after nearly seven years at Rappahannock Cellars, Burrus took over winemaking responsibilities at Chrysalis.
I spoke to Burrus in mid-July, just prior to the Virginia Varieties (V2) Camp event at Stone Tower, about his decision to leave Chrysalis for a new winemaking challenge.
“Stone Tower has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to grape growing and winemaking,” explained Burrus. “My new role offers me the challenge and opportunity to help turn that commitment into a world class vineyard and winery.”
Founded by the Huber family, owners of Northern, VA-based Belfort Furniture, Stone Tower Winery is situated on 200 acres atop Hogback Mountain, in Leesburg, VA. The winery opened in 2012 and today there are 30 bearing acres under vine on the estate with another 20 planted but not yet bearing fruit.
Burrus told me there will eventually be 90-acres planted at Stone Tower, making it one of the largest estate vineyards in Virginia.
Canadian Mark Patterson takes over as winemaker at Chrysalis with responsibility for making wine from the world’s largest planting of Norton.
In other Virginia winemaker news, Ana Castillo-Thomas, was named the new winemaker at Crozet-based Grace Estate Winery.
Born in Costa Rica, Castillo-Thomas holds a Bachelors Degree in Agronomy, a Masters Degree in Animal Science, a certificate in Viticulture & Enology from Brock University, and brings fifteen vintages of winemaking experience with her to Virginia.
Prior to relocating to the Crozet area four weeks ago, Castillo-Thomas worked as a winemaker in the Prince Edward County wine region of Ontario, Canada, and was winemaker and vineyard manager for the seven years prior at Paradocx Vineyard in Pennsylvania. She also worked one vintage in Mendoza, Argentina and Marlborough, New Zealand.
“I have a deep interest in learning about different viticultural areas with a great reputation like Virginia,” explained Castillo-Thomas during a recent evening discussion following a long day harvesting Chardonnay. “I’m most excited about learning the vineyard here and focusing on making smaller batches of premium wines for Grace Estate.”
Exciting times for these three wineries as each winemaker brings a unique and fresh perspective to their new jobs.
Wishing all the best to each winemaker in their new roles. Cheers!